7 Ingenious Alternatives to Upper Kitchen Cabinets

  • Sep 7, 2018

We’re seeing an increasing trend towards kitchen that is doing without the conventional upper cabinets. It’s a great look for the minimalist or if you want to show off an incredible tile work. No uppers also mean you’re getting an airier, visually lighter kitchen, which can work wonders in a limited cooking space. Plus, you can shave off a few extra dollars in your renovation budget.

But going without upper kitchen cabinets might mean you’ll be sacrificing a big amount of storage. Rather than leave the space completely bare, consider these alternatives that will help your kitchen stay organised even without the top cabinets:


1. Single ledge

A single ledge works best if you have a long-ish, galley style kitchen or a one-wall cooking space, as it will help to accentuate the length of the area. But otherwise, this minimalist style works in any kitchen.

Task lighting finds its spot on the single ledge.

Design: Reimage Decor

Sure, you’ll need major editing skills to pull off this look without making it look messy. But do it well and the visual result is worth it in the end. The key is to get wares that are in similar hues. An easy way out? Get them all in white. Glassware is also a good neutral to pair with your other dishes. Make sure you're varying the heights and shapes of your wares to make things look interesting.

The single ledge rests just above this stainless steel backsplash, a convenient height to reach for things.

Design: The Monocot Studio

To create a continuous visual line, the single ledge is positioned at the height where the cooker hood ends.

Design: Design Neu


2. Open floating shelves

If you need a bit more storage space, or you don’t have the length in your kitchen, consider going for several open floating shelves in lieu of upper kitchen cabinets. They are really single ledges, but double (or triple!) the space.

Open wooden shelves tie in with the rest of the woody elements in this Scandinavian themed kitchen.

Design: The Interior Lab

Anything displayed out in the open will tend to be magnet for dust and food grease so you will have to be diligent in keeping the space clean. The trick is to place frequently used/everyday items on the shelves, which not only make it easier to reach for them but you will also tend to clean them anyway after use.

Floating shelves are less visually heavy, compared with traditional upper kitchen cabinets.

Design: DB Studio

LED strips are placed beneath the open shelves, serving as ambient light as much as task lighting.

Design: Edge Interior


3. Hanging rods

For the utilitarian kitchen, rods are a super practical and versatile choice. They are perfect for dangling all sorts of everyday cooking ware, from saucepans to utensils, making them more accessible. Hook up a drying rack for drying your dishes, wire baskets to display your condiment bottles or holders to serve as a catch-all.

Hook up various storage holders on the versatile hanging rod.

Image: Pinterest

The vertical running bond patterned tiles get all the attention in this kitchen, with the minimalist hanging rod blending into the background.

Design: Fuse Concept

Hanging rods are all-purpose without taking up too much unnecessary space.

Design: Design 4 Space


4. Suspended racks

With generous windows in your kitchen, you might not want to block out the views with upper kitchen cabinets. Having see-through suspended racks then will ensure the light and window views can still come through.

The transparent panels on the suspended rack help to bounce off light throughout the kitchen, giving the space a more spacious feel.

Design: Museum Homes

Even without windows, suspended racks are useful as they are less visually bulky compared with upper kitchen cabinets thanks to their straight lines and see-through nature.

The angular lines from the suspended racks offer up a more interesting space than if conventional uppers were used.

Design: Ciseern


5. Stainless steel slatted shelves

Is your kitchen all about functionality? Then stainless steel slatted shelves should be your go-to. The individual bars are perfect for hooking up various cooking tools, while the shelf itself can serve as a pot or drying rack.

Pair them with other stainless steel surfaces in your kitchen e.g. backsplash or countertop or deck out your entire cooking space in stainless steel so that the shelves won’t look too out of place.

Other stainless steel surfaces in this kitchen make sure that the shelves feel part of the kitchen.

Design: Fuse Concept

These stainless steel shelves pair nicely with more rustic and earthy materials too, ensuring that the space doesn't feel overly sterile or commercial.

Image: Pinterest


6. Recessed shelving

We haven’t seen this look in many kitchens in Singapore, but it’s a common design in many bathrooms and bedrooms. Not sure why it’s not more popular in kitchens here, but it ought to be!

Recessed shelving helps to create a neat and tidy look, reducing visual clutter.

Image: Fine Furnished

Recessed shelving or wall niches in place of upper kitchen cabinets feels compact, neat and tidy. It’s great if you don’t have super awesome editing skills for open shelf curation since it doesn’t make the objects stand out too much, especially if you’re painting the back of a recessed shelf a similar shade to the rest of the walls. But if you want to make them stand out, go for a contrasting colour.

The recessed shelves were painted a matte black, which helped create a visual depth. They stand out against the glossy white square tiles on the wall.

Image: Pinterest


7. Box shelves

To add an element of fun to your cooking space, get box shelves. Not only do they help with compartmentalisation, they also offer up a casual vibe which is great for the rustic kitchen. Play around with the layout as well as the colours and sizes of the boxes for a non-standardised look.

Box shelves can be shallow, serving as a display stand for your favourite pieces.

Image: Pinterest

With added depth, they can be functional too.

Image: Pinterest

Play around with the placement for a fun and casual vibe.

Design: Urban Habitat Design


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