Banish cupboards from your kitchen walls and your space will feel lighter, brighter and full of potential
Houzz Contributor with over 15 years as an interiors writer, stylist and content… More
Are your upper kitchen cabinets casting a gloomy shadow over your worktop? Is that awkward-to-reach top shelf a no-man’s land? Then consider replacing the units with a whole new entity, or removing them altogether – radical, I know. Eliminating them will not only make the room feel more spacious, it will also free up wall space that can then be used for anything from displaying bold artwork to showcasing statement tiles, or simply left blank for a clean, minimalist feel.
However, there is a trade-off, and that’s losing a lot of cupboard space. So how do you embrace this minimalist look while retaining valuable storage? You might have to do a bit of reorganising and decluttering, but let’s face it, how often do you use that cupcake-maker anyway? And I’m not saying disregard all wall storage, but simply suggesting you reconsider your options. There are plenty of practical alternatives to unwieldy wall cupboards, as these kitchens demonstrate.
Replace with easy-to-reach open shelves
The simplest way of retaining plenty of storage in a kitchen that doesn’t have wall units is by adding open shelves. Not only do these provide a practical solution for storing everyday essentials at arm’s length, they create a sense of space and airiness.
Paint the wall white, as here, for a light look. Or if you use crisp white glossy tiles behind the shelves, the light will bounce around the space even more and make the room feel super-bright.
Check out these 10 open storage ideas for kitchens
Create a contrast
Open shelves can also be used to make a design statement when set against a bold, contrasting paint colour. If you have an open-plan kitchen/living room, consider extending the wall colour into the kitchen to create a living room feel, and add a few decorative objects to the shelves so it doesn’t feel so kitchen-y.
Show off architectural features
When you’ve been blessed with the beauty of an exposed brick wall, don’t be tempted to cover it up with kitchen cupboards. Instead, go for aesthetically pleasing items that will complement the rich colours and tones.
Bold artwork definitely has a place in the kitchen when it’s chosen carefully to harmonise with its surroundings, and framed in a similar colour to the worktops or units to create cohesion.
Build in a ledge
Leaning frames has become a popular way of displaying artwork without having to make a permanent decision, or a permanent mark on the wall for that matter, so what better way to bring interest to cupboard-free areas? With a useful ledge built along the top of a tall splashback, you’re free to display all your favourites and add a quirky touch at the same time.
Take a look at these inspiring ways to work art into your kitchen
Enhance natural light
If you live in an end-of-terrace, a semi or a detached house, you might have an exterior wall to work with in your kitchen. If so, consider bringing the outside in with a ‘window splashback’ fitted behind the worktop, so you can enjoy the view (assuming you have one) while you cook.
Here, the absence of upper kitchen cabinets allows a beautiful rustic stone wall to create a seamless flow between the interior and exterior, with no visual interruptions.
To make up for lost storage space, design an island with an abundance of storage cupboards underneath, and sacrifice the breakfast bar so you can you use both sides for accessible units.
Help remaining cupboards disappear
OK, so this isn’t technically a wall-cupboard-free kitchen, but the clever use of paint makes the ones that are there barely noticeable. Painted in the same off-white as the wall panelling, the glass-fronted units fade into the background, while the darker colour is continued across the bottom of the unit, so it’s hard to see where the cupboards start or finish. A high shelf adds more opportunity for storage while keeping items out of immediate sight.
Highlight decorative tiles
If you’ve fallen in love with a beautiful wall tile design, then here’s the opportunity to let it shine. Geometric patterns are on trend right now; team them with some bare bulbs and you have yourself a stylish haven. Try hanging a slick pan rack for a hard-working kitchen feel.
Browse more contemporary kitchen photos
Make a big splash(back)
Make the most of your cabinet-free wall and create a dramatic statement with a boldly patterned glass splashback. For a subtle yet impressive look, stick to the same tones throughout the kitchen, so the statement wall doesn’t dominate, but simply works with the base units and appliances.
Consider a neat alternative
Handy nooks are often built into shower enclosures to keep the flooring free of clutter. Similarly, a useful row of inset shelves built behind the worktop will ensure it’s left clear for daily tasks.
Here, to make sure the base of each shelf can be cleaned and dusted easily, a thin piece of glass has been cut to fit each nook, while the same paint colour has been used on the walls, shelves and units for a contemporary, streamlined finish.
Cover a wall
If you’re still craving clear, empty walls but don’t want your items out on display, then opt for a bank of floor-to-ceiling pantry cupboards along one side of the kitchen. This wall of units doesn’t feel as oppressive as upper cabinets, and there’s still room to show off a dazzling tiled feature wall. Win-win!
Have you banished bulky units on your kitchen walls? How have you made up for lost storage space? Share your ideas in the Comments below.