Reducing number of upper cabinets

anitaladyroseJuly 17, 2014

I am planning my kitchen in the house we will begin building soon (I hope). I have looked at so many kitchen pictures that they are all starting to look the same! I have also been reading this forum and have learned a lot about kitchen design.

We will have a large pantry (6' x 13') adjacent to our kitchen. We plan to use the pantry to store dry/canned goods as well as many of the items that are typically stored in kitchen cabinets. Our plan is to minimize the number of upper cabinets in the kitchen. I am not very tall and upper cabinets are not convenient for me. We will have lower cabinets along each wall in our U-shaped kitchen. We will also have a peninsula with cabinets on both sides. Unfortunately, I have not had much luck finding photos of kitchens that are similar to this style, although I have read that there is a trend toward few or no upper cabinets.

I did see one model home with NO upper cabinets, and it was actually quite lovely. It had a very open feeling.

I might mention that our floor plan is also an open plan so I think the look might work.

My question is: has anyone else minimized the number of upper cabinets in their kitchen? If so, are you happy with it?

Thanks so much for any input!

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I can't comment from experience, but I wish I had the storage to pull off a kitchen without upper cabinets. I think they look wonderfully open and beautiful. (I happen to love these
Inspired room,
Traditional kitchen)

Are you planning to have any open shelves? It might be nice to have something for everyday drinking glasses (unless your pantry is very convenient). Glasses and mugs seem like the one type of item that would be awkward to store in base cabinets or a pantry.

Alternatively, you might consider having one furniture-style cabinet that could serve as a hutch/china cabinet. Hutch

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:34PM
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Funny: are you talking about me?

I'm short so I designed my U-shaped (or more like G-shaped) kitchen w/out a lot of upper cabinets. And if I have uppers, they're for my DH :)

We have 2 pantries near kitchen, and a third in the basement, so I don't need a lot of cabinets.

Now that I have my kitchen w/out a lot of upper cabinets, I find those w/ lots of upper cabinets feel confining.

My 10yr and 8yr unload the dishwashers into base cabinets.
I never have to reach for anything for them; they do not climb the countertop.

Let me know if you have any questions.

GW has been so helpful with my kitchen; I am happy to pay it forward.


Sorry but i haven't done a summery so my info is all over the place.

Here's my layout, after many many iterations/tweakings:

Here's my wall of windows/no upper cabs:

somewhat before/afters: Left and Right:

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:10PM
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That wall of windows is awesome!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:49PM
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Oh, how pretty and happy!
I love light and you have so much! :)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 11:52PM
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My layout doesn't relate to yours, but I did reduce my uppers by 50% in my remodel. I don't have a lot of pantry space, and I went with mostly drawers in the base cabinets. I found when I evaluated what I really used and needed in my kitchen, I could certainly get by with fewer uppers. (In fact, my remodel resulted in about a 30% reduction of items in my kitchen, from rarely-used dishes to *never* used small appliances. I have storage that I'm not even using right now.)

The result is what you noted from the model home: a very open, airy space. I love it. I don't miss the storage. I do have some open shelving where some of the old uppers used to be. My kitchen is smaller (small U with peninsula), and removing some of the uppers made the space feel larger--many of my friends and neighbors noticed, too.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 12:27AM
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I need the storage, so I didn't get rid of uppers. I got rid of one upper between the windows that always seemed intrusive. It's being replaced by floating shelves for our nice dinner ware and bowls. (That's the plan at this point anyway.)

My kitchen was demo'd yesterday. I can say that seeing everything out of the kitchen REALLY changed my perspective. I wish I would have worked a little harder to get more storage elsewhere to get rid of at least a couple more uppers.

(But I'm sure I'll love my kitchen...when and if it's ever done.)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 12:31AM
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You look to have plenty of storage space in your pantry, so I would say, go for it. I love clean kitchens with no upper cabinets (my mothers kitchen has zero cabinets but then she has plenty and more of space) but am working with a small kitchen. I have removed uppers where possible without sacrificing on space.

So for example, no cabinets above the range, only the hood which will be suitably covered.

Also, my sink counter space is 6'5" with a window 3'5" long in the centre. The counter is @ 30 inches deep. The KD put a dish stacking cabinet on either side of the window ie each cabinet would be 1"5" long,18 inches deep and go all the way to the ceiling (9 feet). I thought that would make the space look boxed-in so told him to remove it.

What I am going to do is to put a tall pull out cabinet (18 inches deep, 3 feet long and 9 feet high (floor to ceiling) ) at one end of the room, with reed glass as door inserts to reduce the closed in feel. That will give me the storage space I need and remove the boxy look.

This post was edited by gemcap on Fri, Jul 18, 14 at 9:40

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 2:27AM
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I've seen this in several model homes in Austin, but don't know if it's a current trend or here to stay. If you like it and it works for you, it doesn't matter as long as you're happy! A kitchen can make or break a home if it doesn't fit into the owners lifestyle, and I'm guessing, if there's a height problem. Glad you're finding it's ideal for you!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:50AM
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Unlike Huango, I am tall but I am really empowered by light open spaces. I am also undone by visual clutter.
I insisted our kitchen have no virtually no uppers against my DH was vehemently opposed- I told we would have open shelves(I lied).
I do have a cabinet above the fridge, which is one end of my L, the other end is a tall, built in hutch. Next to it, is the DW and 90% of the DW goes into the hutch.
I have a closet sized pantry in which I store any non-perishable food other than flour, sugar, baking soda and the like. That all goes in the 'baking drawer' in my island. The pantry is also the home of my bread machine, and it gets used in the pantry. So does the microwave- I didnt want to give up drawer space(or money) to a microwave drawer. My rice cooker is in the pantry but is not used there, it makes too much steam. (If you are using appliances in a closed pantry you need to consider that. I could have added a vent to the pantry but if I just dont use the rice cooker in there it is not necessary.)
A big key to eliminating uppers and all good kitchens(IMO), is planning. Think about everything that you do, that is important to you in the kitchen. Walk through the processes in your current space. What works, what does not work. What is annoying, what is convenient. That analyis tells you where you want to be, when you are doing things, and where everything needs to be stored.
This drove where I put things. I like to prep dinner at my island, facing the open living space. My husband often sits on the other side and we talk. Kids are often doing homework at the table or in the sunroom, Breakfast is eaten at the island by my boys and on school days I can stand and prep lunches at the island while they eat breakfast. So my island has three banks of drawers. One is cutting boards, and wraps and containers for food storage and lunch boxes, The center is narrow and open drawers, it is knife drawer, bread drawer, cool dry veggies(onions, garlic, potatoes). The third is baking, cooking utensils; measuring cups, mats, rolling pin, reamer, thermometers, etc below that is my baking drawer, and below that is all my 'cooking appliances', blender cuisinart, mandoline. I can stand in place and prepare. I occasional turn around to the opposite bank of drawers to grab a stove utensil or a pot or casserole or mixing bowl which are all stored there. I love the function of my space. And I knew where every item was going before my cabinets were installed. In my plan, I had one drawer, and two cabinets that I hadnt planned anything for, guess what, almost 2 years later they are still virtually empty. Planning is key.
From GW Photos From GW Photos From GW Photos From GW Photos

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 6:10AM
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We just finished a remodel of our kitchen. I really wanted a wall of windows facing our yard so we replaced smaller windows with large ones and only have a couple of upper cabs on perimeter of u. To be fair we have large pantry cabinets and a ton of lower cabinet storage (including both sides of our island) - but even if it had meant a tighter squeeze I would have done it anyway. It makes the kitchen feel open and larger - we love it. It sounds like you hand lots of storage planned - so I would go for it.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 6:43AM
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We have very few uppers in our kitchen. I don't like the look of loads of uppers. Especially the looming enormously tall ones that, to my eyes, take over the room. We have enough storage for our needs. We have a large pantry closet and storage in the island.Anyway, people usually expand to fit the space they have, so I am sure that if I had a huge expanse of tall uppers I would cram them with stuff I really didn't need.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 6:47AM
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Interesting. I do love the open look, but after reviewing what I have in my uppers and lowers, functionally, I can't imagine not having the uppers where I have them. Way too much walking! The contents in three of the cabinets COULD be elsewhere (don't use them as much), but my lowers are full (with items I use) and my uppers are very well organized functionally for each zone.

Example: I have 30" countertops in my baking zone and 18" uppers. Fabulous to be able to have deep vertical storage for my large serving bowls. Reach up for bowl, place on island for serving. Reach over, put in dishwasher. Unload with an easy two steps and reach up. Surprisingly, having easy access to large serving bowls (i.e., NOT stacked) has been one of my favorite benefits and one of those things that three years later, still makes me happy.

So maybe this is best for a wall vs. the whole kitchen...?

huango - always great to see shots of that spectacular marble of yours, I still would love to come see your kitchen:)

localeater - did you get everything figured out (travelling/trip/kids?) Hope your summer's going well!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:24AM
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I have lots of very tall uppers, but I think the points in this thread are well considered including sas95's regarding the expansion of people to fill space available. I think sas meant people's stuff expands (and this is my reason for carrying a small purse) but I've gained weight since the remodel so perhaps those aisles should have been much narrower!

In a future home I might prefer windows, and that open, airy feeling. But for this house with generally limited storage, tall ceilings, and interior kitchen walls, I think the uppers with some glass doors make good use of space.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 7:40AM
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I love, love the look of no uppers.
However, we are all very tall, so in terms of ergonomics, storage below counters is literally a pain in the back.

Also, I just climbed down from my counters are having used credit cards to scrape off the accumulated grease/dust mixture from the top of my cabinets. Disgusting. There was no way, a sponge was doing the job.

So, I wouldn't even have shelves with more than some very few things on them.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:27AM
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I am finishing up my kitchen renovation. My only uppers are two 24"W 24"H cabinets side by side. My glassware and mugs and some bowls are in one and the teeny microwave takes up half the other. But it's just me here, no spouse, no kids!

I have 13+ running feet of lowers, though, and all have drawers. All my dishes, pots and pans, serving pieces, and countertop appliances are in them (except for KA mixer and toaster) are in the deep drawer and of course the usual flatware and untensils in the top shallow drawers (plus a few for tools, desk stuff, etc).

The middle drawers are fine for storing everyday dishes. Bottom drawers are for things I don't use as often.

I have a 24" wide 24" deep pullout pantry that is more than enough space for my non-perishable foods.

I have a long shelf--14-15 feet? that I plan to use for displaying a few pretty things. I thought I might put some everyday dishes on it but I probably won't.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:47AM
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Amanda, where did you get those sconces? Your kitchen is great!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 11:44AM
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Stuff (clutter) always expands to fill the space. I believe that if you don't use it at least once every week or two, it doesn't need to be in the core work areas of the kitchen. I understand there are exceptions, but that is how I will approach my kitchen design. If things are not used and just sit, that is how dust and grime build up. Constant use is the key to keeping things neat and clean. There is a limit to how much stuff one can keep track of. If you cross that line, you simply have too much stuff.

I do a lot of building and woodworking, and I am constantly getting rid of tools and materials I no longer need or use. I'm always increasing my knowledge and skills so that I can accomplish more with fewer but higher quality tools. I think preparing and cooking food is very similar to that. I've found that three knives is all I really need. A serrated knife, a chefs knife, and a paring knife. These three in high quality do 99% of my kitchen cutting. The other knives, etc., can be in the basement for all I care because I so rarely use them.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 12:26PM
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OP here - I would like to thank everyone for their responses. It has been fun to see the kitchens without upper cabinets! I love the look!!! I am going for it!!!! The only thing I cannot place is the microwave. DH doesn't want a drawer MW and doesn't want it in the pantry either. I would love to *hide* it !
Thanks again, everyone.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 1:26PM
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I am in the very early planning stages of my kitchen but after waiting four years have lots of ideas. We are using a currently unused addition for a new kitchen/family room and it is light and airy with many windows. Due to the number of windows I cannot have many upper cabinets (which is fine by me as I like this look). But I am struggling to see how to place a Refridgerator/wall ovens etc. For anyone with a mainly upper free kitchen are you able to post some photos of your appliance locations to give me some inspiration?

Thanks so much

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 1:29PM
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We are in the process of building now and I just got cabinets in two days ago!! I have a large pantry also and decided to forgo the usual uppers. I have 2 typical uppers and some open shelving. The microwave was an issue for me as well, I had my cabinet guy build me two appliance garages to house the stand mixer and the microwave. The are lift door stacked garages. They are beside the wall ovens on the peninsula side of the bar. I'll attach a couple of pictures, but it's a little hard to tell what's everything is yet, as they're unfinished still.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:05PM
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Bar and wall oven side with appliance garages.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Note: my fridge is to the LEFT of my MW/wall oven (opposite wall of my cooktop/hood).

Please come visit me.
Love talking kitchen (especially my kitchen) - hahahhaaa

Thank you.
I got the sconces from LampsPlus: 4 Vienna Manhattan sconces: but they don't make them any more.
For a good reason, because the quality control was terrible!
I had to go through ?7 sconces just to get these 4 acceptable ones. Lots of calling, mailing back/forth, etc...

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:13PM
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See my new thread about my beloved appliance garage to help keep your countertop cleared and clean/tidy.

link below:

Here is a link that might be useful: Amanda's beloved double decker

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 11:14AM
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