Design Dilemma – decorating above a cabinet


I mentioned when I shared my 2016 plans for the blog that I would be starting a design dilemma series this year. Over the years since I’ve been blogging I’ve had the honor of fielding a number of design related questions from sweet readers. It’s always such a compliment to me that any of you would seek my advice. Truly, your emails pretty much make my day. As I’ve mentioned multiple times, I’m not an expert, not a designer, just a design-obsessed girl with a passion for creating stylish, livable spaces, so the fact that you take the time to message me for help feels really special.

I think sometimes we just need a second opinion or a sounding board to help us flush out our ideas and arrive at a conclusion. Today we’re discussing the age old question of……….

“How should I decorate the space above a cabinet?”

We’re not talking kitchen cabinets; we’re talking tv cabinets, armoires and other tall pieces of furniture.

Specifically, a lovely reader, who is working on pulling her family living space together, is having trouble figuring out what to do with the space above her television cabinet.

The ceiling is tall in this room, so there’s quite a bit of space above the cabinet. If the ceiling was lower I might recommend not putting anything above the cabinet at all. I’d say a good general rule of thumb is if there’s less than 2 ft above the cabinet just leave the space empty. Not every flat surface needs to have something on display. But in this case, there’s a lot more than 2 feet above the cabinet and this wall in general seems to be the focal point of the whole room, so having something above the cabinet definitely makes sense. Here are few ideas for dealing with this space…….

#1 – Hang Something Sculptural

You don’t necessarily have to set objects on the space above a cabinet. Alternatively, something hung on the wall will finish the space off quite nicely without looking too overdone or cluttered. Less to dust is always a good thing in my book. I’d stick to sculptural types of pieces rather than a painting or picture as they will blend in to make one overall statement rather than stealing the show.

decorating above a cabinet - hang something sculptural - via Emily A Clark
Emily A Clark
decorating above a cabinet - hang something sculptural - vis Ballard Designs
Ballard Designs

#2 – Stack Things

Decorative boxes, crates and vintage suitcases are all great things to stack on top of a cabinet adding height and interest. I myself love vintage suitcases as they double as great storage pieces for out of season items like wool blankets, sweaters, holiday table linens, etc.

ideas for decorating above a cabinet
the living room in our kentucky house
ideas for decorating above a cabinet
master bedroom in our kentucky house

And in the case of a bedroom armoire, a stack of quilts not only looks great but is a great decorative storage idea freeing up space in your linen closet.

Design Dilemma - Decorating above a Cabinet - Bedroom Armoir - Stack Quilts
Ballard Designs

#3 – Go with a One – Two Punch

What I refer to as “the one-two punch” is a little design trick you’ll see employed by many stylists. Basically it’s two of the exact same items (or two pieces similar in size, shape & style) paired with one larger sized piece. As a general rule things looks best when grouped in odd numbers. When collecting items to group and display above your cabinet, think big. Oversized items have more presence above eye level.

decorating above a cabinet
Pottery Barn

I’m not usually a fan of greenery above a cabinet, but here a bunch of dried eucalyptus works well in this large basket.

decorating above a cabinet
Ballard Designs

#4 – One Large Item

I think simplicity is best in most cases and one large scale item can be the perfect finishing touch.

Emily A Clark

#5 – Look to Catalogs for Styling Inspiration

Last but not least if a decorating or styling issue is causing you to rack your brain, thumb through your favorite home store catalogs for ideas. You may have noticed that a majority of the photos featured above are from Pottery Barn and Ballard Designs, those are two of my personal favorites for styling ideas. Both companies have great stylists working for them, and if you really study their catalogs you’ll find tons of decorating inspiration and ideas to use in your home. Don’t just look at the things they’re trying to sell you, examine what’s in the photo that makes the space look like you want to live there.

In regards to this sweet reader’s space here’s a little decorating mock-up (don’t judge my sad photo editing skills) of what I think might work well in her living space.

design dilemma - decorating above a cabinet
curtain panels, wooden tray, blue vase, round baskets, rectangular baskets, bird print pillow, damask, moroccan

Her television cabinet is quite large, so instead of just one large statement piece above, which would probably be hard to find, I’d recommend a collection of round similar size baskets. A display of five medium size baskets staggered would create a unified look yet not be too cluttered. And I’d complement the baskets on top by bringing baskets in a similar tone to the the shelves below, which will make the baskets on top look more intentional. Then I’d hang neutral curtain panels in the room to soften the whole space and inject a little pattern. For the windows on either side of the tv cabinet, I’d just hang one panel on each window instead of two. I’d hang the panels just under the ceiling fan height which looks to be about 2 ft above the top of the window molding. The addition of window panels will help to soften all the horizontal lines on the wall with the cabinet and will frame that large piece of furniture. Then because I just couldn’t help myself, I played around with some finishing accessory ideas. This space already has a great foundation that I know this reader is happy with, but sometimes what keeps us from “finishing” our spaces entirely is getting hung up on the little stuff…….like what to put up above the tv cabinet.

These are just my thoughts and ideas. I don’t really think there are any hard and fast rules. It’s really all about playing with things until you find a look you love. What do you all think? Do you have any tips or ideas to share for decorating the space above a cabinet? Let’s discuss in the comments section down below!

And if you have a design dilemma you’d like to have tackled here at Our Fifth House, shoot me an email with the subject line – HELP: Design Dilemma!

*affiliate links used


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