Free your walls, and the rest will follow

April 11, 2018

Erasing upper cabinets from our kitchens?  In recent years a lot of people have chosen to incorporate open shelving into their kitchens — but lately, we’ve seen a trend that’s even more dramatic: kitchens with no cabinets above waist-height at all which is in line with our desire for open-concept living to make rooms feel bigger.

Traditionalists will, of course, object but many top designers are doing just that, designing kitchens that are as open and spacious – at eye-level – as any other room in the house. It’s the last word in airy, spacious kitchens that are easy to live with.

Not having upper cabinets has the effect of making even a smaller kitchen seem much bigger and brighter – and also providing opportunities for dramatic wall lighting, stunning splashbacks (concrete, anyone?) with lots of room for windows.

No matter how svelte, knob-free, or whited-out your upper kitchen cabinets, they can shrink a room that benefits hugely from cleanliness and fresh air.

Alright, deciding against upper kitchen cabinets might require some paring down of your kitchen kit, or finding other places to store the overflow – such as open shelves or plate-racks and the move might not be for everyone. We see you, tiny kitchens, and we know you need whatever storage you can get) but if you have a little room to play – here’s some great alternatives on the walls of your newly opened-up space.


Opt for slow-closing drawers that close themselves rather than traditional cabinets. The loss of storage and the prospect of bending down to get everything you need are the undeniable disadvantages of a kitchen that is completely free of storage from the waist up. Drawers are something you’ll notice in almost all of these kitchens which make cabinet space easier to organise, and also make it much easier to reach things in the back of the cabinet, which is especially important if that’s the only storage space you have. Something all kitchens benefit from.


You can never have enough bench space in a kitchen. Erasing upper cabinets gives you more bench space for serving food and additional prep space for cooking, ample kitchen counters add huge value.


The lack of upper cabinets in your kitchen means you can allow a  dramatic concrete or tile backsplash to take centre stage.


Tile all the way up the walls of the kitchen to give the space a glimmering, illuminated feel (the tiled surfaces will bounce even more light around your bright space). Seek out classic subway or penny tiles, classic choices that never date.


We understand task lighting is important for making sure you don’t lose a finger while chopping onions, but atmosphere is also important. Strategically placed wall sconces above benchtops (with dimmers) provide focused lighting in kitchens and add a stylish note at the same time.

Forget wall cupboards for a feeling of open space such as this stunning Aprile kitchen by Piero Lissoni for Boffi,


Just one or two open shelves, (shallow or deep), can be a great way to decorate your kitchen wall, and add a little storage without going too far. Use them for china or glass – they might become the room’s star turn. Plus, if you see your things, you’ll use them and if you don’t, chuck them out. Just paint the shelves a neutral shade in a matte finish.


Keep that wonderfully airy and open feeling, and add a taller floating unit or pantry to provide extra storage. Ask any cooks in the family and they’ll say a pantry is a kitchen must-have. Not only does it help you display all your dry foods without having to open multiple cabinets, but it’s also a hugely efficient use of space.


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