A Kitchen Without Upper Cabinets Feels Serene

Less material at eye-level is an appealing way to open up a cook space

kitchen without upper cabinets

Reallocating storage for shelving

There are few instances where a kitchen doesn’t require more storage. The more the better as the mantra states. However, there are some scenarios where a kitchen without upper cabinets is just what the aesthetic calls for. Without the bulk directly at eye level, the space opens up, feels larger, and brings a calm minimalist quality.

Some kitchens may have just enough storage in the lower cabinets to fulfill a cook’s needs. In addition, a closet or pantry nearby may take on storage duties. Below, Sweeten homeowners show how their small-space to mid-sized renovated kitchens function easily with fewer or no uppers.

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Lower cabinets made-to-order

plywood cabinets with patterned floor tiles in kitchen remodel in historic filipinotown in Los Angeles

As first-time renovators, Chrissy and Matt tackled their initial questions of finding a general contractor and managing bid negotiations. The result was hiring a Sweeten contractor who they felt was in sync with their vision for a new kitchen.

The couple balanced a variety of materials with a tight budget and specifically designed their kitchen without upper cabinets. The driving factor was to save money even though they were concerned about dust on open shelves.  In the end, they moved forward with the plan. It turned out to be the right choice while keeping the look simple yet unique.

Chrissy and Matt were meticulous during the planning and maximized to the inch for all of the lower cabinets. Since the plywood cabinets were custom, they measured every kitchenware they used most often. From the coffee grinder to the pitcher, they planned the exact drawers they would be stored in.

A pantry: the key to gaining an open shelf design

Kitchen with white Ikea cabinets and tile and stainless steel appliances

After 14 years of living in her co-op, Melissa finally decided to renovate the kitchen and remove two walls enclosing it. The visual impact was immediate. Natural light streaming in from multiple living room windows now reached the kitchen. Floating shelves would make the most of the open concept layout as a decorative display. A vertical pantry provides the necessary storage for small appliances and dry goods. Without upper cabinets, Melissa was able to install a full wall of square tiles for the modern ‘70s Italian look she was after.

Modern design idea: a kitchen without upper cabinets

natural wood Kitchen cabinets with island and raw wood ceilings

An NYC couple found a relaxing weekend escape in their Amagansett home. The kitchen in the 2,000-square-foot house is washed in natural light with such a calm airiness. Simple white open shelves blend in with the white wall behind them and take the place of upper cabinets. Lower drawers and cabinets in Douglas fir run around the perimeter.

Best of both worlds

White and gray kitchen with brown wood flooring and open shelves after renovation

When Jeremy and Chris closed up one of two entrances in their co-op’s kitchen, it allowed the length of the cabinetry to be extended on one side of the room. The extra space also doubled the counter space and created enough room for a pantry and wine fridge. With additional storage in place, extra-long open shelves lined the opposite wall for a more open feel. It looks like having half-upper cabinets and half-open shelves is a compromise that works just right.

When you’re ready to get started on your kitchen or home remodel, discuss with your Sweeten contractor if designing a kitchen without upper cabinets is possible in your space. 

A note on fixture and appliance deliveries: If you’re on a tight timeline, Appliances Connection has over 50,000 items in stock and ready to ship nationally. If you’re in the NY/NJ metro area, in-stock items typically deliver within 2-3 days.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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