cabinet height - how did you decide?

tinakauhJuly 14, 2014

we're planning a kitchen reno - relatively small kitchen (u-shaped) but 9ft ceilings. i'm torn between staggered height cabs with moulding or stacking cabs so they go all the way to the ceiling. what factors did you consider in choosing the cabinet height or was it just based on your personal preferences for appearance?

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In my last remodel, we had soffits..that we did not remove..around 2 sides of the kitchen. We extended the wall behind the fridge and added cabs around it..the cabinets are the same height as the soffit sides.

In my current kitchen the cabinets are ceiling height...and I feel like they are looming over the top shelf is useless to me at 5'4".
The ceilings are only 8ft like the last house.

When we replace these cabs, I will get shorter cabinets and molding or stacked with 12" and glass plus lighting for display.

For me, it's what makes me feel comfortable..and to ceiling cabinets are not it.

I also do not like staggered cabinet heights.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:22PM
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One important factor for me was that when we were selling the last kitchen (sniff) a common comment was, "we wish the cabinets went to the ceiling". That house had 8' ceilings.

This house has 9' ceilings and the ding-dong kd that we were sent to by the builder insisted I was ridiculous for wanting my cabinets to the ceiling. I told him I did not want wasted space above them. He tried to get me to do the staggered cabinets, which in my opinion, were looking dated. I know that they are still a great option for people especially if you have very very tall ceilings and want to add interest, but that was not the case. This was just a case of a kd who tried to bully me into his idea.

I told the builder I would not use him due to his many belittling comments. Turned around and got Dutch Wood onboard. My cabinets are to the 9' ceiling and I would not do it any other way. Even if those shelves way at the top are hard to get to, they are easier to access than having to go to the basement to retrieve seasonal items.

And what is interesting is everyone who comes in and sees the kitchen makes the comment that "it just makes sense to have them go all the way up".

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:44PM
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Not only that - no dust and grime on the cabinet tops!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 5:47PM
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We have 8' ceilings and purchased 36" wall cabinets that go almost to ceiling, with remaining gap to be covered by crown molding. Here is pic of mid-installation; crown molding not installed yet.

We used to have wall cabinets that were shorter and left a good foot or so between top and ceiling. As PP said, just collected dust and useless space.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 6:30PM
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Beekeeper, your kitchen is definately needs the ceiling height cabs.

In my 9x10 U they just feel looming.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:02PM
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I am looking forward to my 40" uppers in a 8ft ceiling small scale kitchen. If I had more space, I would have considered stacking cabinets with display pieces in the higher sections but I don't have that luxury. There is no wrong answer-only what you like best. Look at pictures in Houzz to get a feel for what you gravitate towards.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:09PM
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Go all the way to the ceiling. This will provide you with additional storage, and you will never have to clean up there.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 7:37PM
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I'm tired of the artificial ivy, wicker baskets, and filth. I'm going all the way to the 8 foot ceiling. Then I will have a place to store all the the stuff that I should pitch.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:04PM
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We have nine foot ceilings and went all the way to the ceiling with a combination of stacked and 48" uppers. It looks amazing but this petite girl needs to find a good step ladder!

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:05PM
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In particular with 9 foot ceilings it becomes an a aesthetic choice that has a lot to do with the space.
Usually I'll show clients all options that make sense or that they ask for (even if they don't). In a small kitchen you need to judge the "looming" effect.

Similarly, staggered heights often look forced or dated in small kitchens where the runs are too short for it to be effective.

As to open tops and gunk on top-if you have adequate venting at the range,that you use, and don't live next to a coal mine, quarry or in NY that shouldn't be an issue.
If it is an appropriate option and a client is concerned we have a meeting in my kitchen and I take out the step stool so they can see for themselves. I have exceptionally low ceilings and have some to the ceiling but two long runs that ar open to fool the eye.
Bottom line- zero grease, very little dust after 9 years. ( I leave the dust for demonstration purposes, maybe will clean one run next year and the other in 5 or so:)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:12PM
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Our ceiling is a little more than 8 ft in the kitchen. We got 42" to go all the way up with very little molding. Shaker cabinets that we're hoping will look transitional/a bit modern. Our current kitchen (being demo'd in two days) has one wall to the ceiling and everything else not. Dust city. While the top of the cabinets are not easily accessible to me at 5'2" even with my normal kitchen step stool, they're still storage. (DH is a foot taller, so he's kind of handy).

I did worry a bit that they may loom, but we're losing an upper cabinet between two windows in favor of floating shelves and we're also losing a tall 80" cabinet in one corner. So I feel the kitchen should be a bit more open overall.

I lied, all of our cabinets won't go to the ceiling, the utility cabinet stands alone, it's the only thing on that wall besides a door, window, and the ends of two cabinet runs. We initially planned it full height, but THAT the KD and I agreed would be too tall, thin, and looming. It's 84". Only one dust catcher for me. (And the floating shelves, but they're worth it, I hope.)

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 8:15PM
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We went all the way to the ceiling with stacked cabinets precisely because it was a small space and we wanted the extra storage. Plus, 9' ceilings are almost calling for it. :)

We finished three years ago and *finally* got a stepladder that reaches all the way last month...ridiculous, I know! (Before that we had an old one that would work but wasn't fun, and a full-sized ladder we lugged up from our basement a few times a year when needed.) I remember looking at the time and not seeing anything reasonably priced that was tall and narrow enough, but this time when I looked, up popped the perfect thing--affordable, narrow, and just the right height to get everything from the top shelf of the top cabinet (and also change the light bulbs in the ceiling fixtures!)

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 3:33AM
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We have a large kitchen with 8' ceilings. We did not go all the way to the ceiling because aesthetically, I do not prefer the look of a "cabinet heavy" kitchen. If storage was a consideration, I might have felt differently.

I'm not a fan of staggered height cabinets.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 5:54AM
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Hands down all the way to the ceiling. I think its a cleaner look and gives you more storage.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 6:30AM
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We had very adequate venting in our previous home, lived in a strictly residential suburban neighborhood, and the tops were still gross.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 11:46AM
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Originally had soffits, got rid of them and did the ivy thing above cabinets for 20 years. Looked briefly this time at staggered height cabs since I badly needed storage. Realized symmetry was a requirement so staggered was out. Small kitchen space, went all the way up with 9' of cabs and 12" crown moldings. I thought it would feel overpowering but it doesn't. Top stack has glass for display. It worked best for my space and needs.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:44PM
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Agreed! Rip out the soffits and take em to the ceiling. Not only do you not have to clean up there, it gives you more storage and a grander sense of the space in the room. Also agree the staggered heights will look dated.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 1:05PM
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I don't mean to hijack the post, but beekeeperswife, I love your kitchen cabinets! Do you mind sharing which kitchen cabinet brand/model is that? I know all shaker style looks alike but there're subtle differences and some of them doesn't have the shaker style on the smallest drawer and instead it's a flat panel. Thanks!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 2:30AM
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We have 9 ft. ceilings and went all the way to ceiling. No regrets whatsoever. Our storage space has increases 10 fold. Plus I just think they look prettier!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 8:18AM
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I have 9' ceilings in a largish kitchen (it's an eat-in, and easily fits a round table in the center which seats 4). On one wall I have 36" cabinets with 12" cabinets stacked above and a small molding to the ceiling. On the other wall, I have 42" cabinets with the open space above. If my kitchen were smaller, I would go to the ceiling on all the cabinets.

The reasons why I would go to the ceiling on all the cabinets if my kitchen were smaller are:

- you can never have too much storage in a kitchen. I use the upper-upper cabinets for things like holiday items, cake pedestals, rarely-used serving bowls, candles, and miscellaneous storage. That stuff has to go somewhere!

- cabinets to the ceiling makes the kitchen appear to have higher ceilings because the walls are not broken up by a horizontal space. It's the same design trick that designers use with curtains: the curtain rod is installed close to the ceiling regardless of where the top of the window is in order to make the ceiling appear taller. Also, think of the butlers pantries you may have seen on TV or in magazines; they are small spaces and the cabinets always go to the ceiling.

- the issue of needing a stepstool when cabinets go to the ceiling should not come into this decision - most of us need a stepstool above the second shelf regardless of whether the cabinets go to the ceiling or not. I never understood why people use the stepstool as a reason not to have cabinets to the ceiling. I definitely use my stepstool to access top shelves on my cabinets that do not go to the ceiling.

Having said all that, for those who do opt for the empty space above the cabinets that collects dust and grime, here is a Martha-esque tip: Put down wax paper up there. Every so often (depending on your need to clean), get your stepstool and go up there, throw away the wax paper that has collected the grime, and put down new.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2014 at 10:10AM
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We have 8 foot ceilings and we took our cabinets all the way up to the ceiling in our small-ish 11x15 kitchen. We had soffits previously which we removed. I had absolutely no interest in a space above the disrespect intended to anyone who does it differently but, I don't understand the point in stopping the cabinets before the ceiling. It creates a completely useless space above your cabinets unless you want to display something up there and then have to frequently clean those display items. If full-height cabinets look too heavy for you, maybe consider a glass front cabinet on top.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 7:16AM
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We have 12 foot ceilings and the crown stops at about 10 feet on the main walls and even with the pantry/laundry walls above the fridge. Yes, I have useless dusty space above my cabinets, but for this house I think it was the best choice. I hired a decorator to choose the objects pictured here and love them. If I were to design a new kitchen, I would definitely do 10 ft ceilings with cabinets all the way up.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 8:53AM
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I have 8 foot ceilings and a beam that eats up a chunk of space, so we chose to end all the tall cabinets below the beam at about 84 inches and created a soffit. In our space, that makes it appear as if the cabinets and fridge are recessed into a wall, instead of a soffit added on top.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 4:54PM
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OK, I did NOT go all the way up to the ceiling. Normally I would probably have wrapped around the beams that we could not eliminate and gone to the ceiling. I could have made that work. But, because I wanted to put a collection of fish pitchers or glug jugs where I could enjoy them, I staggered the cabinet height. This is a personal decision, for a personal reason.

For most situations, I would choose cabs to the ceiling. For mine, I--and my glug jugs (old tavern pitchers)--like this design:

I really think it depends on you as the owner and your purposes. Do you need the storage? Do you like simple lines? Do you want a display area? Do you want to design the kitchen for future resale?

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 7:51PM
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I love the pictures of all the beautiful kitchens. Despite being not quite 5 feet, I know I really want to remove the soffit and have taller cabinets since I need storage.

I have to climb on a tall ladder right now all the time anyway to get to the top shelf of my 30" cabinets and even to get many things out of the 2nd shelf so it will not matter if I have to be up on a ladder to read the top shelf.

If I go with 36" cabinets and crown molding, I will still have only 3 shelves but each will be able to hold taller objects. If I go with taller cabinets (39" or 40" or 42", depending on their height, I will have less or not have pretty crown molding but I will have 4 shelves. I have an 8 feet ceiling and a 10 X 14 sized kitchen.

I have seen cabinets that do not go all the way up that are pretty. I have seen cabinets that go all the way up to the top of the ceiling that look so pretty also. Both are more updated looks than a soffit.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2014 at 11:33PM
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I think staggered heights generally looks fussy and dated. I wouldn't do that.

We have just under 8 ft. ceilings. In general, I don't like fuss or knickknacks, and I do like easy maintenance, so I didn't want to display anything or dust anything. Cabinets up to the ceiling almost always make more sense to me because of that.

However, in our particular kitchen, we don't have any windows. The only natural light in the room comes from the large window in the adjacent dining room. I was very concerned about maximizing the natural light in this kitchen. Shadowed gaps above all our cabinets vs. white cabinet fronts reflecting light up there was an easy choice.

I also made the distance between the counter and the bottom of the upper cabinets larger so the most natural light possible could spread around the work surfaces. Also, I find in general when things feel airy and open, they seem lighter even if they are not.

If looming cabinets is the concern, I would eliminate some of the uppers altogether or make them less deep rather than make their tops a bit shorter -- I don't think a small gap at the top changes much, but losing the whole cabinet would.

The only arguments I've ever heard for short upper cabinets that I found truly compelling were a) such enormously tall walls that you just have to stop the uppers at a certain point (like in a loft), and b) cost. If you simply only have enough money for 30" tall cabs and can't afford to go to the ceiling, well then, there you have it.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:41PM
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I am doing staggered cabinets in a new house build. One wall is 8 ft and the other is slanted to a vault. I love the staggered look and if it looks dated, so be it. It is my kitchen in my forever house. Don't plan on leaving it til they take me out with a toe tagâºï¸Â
Do what makes YOU happy.
Just saying......

    Bookmark   December 16, 2014 at 10:49PM
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Another vote for taking the cabinets to the ceiling, they reduce cleaning as there will be no dust and grease on the top of the cabinets and it reduces the clutter in the kitchen because seldom used items can find a home in this seldom accessed location.

To create lightness you may want to make the very top of each cabinet with a glass display window so that you can display pretty items in them.

One thing I would definitely plan for is an easy to reach location for the ladder so that you can access these areas.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2014 at 11:19AM
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This is my old kitchen. I'm short, 5'3". I have to use a step stool regardless of the cabinet combination.

In my new kitchen I plan to repeat the soffit effect. While I don't like the previous kitchen because it doesn't function well, I do give the previous owner credit for the soffit.

My ceilings are 9'. The cabinets are 42". I have to hide the ventilation run for the hood exhaust.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2014 at 11:36AM
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