"Upper Upper" Cabinet Concepts

Design ideas for a third tier of cabinets right at the ceiling of a high-ceilinged kitchen. March 3, 2009

I am building a kitchen for a client that has a nine foot ceiling. She wants the cabinets to go right up to the ceiling. As well, she wants a smaller cabinet over top of the normal upper. I was thinking of a 42" upper, and on top of that, a 12" upper. To complicate it more, she wants a 3 1/2" crown on top. So I suppose I need to go with a 38 1/2" upper, 12" upper, and then crown. Are there any height standards that anyone normally adheres to? Note that I am not concerned with balanced panels.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor G:
I think this is a common client request. In order to give the "upper uppers" some useable space I go with 18" at the top, 3" crown, a 1" molding spacer between the uppers (nice as you need this visual separation) and a 28" main, 3" light valence below. Although it's good to have symmetry vertically, horizontal symmetry is more important as your eye scans this way.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the response. I've also thought about the spacer between the cabinets. I suppose I could rather build one big upper, and since I build face frame cabinets, use another rail for separation. However installation would be more difficult due to the added height and weight of such a large cabinet.

From contributor J:
36" base, 18" backsplash, 36" upper, 12" upper, 6" valance, crown.

From contributor A:
We've done several like this in the past few years.We did glass doors on the upper/uppers. They were about 12" boxes. We built complete big boxes. Both kitchens were beaded inset faceframe so there was no real option. We always build big boxes anyways. The trick to installing is to screw a cleat to the wall under the cabinet or use a french cleat in back.

From contributor J:
I agree with contributor A. I'd build a single 54" box with two doors. Installation will be much easier and the cabinets will have a much more custom look. You might consider a 32" opening on the bottom and a 14" opening on top. I'd use a 4" top rail to catch the crown.

From the original questioner:
I am going to be building one large cabinet with two doors.

From contributor M:
I agree with building one box and two doors. Glass panels on the upper doors would be nice with puck lighting. Not a real head scratcher.