An Amateur’s Guide to Styling the Top of Cabinets AKA Dead Space Styling

February 4, 2013 — 4 Comments

I had a request (a while ago) for a post about how to style the top of cabinets. It’s a great post idea because decorating unused space is hard to do. The top of cabinets are generally too high to store things that will be used regularly so they are basically just dead space (hence the trend to take cabinets all the way to the ceiling or have open shelving). I really enjoy decorating but it’s hard even for me to style dead space.

In this house I do not have open cabinet tops so this isn’t really an issue for me. black walls with white kitchen cabinets
But I do have a large bookcase and I plan to get another one soon which is essentially the same thing – dead space that isn’t accessible but it still needs …. something. blue walls and black bookcase with glass doors
Here is the current state of the top of my bookshelf. A stack of books and twin greyhound statues. Nothing fancy or striking.
But the request got me thinking because eventually (hopefully sooner than later) I will be getting my dream bookcase which will have six feet of dead space that I will have to fill so I did some research. Here are six objects or collections you can use to help fill any dead space in your house (top of cabinets, bookshelves, ledges, etc):
1) Globes. globes on top of expedit bookshelves globes on top of white kitchen cabinets globes on top of wooden kitchen cabinets
I love this trend of layered globes. The best part about this version of dead space decorating is that you can get globes for pretty cheap if you look hard enough. The globe in my entry way is from a thrift store for $12. Yesterday at a thrift shop I saw a black globe (those are much harder to find) for $25. It would be a fun collection to start because you can always have your eye out for one. You can also enlist your friends to look for you too. Besides being affordable, this look is also great because it has such a strong color impact. To further add to the visual appeal you can stack them on books or put them on stands to give the look a more layered feel.
2) Baskets. large baskets on top of kitchen cabinets large baskets on top of kitchen cabinets Large baskets on top of kitchen cabinets
Baskets can go kitschy-country fast, but what I like about the baskets in these images is that they are big and bold. If you put a few small baskets up on top of cabinet they are going to look lost and sad but large baskets will fill the space better. I also like how the texture and color of the baskets contrasts so nicely with the white kitchens they are in. If you have stained wood cabinets try white baskets for a similar look.
3) Your (fill in the blank) Collection. wine bottles on top of kitchen cabinets uplight milk glass on top of kitchen cabinets vintage thermoses on top of chalkboard black kitchen cabinets vintage tins on top of cabinet
Whether you are a collector of wine bottles, milk glass, vintage thermoses, or vintage tins; dead space is the perfect place for your collection. My theory on collections is that they look better all in one place. For example, I collect pencil sketches from the places I travel and I found that I like them best all grouped together as opposed to spread out around my house. The visual impact of a bunch of like items in one place is very strong.
4) Monochromatic Layering. blue glass collection on top of white cabinets glass collection on open shelving in kitchen green vase collection on top of bookcases collection of white pitchers on top of china cabinet
It’s simple; pick a color and get a bunch of items in that color. Go!
5) Plates. shabby chic kitchen with plates above cabinets plates on top of kitchen cabinets country chic kitchen with plates above cabinets plates above kitchen cabinets
Decorative plates were once reserved for your granny but times are a changin’. I don’t own a decorative plate but I get the appeal. My good friend collects state plates and they look awesome hanging on her wall. You could do a certain color palette, florals, toile, or Little House on the Praire commemorative plates… the options really are endless. It could be something that you start to collect or it could just be a matter of visiting a few thrift shops and seeing what you find.
6) Framed Art. framed art above kitchen cabinets framed art above breakfast nook leaning framed art above cabinets
Everybody knows I’m obsessed with gallery walls so it’s natural that I’d want to stick art up there. It’s actually a small miracle that I haven’t stuck art above my cabinets yet (although I’ve thought of it often).  This also a pretty inexpensive way to decorate dead space. I like both the uniform look and the messier leaning look, either could work depending on the space.
I hope that was helpful! I really enjoyed looking around to find all these images, makes me want to start collecting stuff. Just remember, as long as you don’t resort to fake ivy and birdcages (like my Mom in the 90’s) you are good!


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I'm a single female homeowner who loves all things interior decorating. Especially if it involves thrifting.

4 responses to An Amateur’s Guide to Styling the Top of Cabinets AKA Dead Space Styling

  1. Hey,watch it…that was in style in the 90’s (I think!)At least I did finally move the birdcages and birdhouses to the porch. Now I am ready to start a collection for dead space above my new kitchen cabinets! I can’t wait to get started.

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