Cabinets that Sit on the Counter? Yes, Please!

Tips for Countertop Cabinets

Of all the kitchen trends, this is one that will make your space stand out. Placing cabinets right on the countertop is functional, efficient, and makes a statement of style. It does, however, require a bit of forethought and tasteful design. Here’s some tips for making countertop cabinets work in your kitchen.

White kitchen with countertop cabinets that reach all the way to the ceiling.
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Frame or Frameless

You’ll see upper cabinets that sit on the counter in two different formats: on a frame or frameless. The frameless variety sits directly on the countertop with doors that sit nearly snug against the counter and have just enough clearance.

The framed variety sits up away from the countertop anywhere from one inch to four inches. A trim piece or frame surrounds the cabinet for a polished look.

Which is better? It’s a matter of taste and somewhat a matter of space. If you have standard ceilings, space is probably at a premium and you might want to dispense with the frame. Otherwise, you have plenty of space so go with what you think looks best in your kitchen.


Drawers on top of the cabinet are another popular choice. They are a visual buffer between the countertop and the cabinets but still offer a wise use of space and add plenty of storage.

Though it may seem that installation right on top of the counter might be complicated, the construction and mechanisms of the drawer make this just as easy as installing any drawer. In fact, if you are feeling handy, it’s completely possible to do it yourself.

Place a tall cabinet or a medium and short cabinet on top of the drawer to complete the look and give your kitchen storage a boost.

Green cabinets on tp of a counter in a utility room.
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Full Height Kitchen

Cabinets that sit on the counter tend to break down any barriers you might have toward any kitchen cabinet traditions. A companion trend to countertop cabinets is cabinets that extend all the way to the ceiling.

That space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling is often wasted space. Filling it with enclosed storage in the form of cabinets not only looks good, but increases the functionality of your space.

Worried about not being able to reach the cabinets up by the ceiling? Install a small step ladder or stow one nearby so it’s easy to get to the upper areas of your kitchen whenever you want.

Countertop Space

The only downside to countertop cabinets is that they impede on countertop workspace. The solution is simple. One or two cabinets that sit on the countertop is sufficient to get the right look and increased storage without taking up too much countertop real estate.

Another solution is to install an island in your kitchen. It gives you lots of workspace and makes more room for kitchen countertop necessities like the stove top or sink. The key is to use countertop cabinets sparingly to create a balance between cabinets and countertops.

Countertop Pantry

Consider a pantry cabinet on top of your countertop for dynamic storage that lengthens the look of the kitchen. These single door, tall cabinets offer customization on the inside while keeping it simple on the outside.

They are a good option if you want to store taller items but shelves can also be adjusted to any height to suit your needs. It’s one of the most versatile cabinets for the kitchen.

You’ll also get a visual boost from a tall, slim cabinet that can make your space seem taller than it is. They draw the eye up and are an excellent addition if you plan to add some design to your ceiling.

Light green cabinets sitting on top of the kitchen counter.
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Countertop cabinets tucked into the corner solve an age old problem: what to do with that awkward and little-used corner counter space. You know the one we’re talking about. It’s barely reachable and generally ends up becoming the catch-all of the kitchen.

Place cabinets on top of the counter and you’ll be able to finally make that corner space count. Think about which direction you want the cabinets to face to gain maximum accessibility. This can impact the entire flow of the kitchen so plan carefully.


You might be able to find prefabricated countertop cabinets, but they may also be rare and/or expensive to purchase in a ready-to-install format. A better option might be to figure out your own configuration. A little planning, measuring, and knack for a screw gun is all you need.

For a more snug to the countertop fit, go with a wall cabinet. Or if you like some space between the countertop and the cabinet, you might try a base cabinet. The base cabinet usually has a toe kick area of about four inches, so if you want a smaller space between the counter and the cabinet, use the wall cabinet and build a frame at the height you like.

Be aware that you’ll probably have to add trims to make many cabinets look finished. Crown moldings at the top of the cabinets can be a good way to finish things at the other end, unless you’re going all the way to the ceiling.

Cabinets that sit on the countertop make a statement visually and add significantly to your kitchen storage. Take the plunge and start planning with one of our kitchen designers. Your design is free and there’s no obligation so there’s nothing to lose.

Design your kitchen with countertop cabinets!

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