Reader Bonnie submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’m facing a bit of a dilemma. I have about a foot, maybe a foot-and-a-half of space between my kitchen cabinet tops and the ceiling. It’s a space that accumulates dust, dog hair, dead bugs, and who knows what, in addition to the random (unsightly) bits and pieces that get shoved up there when we don’t have space for them elsewhere. Well, I finally cleaned and reorganized my kitchen, but I’m now at a loss for what to do with that space. Because I’m fairly short and that space is a magnet for dust and crud, I don’t want to use it for storage or anything that would involve me having to clean it more than once a year (like fake plants, which I’ve seen in a LOT of places). Do you know of any (hopefully attractive) way to use, decorate, or close off this space? Help!
My friend Scott recently collected more than 600 pairs of jeans to be recycled into insulation for a Habitat for Humanity home, and he used that space above his cabinets to store the first couple hundred pairs he collected. When I saw the pictures of his jeans-clad kitchen, I honestly thought to myself, “That’s the best use of that weird space I’ve ever seen.”
The awkward open space usually exists above kitchen cabinets because the cabinets aren’t custom made for your kitchen. The pre-fabricated cabinets you have don’t consider your room’s ceiling height, and were installed to be convenient to reach (resulting in the gap between the top of the cabinet and the ceiling). The cabinets you have were likely thousands of dollars less expensive than custom cabinets, though, which is why you see this problem so often in homes across the U.S. The gap saved your home’s builder a few grand in building costs.
If money grows on trees on your property and you own your home, I recommend paying to have new cabinets installed. Remodel your kitchen using custom cabinets that go all the way to the ceiling (and get yourself a stylish step stool so you can reach the high storage easily.
If you’re a renter or not swimming in dough (like me!), you’re probably searching for less expensive and less permanent options. Here are some ideas:
- Dry wall. If you own your place, consider creating a false bolster. Install the dry wall, mud it, sand it, paint it, and make it look like your cabinets simply go as far up the wall as they can.
- Glass blocks. If you rent, stack glass blocks to create a false wall up there. You won’t have to dust or clean the space behind the glass blocks until you move out, and you can easily clean the blocks once a year with window cleaner.
- Other building materials. If glass blocks don’t match your kitchen’s decor, find another building material that does and install it instead. Bead board, fake bricks, and wood paneling come to mind as options — just be sure to attach a small wood strip to your ceiling so the new wall material has something to attach to for warping prevention.
- Nothing. Just resolve that crud is going to collect up there all year, and clean it off every spring. As long as you’re not storing anything up there, you don’t have to worry so much about whatever is collecting. Find a way to be at peace with this space.
Check the comments for even more ideas from our readers. I wish you luck on your home-improvement journey, and be sure to e-mail me with before and after pictures so I can see what you decided to do. Thank you, Bonnie, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.