We’ve owned and rented homes over the years with kitchen cabinet soffits, those boxy sheetrocked rectangles that take up space above kitchen cabinets. They’re a common element in many a subdivision kitchen built in the 1980s and 1990s and I’m not a huge fan of them, so in a remodel, removing them or disguising them is my first plan.
Kitchen soffits as a drop down ceiling can serve a purpose, often it is to hide beams, wiring, and pipes but sometimes not; I’ve always preferred a kitchen ceiling the same height as adjacent rooms. Kitchen cabinet soffits are often space fillers, there are decorative ways to disguise or improve the look of them and there’s the more challenging architectural undertaking of removing them. It’s a topic on my mind this month since we’ve encountered a situation where we’re unable to remove the drop down soffit in our two ongoing kitchen remodels.
Here’s a view of the kitchen in Las Vegas from last fall before we removed the old countertop and cabinets and lowered the pony wall. It shows the drop down kitchen soffit above the footprint of the space which I wanted to remove so very much so that the kitchen’s ceiling was the same height as the adjacent family room and breakfast nook.
We tore out part of the ceiling only to discover that a structural beam and water pipes ran through the middle of it, the soffit wasn’t there just to house the big box florescent light, it was the hub of all the electrical, plumbing, and structural support of the home which made me upset because I wished the architect of this subdivision had designed the home so that the beams and pipes lived in the subfloor instead, grrr. The cost and headache and permits were just too much to change it so instead we paid to repair the demo and live with a drop down ceiling soffit in this space.
The new lighting plan will help – we did remove the florescent light box and updated the lighting with recessed cans and pendants over the peninsula in December – new cabinets and countertops will also be a huge improvement.
Grandma’s kitchen remodel (below) is progressing but we hit a similar road bump when we discovered the drop down ceiling soffit couldn’t be raised because of structural issues running through the center of it. Strike Two. We had to delay the cabinet order so that the new upper cabinets fit the lower height and thankfully we caught the issue in time to not be charged for the changes, however again we are stuck with a ceiling that we originally anticipated raising to the same level as the family room. (See the “before” for this space here and the kitchen design plan here.)
While our issue is one of a full drop down ceiling, I’ve been in plenty of kitchens with a similar issue of soffits that exist just above the cabinets (also called fur downs in different regions of the country). I went in search of kitchen spaces where soffits look good because they’ve been incorporated into the design plan of the kitchen.
This wood and white kitchen’s cabinet soffits are trimmed beautifully with molding so that they blend in with the upper cabinetry.
Here’s another dreamy example in a favorite kitchen of molding used to enhance the soffits above the white cabinets.
In this all white kitchen, the cabinet soffits are hidden by beautiful beams and part of the architectural plan from the start.
The same wood material was used to cover the fur downs in this all wood kitchen for a seamless look.
The use of a white paint color on the walls and cabinet soffits reduces the contrast between the soffits and cabinets and successfully blends them together.
Both gray and white molding disguise the soffits in this kitchen, I love the use of both the cabinetry and trim colors in the design.
Another idea is to paint the soffit and the ceiling the same color, using crown molding and trim to complement the white cabinetry.
I like the way the soffits in this kitchen are purposefully part of a lighting plan, the clean lines of the cabinetry work well with the angular lines of the ceiling soffit.
michael knowles for deforest architects
While we couldn’t redesign our ceiling soffits to incorporate any of those ideas into either kitchen remodel, I did find this this modern kitchen with a drop down ceiling which gives me hope that ours will look just fine in the Las Vegas house because of its more contemporary style.
Have you experienced anything similar with changing a kitchen ceiling height or improving the look of your kitchen soffits? I’d love to read your stories!