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Lower ceiling is better?

last month

We are doing a gut reno on our 12x15 kitchen. The ceilings are about 7’6”, which is about 6” lower than elsewhere on the first floor. We assumed the dropped ceiling was concealing some plumbing or wiring but some exploratory demo showed that the 9” space above is empty, and the original plaster ceiling appears to be in decent shape.


My family is short (wife is 5’ tall) so even with 30” cabinets the top shelf will be hard for them to access. Keeping the ceiling at 7’6” and doing 18” between base and wall cabinets leaves us with 6” to fill with soffit and trim (or to leave empty). An 8’3” ceiling leaves 15” above the cabinets. Given the height of the family, the expense of adding more cabinets above (along about 22’ of wall), and the fact that we are not the type to add storage just for display, I can’t imagine adding doing stacked cabinets.


At no point has the ceiling height ever felt too low to us.


The tops of the windows are about 8” below the current ceiling, and for various reasons (cost, lead paint on the exterior) reframing them to be higher is not super appealing. Having 17” above the windows (42” tall, bottoms 4” above the countertop) seems out of proportion.


What would you do - keep the lower ceiling or open it back up to 8’3”?

Comments (12)

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    My vote would be to raise the ceilings (especially if the plaster ceiling looks good) for the reasons @The Kitchen Place mentions and because a higher ceiling could give you more flexibility for light fixtures if you want to do any type of pendant or chandelier in your new design, and you'd have the same height ceiling throughout your first floor.

    It sounds like you're considering 30" uppers? You could do 36" or 42" uppers and then a frieze board or trim up to the ceiling. You might want to do some elevations with different upper cabinet heights and configurations and post them here to see what the design pros think.

  • last month

    Open up the ceiling.

    42" cabinets.

    No one can reach the top of an upper cabinet. Most of us put rarely used items up there (I have not-everyday glassware, some soup crocks, etc.). The point of doing it is for aesthetics.

    You may feel like your ceiling is fine as it is but there is zero downside to opening it up. It will look bigger and feel bigger.

    I can't comment on the windows but I believe ours are at least 12" below the ceiling so 17" isn't that crazy I don't think.

  • last month

    I should add that we need to run the hood vent duct up, do a 90 degree turn, then go over a passageway to an exterior wall. So if we raise the ceiling we then have to somehow hide the 6” duct.

  • PRO
    last month
    last modified: last month

    You run the duct through the top shelf of the cabinet. it’s easy to do.

  • last month
    last modified: last month

    @zumi there is no cabinet where much of the duct will be.


    The duct will run from the right of the picture to the left. If we leave the drop ceiling, it will not be visible. If we raise the ceiling, the duct will be visible.

  • last month

    Raise the ceiling, for all the reasons already mentioned.

  • last month

    Just build a faux cabinet over the doorway to hide the duct. I wouldn't keep the entire ceiling low just for that.

  • last month

    @anj_p: "Just build a faux cabinet over the doorway to hide the duct. I wouldn't keep the entire ceiling low just for that."

    So how deep would that cabinet be? Twelve inches, the likely depth of the cabinets to the right? So a 12" deep cabinet would hang over the door opening into the kitchen? How would the faux cabinet "plug" into the cabinet run at the left? Would there have to be a 12"-wide, short door below the point where the faux cabinet met the left-hand cabinet run and then full-height doors for the remainder of the run?

    Isaac thanked wdccruise
  • last month

    Wdccruise yes something like that. I looked up "cabinets over doorways" and people do this as a design element. I was just on my phone and was too lazy to copy and paste links. I saw more examples with shelves than cabinets but the same idea applies.

    Otherwise op, just use a soffit and raise the rest of the ceiling.

  • last month

    Thanks, all. After looking at a bunch of other older threads and photos of various approaches, we decided to keep the lower ceiling. It is more practical for our situation for ventilation, plumbing, lighting, and venting, and we want to avoid a soffit for the vent for the reasons @wdccruise outlined.

    And I think it gives a cozier vibe, which fits our style and the house (which is not fancy in any way). A taller crown over 30” uppers will also fit the style and proportions we are going for.

  • last month

    I think that a gap (90 - 35 - 18 - 30 = 7" ) between the upper cabinets and the ceiling can make the kitchen ceiling look higher and the room more spacious as shown in the IKEA kitchen brochure pages 10-11 and pages 22-23. If you reduced the space between the upper and lower cabinets by one inch, you could align the tops of the cabinets with the window at 8". My design book shows a distance of 15" to 18".

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