Upper cabinet height - 8 ft ceiling with beam

adam211August 28, 2014

We are in need of upper cabinets, and I'm having difficulty placing around a beam. Here's our kitchen currently:

We are planning on only putting cabinets on the wall with the window (not the little space to the right of the vent hood). We were recently debating on what to do in the corner, but I think we've decided to do an L-shape cabinet in the corner rather than go straight all the way to the wall (it'll be a 90 degree corner cabinet, jutting out another 12" or so until it almost hits the vent hood, if that makes sense).

We are having trouble deciding what to do with the ceilings. I prefer the look of cabinets all the way up. Our ceilings are roughly 8' tall, and we have about roughly 58" of space above our cabinets. The ceiling isn't particularly straight, but it's not too bad.

Option 1. If we stay below the beam (which juts 7" down), we probably need to go with 30" cabinets. I'm worried about the looking of floating 30" cabinets and think they look a little awkward.

If you don't mind clicking a link:
nyse2502's post near the bottom of that link is one option--we could put in 30" cabinets touch the bottom of that beam going all the way across (on either side of the window of course). Maybe we could put straight piece of molding above them and then crown on top (7" total).

Here's another picture idea (but with really tall ceilings):

Traditional Kitchen by Washington Design-Build Firms Four Brothers LLC

And here's what I do NOT want:

Contemporary Kitchen by Oakland General Contractors Mueller Nicholls Cabinets and Construction

Option 2. Put in 36" cabinets with 4" of trim or 39" cabinets with 1" of trim (not enough trim??). If we did this, there would be a gap between the fridge and the cabinets of about 9" if we went flush to the right side of the beam.

I should mention we are putting cabinets above the fridge, but no problems there.

I'm worried the 30" cabinets will look very squashy. Also, I haven't seen the straight trim and then molding done very often above 30" cabinets so I'm worried it will look soffit-y. No one likes soffits anymore. But I'm also worried about the 9" gap between fridge and cabinets with the other option. I'm not sure which is the worse of the two evils, or which would stand out more.

My gut is telling me to go with the taller cabinets, as the look of the taller cabinets will overpower any evils of the 9" gap. But maybe the 30" cabs with extra molding won't look much different and will fit the area better. Please tell me your thoughts!

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I love the feel of your kitchen. I'd hate to lose it. Floating shelves would look great in there, but I suspect they won't fulfill your needs.

Are you looking to fill the space to gain maximum storage? Are you going for a particular aesthetic? We desperately needed storage and wanted a contemporary look, so we went for maximum height and 1" flat moldings.

I'm with you on big gaps above cabinets. Not a fan of floating cabinets (or air soffits, as I've seen the space called.) Do you know where you'll be getting the cabinets? If you go with a custom line, you could get a 33" and do molding that exactly matches the beam depth. Otherwise, I need to know more about the look you want to achieve to make a recommendation.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 7:25AM
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Thanks for your response. House is formerly craftsman-style (without much remaining craftsman detail), but the rest of the trim in the house is craftsman and the doors, and that's the look I'm going for and bringing back bit by bit--classic, simple, craftsman.

Cabinets are Huntwood. They are custom, so I can probably get 33" (at a price). I'm concerned that would look funny/be too short and oddly proportioned with a 7" piece of trim above it, but perhaps not. Might it look funny to have the cabinet all the way up to the beam height with no molding for that short section? Note that there is a couple inches between the beam and the refrigerator as well.

We aren't lacking space so floating shelves are an option. I'm concerned they won't fit us too well because then we'll have to only store nice looking dishes, etc. That's why they were left out in the first place--the people we bought the house from were going to do floating shelves. I could consider it, but it seems like it could be a challenge. Also, while people say not to make decisions based on future home owners, I suspect whoever buys our house in the future will not like the lacking cabinets.

Thanks for your response.

This post was edited by adam211 on Thu, Aug 28, 14 at 10:31

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 10:23AM
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Just do a 30" wine cubby under the beam for the exact width of the beam, and use 39" cabinets with 3" of molding for the rest of the cabinets on that wall. I would not do an L shaped corner cabinet unless you were also doing cabinets to the right of the hood.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:34AM
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we put in 39" cabs with no top molding and we also have 8ft ceilings. we did not like the look of moldings or light rails personally and they jumped up the cost.
we had 30" cabs before and the 39" give us 3 adjustable shelves and so much more space! i thought about 36" but would have lost a shelf. in some of the cabs i bought extra shelves to stack smaller items. someone on gw did that and i thought it was an awesome idea. gw is loaded with smart people!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:44AM
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That's a good thought! It's basically my option 2, but without the L-shape and with the wine rack. I like the idea of the wine rack, I'm a little nervous about execution--and what we'd do at the top where the rack meets the beam.

Wouldn't 39" cabinets not allow for 3" of molding? 58" - 39" = 19"

I was nervous about L-shape cabinet too if we weren't going to the right of the hood, but it's hard for me to visualize and my wife thought maybe the L-shape. Without the L we'd need either folding doors or three doors on the right. The hood is about 26" or so from the windowed wall.

Your drawing shows two cabinets above fridge. While you can't see it very well, those cabinets to the left of the fridge are 18" allowing for 36" width of cabinets right on top of the fridge (a third door to the left of your top drawers).

Attached is what the cabinet guy came up with. Those 33" cabinets as he has drawn them would be too big I think with molding under the beam in my opinion (countertop to beam is 51"). We could do 33" cabinets as suggested above if we went all the way to the beam with cabinets and molding around the beam up to the ceiling. I also wonder if three doors on the right would be better than the two, especially since two doors would be a hinged style door.

This post was edited by adam211 on Thu, Aug 28, 14 at 11:55

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:53AM
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Standard upper cabinet alignment is at 54" above the finished floor, which gives you 18" of space between those uppers and the 36" base cabinets. That gives you 42" above that 54" bottom alignment. Using 39" cabinets gives you room for 3" of molding.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:57AM
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Right, but somethings off because we only have ~58.5" of space between the base cabinets and the ceiling. I'm not sure exact ceiling height at that spot but it must be slightly less than 8', and also since our floor is tilted the cabinets are slightly higher than 36". I wish we had an extra inch or two. We could probably be ~17.5" clearance and do 39" cabinets with about 2" of molding. I'd have to wait back home to measure.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 12:03PM
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Thanks, the last picture and the first picture are particularly helpful. Hard to envision exactly in my space, but helpful. Not a huge fan of either, but good to see examples.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:58AM
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33 inch cabinets under the beam leaves 18 inches but are you going to add a light rail? I would not have any less than 18 inches WITH a light rail.

What about using the 30 inch cabinets up to the beam (leaving 21 inches below the cabinets), use molding to reach the ceiling, and add some shallow under cabinet shelves about 7 inches below the cabinets for easy access storage.

I have linked a whole pinterest page with under cabinet shelves. Everyone that has them says that they are incredibly useful.

Here is a link that might be useful: under cabinet shelves

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 11:58AM
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No, not sure where you read that--I am definitely not planning on having a light rail. Nice idea on under cabinet shelves. I hadn't considered those. Except now instead of two options I have three.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 12:18PM
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I think those pictures I posted look a bit strange because the focus is just on this one area, These beams are larger than yours, and they kind of stick out of a larger cabinet. With a narrow open shelf just under the beam I think it's more inconspicuous.

Like this. I think that pretty much represents live-Wire's suggestion

Houzz Contemporary kitchen

This post was edited by nosoccermom on Fri, Aug 29, 14 at 14:01

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 1:57PM
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I would not do 30" cabinets. I've only seen those used if there is a soffit. I really like LWO's suggestion. There are 42 inch cabinets and then you could not do any molding and they would reach to the top and then do a band molding like in the maple cabinets picture above.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 5:33PM
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i second the LWO's suggestion. Great plan for achieving additional cabinets in keeping with your very nice kitchen.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 6:26PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Or you could pay the extra to have a steel beam flush fitted into the ceiling and not have to deal with the cabinet issue at all.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:06PM
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Thanks all for your thoughts. That last picture was really helpful. We've decided to go 36" + 4 to 4.5" of crown. We'll do a wine cubby to the left of the beam.

Still need to decide whether we'll do an L-shape in the corner or run right into the wall (a decision based purely on looks, not convenience), whether we'll do undercabinet lighting (if it's affordable enough--have recently been strongly encourage to do so), and whether to extend the doors all the way to the bottom of the cabinet box or to leave the standard space on the bottom (former seems cleaner but more modern and less traditional).

Would love anyone's comments or thoughts on any of the three above.

This post was edited by adam211 on Wed, Sep 3, 14 at 0:11

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 11:36PM
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Hi I'm interested to see how you work out these issues. GW people always come up with such great solutions. Glad you went with wine rack idea.
My thoughts are:
1) I would not go with L-shape because to me it would not look balanced on sides of the stove; like you forgot the cab on the other side.
2) if you go with under cab lighting, wouldn't you need a light rail because otherwise you see the light strips? I am not sure if it is needed, but think you said you definitely did not want the light rails.
3) I'm sort of confused what you mean on the doors going to bottom of box. If your upper cabinets are matching the bottom cabinets you have installed already, they look like they are full overlay. But I do notice the drawing looks like they aren't. So if there's a choice, I would go full overlay to match bottom cabs. Well that's my measly 2 cents. :) I hope it turn out awesome!

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 5:29AM
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Regarding earlier posts, I can't do 42" or even 39" cabinets really. I have 58.5" to work with. I don't think 1.5" of crown would look very good. I'm open to other opinions but I think 4.5" would fit the house much better and look much better proportion. I want to go as tall as possible, but I think 36" would look best in this case.

1) It sounds like most are against L-shape if not doing cabinets on other side of vent hood. I do have a preference there too but wife doesn't so it is helpful to hear others' thoughts so we cna make a decision. Neither of us feels super strongly, but there seems to be a consensus here.

2-3) We wouldn't do a light rail. I think ours are called full overlay, but I thought even with full overlay there is often a little bit of cabinet showing at the bottom of the uppers? But now that you question it, you may be right. I was looking at this example:

Which is not full overlay, so that may have been where I was wrong.

If we DID do lighting and there wasn't space under the cabinet, I wouldn't add a light rail, but would add space under the cabinet and a flush light rail and extend the doors past the flush light rail so it would look full overlay and you would open the doors but the shelf wouldn't start until a little higher up. I've seen this quite a bit here and it looks good.

So for us the questions are still 1) L-shape? and 2) under-cab lighting? We also would like to do white subway tile instead of our 4" backsplash but that's another expense we may save for later (or never).

This post was edited by adam211 on Wed, Sep 3, 14 at 12:40

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 11:30AM
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If you aren't doing upper cabinets on the right side of the range, I would definitely not do an L on the left side.

While I adore my UCL, I'm not sure you need it. If you have a good light in the hood, and a pendant over the sink, you'll have a lot of light on your counters.

If you do decide to do it, use tape LED lights - they are very thin.

Also think about where you want the switch to be.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Thanks. Seems a clear consensus. I think I'm reaching an end here!

36" cabinets. Wine cubby under beam. Probably not UCL but will depend on rough bid. Probably not L-shape.

Anyone think strongly I should put a cabinet to the right of the range? It would be about a 16" or 17" cabinet. My thoughts were it would make the kitchen feel more closed. We were thinking of putting a couple of floating shelves there.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 12:42PM
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I actually wondered why you weren't doing a cab to right of the stove, but figured you had a reason. But since you asked, I will tell you my thoughts.

I don't think it will close in your kitchen at all. I hope you don't mind me telling you my honest opinion here. Whenever I see the chimney style hoods hanging on a wall all alone, my brain says, "Something just ain't right here". I picture a hover craft floating in the air. I've seen it done in very high end designer kitchens, so maybe some people like it. I just don't get it I guess.

The floating shelves might work, but if it were my kitchen I would do a cabinet for the practicality and cleaner look. You could do finished door style panels (forgive me for not calling it the right term) on the sides of two ending cabinets.

I have never heard of the doors being made lower then the box. Cool what you can get with custom! If you've seen that in person and like it, then that seems like a great idea.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 3:53PM
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There is not pendant above the sink (regarding above comment).

We are doing end panels since as you may be able to see in the picture above we already have that for the lowers. The wide angle picture may make that cabinet space look larger than it is, but as I mentioned figure a 16" wide cabinet to the right of the hood.

The doors wouldn't extend BELOW the box, really, they'd extend down to the lowest wood portion, just so no wood would show under the door. But there'd be no air gap behind the bottom of the door.

It now seems that's my only decision (and one I didn't consider too strongly, but am second guessing). Whether or not to stop on the window wall, or extend with an L- shape cab to the hood AND put a cabinet to the right of the hood.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 6:13PM
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