Don’t let industry norms box you in. Here are some reasons why you might want more space above your countertops
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.
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 the home chefs are tall.Standard heights are just that: a standard height that works for a lot of people but isn’t necessarily best for everyone.If the people using the kitchen are on the taller side (say 5’10” and above), they’ll see the cabinets from a different angle than the “average” eye line.
Raising the upper cabinets a few more inches will ensure an unobstructed view of the counter and give a bit more elbow room for working.
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 have a good, functional pantry wall in your kitchen already, it can be a smart choice to balance it out by reducing the size of your wall cabinets for a more open look.
That way you have a place for everything you need without feeling like you’re working in a pantry closet.
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.
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. These rich charcoal-toned cabinets give this kitchen a mature air, but visually they could read as a bit heavy.
The 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 closed-in kitchen. Not every kitchen can be an open concept with a vast island in the middle to gather around. If you have an L-shaped or U-shaped kitchen that forms a tight room, the area can start to feel a bit closed off, and even cramped.
Lifting your cabinets 6 inches won’t magically knock down a wall, but it can make the entire kitchen feel a bit roomier and more open, without any serious reconstruction.
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, this designer chose to keep the look elegantly simple by installing all the upper cabinets at the same height to create one single line straight across.
It also helps that the backsplash here is a simple panel of crisp stainless steel.
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.
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.