In your kitchen, the soffit is the part that is built down from your ceiling to the top of your cabinets. Some people call it a bulkhead. Essentially, it is used to fill space between the ceiling and the cabinetry. Sometimes it hides ductwork or plumbing that feeds the upstairs, and other times it’s just empty space.
If you have high ceilings in your kitchen, your builder might put in a soffit to stop the gap between your cabinetry, which generally ends at about 84” and the ceiling, which might be 96”.
In our opinion, we tend to feel that soffits cut down on your space and make the room, and the cabinets, feel smaller than they really are.
There are definitely alternatives to soffits. Even if you don’t take them all the way up to the ceiling, you could install crown molding at the top, and it would actually make the kitchen feel bigger, not as constricted.
If your cabinets go to the ceiling, you will have extraneous space on the top shelf, but that’s where you can put your good dishes, holiday plates, or bulk pantry items – stuff that you don’t need to get at every day.
If you’re removing the soffit and there’s ductwork inside, you will have to look at whether it’s possible to reroute it, tuck it up into the ceiling, or move it someplace else entirely. Typically, however, soffits don’t have a lot going on inside.
In homes that were built in the 1980s and 90s, this is the way they made the standard size cabinet fit evenly. We see this sometimes in a bathroom, too, where the wall is framed to the shower. It looks like there might be something in there, but usually, there isn’t. It’s just a space-filler, a little bump-out.
Whoever built the home likely had a standard size shower or tub, and it was cheaper for them to frame and drywall the space to make it look more built-in. The alternative would be getting something that’s a custom size, which would be much more costly.
These days, open kitchens and vaulted ceilings are more common, so we don’t see a whole lot of soffits.
When Soffits Make Sense
Sometimes a soffit does make sense. For example, if you have a super-high or vaulted ceiling, it might be done to define the kitchen a little bit more.
In this example, the cabinets and the soffit are recessed, which makes it feel like it’s built-in. It looks sleek and modern; it doesn’t have the same feel of those 80s and 90s soffits. It has a more streamlined feel to it, more current.
In this example, if you removed the soffits, the cabinets could be extended up to the ceiling with crown molding at the top. Your eye is automatically drawn there, and it makes everything feel taller and more open without having to do the whole kitchen in white just to give it the illusion of space.
The kitchen itself isn’t large at all, but with the right design approach, it is going to look like it’s a good size. Taking out that soffit, especially over the window, opens everything up. It allows more light through the space, which makes it seem much bigger. The homeowner was able to go with taller cabinets as well, and even though they are dark-colored, it doesn’t feel small because your gaze goes all the way up and doesn’t stop short at the big honking soffit.
Rounding Up: To Soffit Or Not To Soffit?
Ultimately, if you want to get rid of your kitchen soffit, you’ll need to figure out a few things. First, you’ll want to know what’s behind it. It might be nothing, but if there are pipes or ductwork, your contractor will have to figure out what they’re going to do with it and this might add to your remodeling budget.
Some ideas for filling the space where the soffit used to be:
- Take your cabinets to the ceiling
- Add an extra shelf with glass doors and install ambient lighting inside
- Display your collections or artwork
- Install staggered-height cabinetry
There are plenty of pros and cons of soffits to discuss. Ultimately, it’s about what you want from your kitchen and what’s going to work with your budget. If you’re thinking about getting rid of your kitchen soffit and you’re looking for ideas, reach out today. We’d love to show you what’s possible.
Brittany received her interior design degree in 2010 and recently earned her kitchen and bathroom certifications. She sees her job as much more than just picking out pretty colors and materials – it also involves exact measurements, plenty of planning, and determining how to have a space accurately reflect the lifestyle of its occupants.