Overhead cabinets above island or peninsula

July 31, 2015

We all know the problem:

We've all seen a great little U-shaped kitchen, so nicely designed, such a joy to use ... and just across from the workspace, a little breakfast spot tucked in just right ... two areas that should be in harmony.

But smack-dab between them, preventing connection and conversation between the two spots, is an overhead cabinet suspended from the ceiling. This misplaced item means that the person sitting at the table can only see the kitchen worker's chest, and the kitchen worker is constantly bending down to look at the person at the table. You know, like this (Full Disclosure: I plucked this picture from the internet, and the people who posted it made those Xs):

Is it possible to have upper cabinets above an island or peninsula WITHOUT this too-low problem? Or, if you put the cabinets up high enough to allow conversation, are the cabinets too high to be useful? In other words, is it possible to have uppers THAT WORK?

If so, what details make them work?

Looking across the internet, I see a couple ideas:

What if you use glass fronts? I see the appeal of being able to open the glass fronts from both sides. You know: Dishes in from the left, out from the right. I note that these cabinets are higher off the countertop than the adjacent corner cabinet. I think the heavy molding at the top of this cabinet run helps pull off this look nicely.

Or what if you make the middle cabinet taller? Useful, or just stupid? Of all the pictures I found, I think I like this the least. I'm into clean, uncluttered spaces, and I think this kitchen has "too much" going on.

Can you place the cabinets high enough to avoid the problem? Or, if you do this, are the cabinets too high for realistic use? I kind of like this picture the best -- how high off the counter would you guess this is? My best guess: I'm guessing that the cabinets themselves are 36" high, and the space under them seems to be the same. I like the reeded glass in these cabinets.

Or are cabinets above an island or peninsula simply something to be avoided? I don't think I'm going to get them, but I do like considering ALL my options!

Again, if this type of cabinet CAN work, what DETAILS make it work?

Thanks for any thoughts you may have.

Comments (28)

  • funkycamper

    I've actually mused about this because we have a rental we may move back into someday when we're quite a LOT older and need a smaller house, all on one floor, with only one small step to get into. It's walking distance to library, senior lunch center, bus stop and grocery and drug stores. Perfect for when I'm FunkyGreatGranny and they take my license away from me. And it has a kitchen just like that.

    I like the last picture the best by far and have thought about that design as an option in that house. (Although, by the time we might move there, I might just eat at the senior center and not worry about cooking or what the kitchen looks like by then, but that's another story, right?)

    I don't have any profound thoughts on why it works best. I suppose it's the height giving it nice clearance so there is more openness between the two spaces and the clean lines. I don't think cabinets that high are useless. Of course, if someone is really short, they may want to store specialty glassware, china and serving pieces there that aren't used very regularly. Someone taller could still store regularly needed items on the bottom shelf or two.

    I think it's nicer to have nothing there and have it open but if the storage is needed, I think this is a nice option.

    This probably isn't very helpful.

  • romy718

    I like the last option also. It probably helps to have the wall of windows behind the table.

  • Nothing Left to Say

    My reaction is to avoid cabinets over a pennisula. And none of your images convince me otherwise.

  • westsider40

    I got rid of those uppers, the ones above the peninsula. We needed the storage but my custom cabinetmaker did such an amazing job of finding or making storage, that I have never given the absence of the uppers a second thought. Sorry no pictures.

    Some of the things I did: 3 toekick drawers, lowers are all drawers, 4 drawer stack, utensil drawer under cooktop, made a window less wide so that we could build cabinets on the wall opposite the u-space, etc. Created a spice cabinet by building it 90 degrees on the end of a cabinet run. Again, sorry, no photos.

  • Bunny

    Ugh. No. I have a G-shaped kitchen with peninsula. I got rid of the cabinets (plus soffit from which they were suspended) and it single-handedly transformed my kitchen. I didn't really need the extra storage and there's no way to make it look better, FWIW, I kept the old cabs and had my GC hang them in the garage for the kind of stuff that doesn't need kitchen space.

  • brdrl

    After living with cabinets over the peninsula for 13 years we finally pulled them down. The space visually opened before we extended the room and the light change was drastic. Not to mention I could see into seating area when cooking without bending down. Maybe with glass on both sides it would be brighter but I couldn't go back to that setup.

  • benjesbride_misses_sophie

    I think you're only gaining 12-18 inches in accessible vertical storage above eye level. To me, the cost (losing open-ness) versus benefit (cabinet storage) isn't worth it.

  • beth09

    This is one of the biggest problems I am facing. I desperately could use the storage and considered this briefly also, but I just can't see closing up the openess I'm used to, plus losing light which brdrl mentioned and I hadn't even thought of. I already have a darker kitchen imo even though it's south facing so that seals the deal.

    westsider, do you mean the spice cab is angled? Would love explanation on it please.

  • maddie260

    We took this set-down; my neighbor left her's. We both solved the storage solution in different ways. My neighbor put higher, but smaller, glass faced cabinets up; this does open the space. I put drawers on both sides of the space; this gave me huge storage, and it totally opened the space. As for the blind corner on the seating side, I made that a very deep drawer. My solution made this a very open space with much more storage.

  • Lavender Lass

    IMHO.....No. Not unless you have tall ceiling and want to put display over the peninsula that doesn't block your view, but then you probably can't reach it without a stool.

    I'm tall, so maybe that's why I don't like them. I ALWAYS have to duck. So I would eliminate the overhead cabinets over your work area. But I have seen some nice options with cabinets on each side :)

    Think of this as the 'before'

    And replace it with the way they did this are over their sink...but instead of window, you'd have opening to breakfast nook.

    Note...I would prefer NOT to have a sink in this location...just happened to be in these pictures. I took it out of the before photo, which you can probably tell! LOL

  • lisa_a

    That last option would be fine if the storage were for seldom used items or if you're quite tall. At 5'3", I'd only be able tor each the first shelf without using a step stool, which is not a good idea to rely on as you age due to balance issues.

    I'd rather opt for a glass cab resting on the counter at the end of the peninsula run similar to the one in this pic.

    Breezy Brentwood · More Info

    Or a cab to the counter where peninsula meets wall as in these 2 kitchens:

    Pacific Heights Home · More Info

    Bell McKinnon Residence · More Info

  • Lavender Lass

    I love that first picture....I always have, it's so pretty :)

    That being said, I would be staring at the dishes on the bottom shelf. And then ducking, to see anyone on the other side! LOL

  • sjhockeyfan325

    We briefly considered hanging open shleves above the peninsula in our former home and decided even that would close it off too much from the family room. Re the last picture, it looke to me like both the cabinets and the distance between the cabinets and the counter are likely only 30" each, not 36", which would make the ceiling height 8' (9' if they're each 36"). Anyway, I'm not a fan - you can make the opening high enough for a shorter person, but a tall person would still have to bend down.

  • jenncent

    Sinilar to one posted above, if you really need the storage, I would do counter to ceiling on the ends, just thinner than the ones in this pic. And keep them all glass.

  • rcp5283

    I don't think they ever look good. We removed the cabinets over our peninsula and it made the kitchen feel 100 times bigger. And I don't miss the storage space at all.

  • blfenton

    I don't like any of them. I would do everything to avoid having cabinets over a peninsula.

    There is something wrong with the visual weightiness of the last picture posted my Mrspete. One end is anchored to the wall and it looks like it is reeeeally straining to hold the other end up. It needs some sort of support at the open end - perhaps like lisa_a first picture or a post of some sort. Structurally it may not be necessary, but for me visually, it is.

  • funkycamper

    Lisa, thanks for posting the alternate ideas. I really like the ones like this. Seems to solve the storage issue while keeping things open.

    Pacific Heights Home · More Info

    blfenton, funny that the last one MrsPete posted is the one you like least and I like best. I like it because it is the most open. I don't like any of them with a counter to ceiling cabinet at the end of the peninsula because they close things up so much.

  • mrspete

    Pondering various thoughts, forming opinions:

    - I hadn't considered that some of these "work" because they're glass and have windows on the other side, bringing in light. I think that's a major item, and it's NOT what I'll have in my kitchen.

    - I had considered that at not-quite 5' tall, the storage "up there" is basically useless to me; however, I don't really think that's a big problem because we all have a number of fancy dishes or glassware that don't get much use -- that's the type of thing that would to into these cabinets, and you wouldn't reach for them frequently. However, I don't have loads of crystal, and that's what seems to work best in these cabinets.

    - I really do like the cabinet-on-peninsula-comes-to-the-counter concept. Practical, easy to reach.

    - I don't care for the cabinet-comes-to-the peninsula on both sides, forming a "picture frame" through which to look out at the great room. That seems more confining than the overhead cabinets.

    - I totally agree with the concept of "visual weight" being an issue.

    - No, I don't 'specially need more and more and more storage, but I like to consider and weigh every option.

    - Once again, I've confirmed to myself that I am very anti-ceiling clutter. That is, I don't like too many pot lights or pendants ... and some of these come off to me as "clutter", while others don't. I think the simple styles work better.

    Thanks, all, for your input on this topic!

  • practigal

    I have friends who have high cabinets over their peninsula. They are 6'2" and 6'4" and can access their contents without a stool but they hate them as they still block their vision....but there is no other storage space for their glassware. Their kitchen is nothing but cabinets and that last row over the peninsula, while very well done, makes for a feeling of clutter (there is no true clutter) due to how many cabinets have been fit into a small space. They have both a peninsula and an island and cabinets on the three walls as well as over the peninsula. I would not put cabinets over the peninsula as I would not be able to use them without a stool...but you may feel differently. Take the total kitchen into account, not just the peninsula.

  • cmcc3

    I've seen cabinets that are glass on each side and can be accessed from either side. When done right, it looks really nice and still maintains that open feel.

  • new-beginning

    I had the U shaped kitchen and the previous owners pulled down the cabs over the peninsula and plopped them in another room in front of a picture window! I moved them against the back of the peninsula, thus keeping the storage (they were lower than the peninsula) but it was a great place for food served buffet style when one's 24 relatives are there for Christmas lunch.

  • westsider40

    Hi Beth, re the spice cab- See the Pacific Heights home posted by Lisa and reposted later. Then focus on the upper glass cabinet closest to the window. Add a full height narrow, say 8 inches wide cabinet and put the cab door opening next to the window. Perpendicular to the rest of the cabs on that run. Many shelves-i have 7. So you end up having room for spice bottles two deep and several shelves high, opening with a cab door that is 12 inches by the height of the cab. hth.

    Also, I had that 'to the counter' cab on the peninsula made. Mine has a garage with a pull up door and I keep many things there-cutting boards, coffee paraphanalia, small appliances, all handy with no steps to walk. I also had cab doors made on all three sides, so that I can open that cab from the seating side, front facing side and sink facing side.

    One more thing--I put an undercounter fridge drawer unit in the blind corner on the seating side. Guests can get a drink, soda and kids get yogurt. It keeps traffic out of the working area, sinkside. Also, produce overload. It was a 2k splurge for me. We love it sooo.

  • beth09

    ws, thank you so much for explaining. And I'm so glad you love how it all turned out. That's the whole idea, right? ;)

  • mrspete

    Practigal, I understand your comment about visual clutter vs. actual clutter, and when I look at pictures of rooms, I recognize that I am consistently drawn to rooms that're simple and clutter-free.

    CMCC3, I remember so well being in my great-great-great aunt's dining room. She had glass-front cabinets that opened on one side into the kitchen, on the other side in the dining room. It was such a nice detail.

    New Beginnings, In front of a picture window? What are people thinking?

  • Amber

    If doing it, the only ones I've liked is the one Jenn posted and then just doing the one with the end cab to the counter!

  • suzanne_sl

    As the owner of a new bruise right in the middle of my forehead (new house, has cabs over peninsula), I vote no overheads. If that isn't convincing - I could just be Super Klutz - how about a before and after from the old house?

    Busy family, it wasn't usually this bad, but sometimes:

    New design, and it frequently stayed this way:

    Storage issues were solved by the pantry on the right above (and left below) and all the marvelous drawers under the peninsula:

    Plus the china cabinets on the other side of the dining room. These held china, fancy glasses, special occasion dishes, plus the turkey roaster, and large platters. Those cabs are the same we used in the kitchen with glass inserts.

  • James Shkurko

    Hi suzanne_sl - I had a question about the bracket that you had installed over the dishwasher on on this page: - would you be able to give me some info please. my email is Thanks in advance!

  • Kathy Lemak

    Some years ago, we took these "over the oven" cabinets down and immediately had no place to put the dishes, cereal boxes or spices. So much for planning ahead. What I want to know (because it's been so long) is: how do I reinstall these? I only need one cabinet, not a full line-up, so essentially, it'll still be "open concept," just with a little more storage.

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