A client of mine once raised a good question: “Do upper cabinets have to be installed the standard 18 inches off the countertop?” It got me thinking outside of the usual cabinetry box. Of course there are lots of ways to install your upper cabinets, and if you’re willing to have an open mind, you might find that elevating them comes with unexpected benefits. Here are situations where you might want to hang your cabinets a little higher.
What Is the Standard Height?
The standard height for upper cabinets has changed somewhat over the years. At one point the most common height was 18 inches above the countertop, but this number has started to creep up to 20 inches to give people a little extra breathing room. Go lower than 18 inches and you may find that certain small appliances don’t fit below the cabinets, or that the upper cabinets start to block your view of the countertop.Ready to remodel? Work with a kitchen designer on Houzz
Although 18 inches is a typical minimum height, kitchen cabinets can start much higher than this. The trade-off is that for every inch you raise the cabinets you will have more open space to work in but less storage space at an easily reachable height.
Finding the right balance will come down to a lot of personal preferences and situational factors, but here are some cases where raising the upper cabinets might be a good move.
When you have a tall faucet or a big sink. Restaurant kitchen-inspired faucets
, with their tall, arching necks and industrial flair, are popular because they’re not only stylish, they’re also highly functional. Paired with deep sinks, they can make hand-washing an oversized pot or small appliance a snap.
But these conveniences are somewhat reduced if you have to struggle to get the pot into the sink. Having higher cabinets above the sink (installed at, say, 24 to 30 inches off the countertop) will ensure you have lots of room to work, no matter what new kitchen contraption you need to wash.
When you want your backsplash to make a statement.
Form and function are both important to a kitchen. After all, if you spend a lot of time in the space, it’ll be more enjoyable if the space is beautiful. A beautiful backsplash makes a strong statement in a kitchen, and raising the upper cabinets gives you a little more square footage to feature a stunning material.Shop for backsplash tile on Houzz
Whether this material is a cool tile, a slab of stone or an exposed brick wall, raising the cabinets will let the backsplash become a point of focus, so much so that it might even catch your eye before the cabinets.
When you have dark cabinets. Sometimes the backsplash isn’t so much a statement of its own as it is a visual break between other dramatic elements. Rich charcoal-toned cabinets can give a kitchen a mature air, but visually they could read as a bit heavy.
A wide stretch of crisp white-based marble slab (between the lowers and the very high uppers) balances out the dark cabinet finish to achieve a look that is rich but airy, and not overwhelming.
When you have a mirrored backsplash. A mirror backsplash makes an attractive style statement, but it can also make your kitchen feel significantly bigger. The effect is even stronger when you have higher upper cabinets, allowing for a taller stretch of mirror that reaches up higher into your eye line.
When your cabinet finish is a bold accent. Two-tone cabinets are a popular trend, and a fun way to add some personality to your kitchen without investing heavily in a look you might grow tired of. When choosing an especially bold finish or an exotic wood grain, using slimmer upper cabinets will balance the look so you get a controlled dose of color.
When you want to hide a hood fan. As the saying goes, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. Hood fans are often designed to sit a certain height above the counter, which can ruin the clean lines of modern cabinetry — if you let it. Rather than using cabinets at two different heights, keep the look elegantly simple by installing all the upper cabinets at the same height to create one single line straight across.
When you love hanging storage.
Having higher upper cabinets doesn’t necessarily mean having less storage. A hang bar running across the backsplash provides a great place to hang tools like spatulas, oven mitts and other essentials within easy reach. Higher upper cabinets will give you a little extra room for longer tools like ladles, so measure the longest tool you’d like to have at the ready, add 3 to 4 inches for the hang bar itself, and then use that measurement as the height for the bottom of the uppers.Browse utensil and pot racks
When you have cabinets over an island. Upper cabinets aren’t only found along a wall. Sometimes it helps to add a bit of storage above your island or peninsula, especially in a more open-concept space with few walls to put cabinets on.
Hanging cabinets just 18 inches off the island counter can block your views to a neighboring space, ruining the “open” part of an “open concept.” However, cabinets starting above the eye line won’t shrink your perception of the space nearly as much. Using cabinets 48 to 54 inches above the counter instead will give you a good balance of extra storage and a sense of visual connection between the spaces.