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A kitchen soffit is the bulky wall in the space above your cabinets, right below where your ceiling starts. Though they were once all the rage, somewhere along the line, they changed from being required to cover vents and wires to become a decorative feature. New homeowners, however, might be left wondering, “are kitchen soffits outdated?”
Kitchen soffits are out of style, with fewer people retaining these fixtures in their homes and fewer still having them installed at all. Their outdated look often makes a room look smaller, and when building new kitchens, it’s better to free up that space for a bigger and brighter feel.
In this article, we’ll discuss kitchen soffits and how they have fallen out of style. We’ll also talk about what that space could be used for, along with what you can do if you have them in your home and can’t afford a total remodel to get rid of them.
Are Kitchen Soffits Outdated?
Back in the late 60s, 70s, and 80s, kitchen soffits were as popular as they could get. For over two decades, every kitchen had soffits fixed above their cabinets, and for a while, it seemed that they were there to stay forever, much like bell bottoms and vinyl jumpsuits.
Kitchen soffits are outdated and have been for some time. When lighter, brighter, and whiter kitchens became all the rage in the 90s, it wasn’t long before soffits were replaced completely. Instead, cabinets were thrown open to moonlight as displays for tableware, crockery, and fancy china.
Furthermore, there were more innovative ways of hiding wiring work, plumbing, and ductwork in a kitchen. So now, all a soffit did was get in the way of prime real estate space between the ceiling and the cabinet.
What Is a Soffit Used For?
Initially, they served a purpose: to cover or hide kitchen wiring, ductwork, vents, and sometimes, even the plumbing.
But as time went on, wiring and ductwork could be effectively worked into the woodworks, so to speak, and soffits were no longer necessary. Instead, they became an elective decorative feature.
Another reason you have that awkward length of space running around your kitchen is that usually, unless you have custom-made cabinets built to fit your room, they come in standardized sizes. Your ceiling height, on the other hand, does not.
Why Did Kitchen Soffits Go Out of Style?
Soffits do little more for a kitchen but make it feel dated and closed in.
The boxy jutting walls make it appear like the kitchen is smaller than it really is, and you’re left with an awkward wall that runs along the length of your kitchen just above your cabinets. This takes up a lot of space and does little for the room.
Why You Should Remove Your Kitchen Soffits
Did you know that soffits were also called bulkheads? If that isn’t telling, I don’t know what is.
Wanting to get rid of your kitchen soffit may have something to do with needing more storage, or perhaps you just hate the look and closed in feeling they can leave you with.
What will you gain by getting rid of your soffits? Let’s take a look:
- Create extra space: If you end up getting rid of your soffits completely, you’ll have a nice chunk of space between your ceiling and the top of your cabinets. This can easily be used for decorations, such as houseplants, or as additional storage, as detailed below.
- Provide additional storage: Use that gap to store larger pots and pans or even to display knick-knacks and home decor items. For example, if you’re looking to become more eco-friendly and keep your dry goods in airtight containers, such as pasta and rice, these would look very chic displayed above the counters.
- Extend the cabinets: That extra space isn’t necessarily accessible, and cleaning the top of your cabinets can be a pain. Plus, you’re all but asking for dust to settle in that cozy gap. Instead, why not add a row of shorter cabinets with shelves and doors?
Your kitchen will appear more open and taller, without a bulkhead on top of your cabinets. Let’s not forget that additional storage!
But, before you go about tearing your kitchen soffits down, you need to ask yourself what the process would involve. After all, they were once installed for a reason, and the last thing you need is exposed wires and tubing.
Removing Your Kitchen Soffits
If you choose to get rid of your soffits, chances are, you’ll need to take down your cabinets too. Otherwise, they’ll likely end up with damage from the work above. Not to mention they’ll be in the way of the work, which will make the job much harder than it needs to be.
Your ceiling, too, will need significant work to fix it up. If you’re prepared for that, then you can soldier on.
Check To See if the Soffit Is Housing Wiring or Ductwork
Get yourself a copy of the plans for your house, and check if the soffit is hiding wiring and ductwork or if it’s just a decorative detail. Since this was their original purpose, you need to know if removing the soffits will be worth it in the end. If there is wiring or ductwork in place, this will need to be removed and rerouted, which can be expensive.
Hire a Professional
Most often, you can’t really tear down your kitchen without needing to rework your entire kitchen wiring, plumbing, and ventilation. This is best done by professionals to avoid further damage. This might include an electrician, a contractor, and a plumber.
How Can I Make My Kitchen Soffits Look Better?
If hiring a professional is out of your budget, it’s not recommended to do such renovations on your own. Unfortunately, that often means you’re stuck with your kitchen soffits.
The good news is that there are several ways to upgrade the area to make it more appealing.
Let’s take a look.
Tile the Soffits
If there’s any way to make your soffit look like it belongs there, it would be to blend it in and take attention away from it. With that in mind, consider matching your soffit to your tile or backsplash.
If that’s too expensive, or you can’t find the same tiles, why not try using peel and stick adhesive wallpaper? It’s inexpensive and simple to install, making it very easy to turn your unsightly soffits into a feature.
Cover Soffits With Art and Decor
If you don’t want to go too bold, consider painting the area and using it to display photographs or artwork.
First, paint over your soffit so you have a smooth, blank canvas. You may find that you need to clean it before as it may have a build-up of kitchen grease.
Then, find some decorative frames so you can display your decor. A simple white background with classic black frames would look very effective.
Add Some Molding
Molding is always a great way to ‘finish’ a kitchen. White molding is as classic as it gets and a great way to bring your kitchen into the 21st century.
Consider installing a molding border along the top of your cabinets where the soffits are. Additionally, you can thicken the molding border to make it look dressier and sophisticated.
If your soffit is large, consider using picture frame molding to build ‘frames’ over the top.
Add Faux Cabinets
To make your soffits blend into the rest of your kitchen, try purchasing extra cabinet doors, the same size as the height of the soffit, and glue the doors in place.
Be sure to attach them in line with your existing cupboards and glue them in place with something robust, like this Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive from Amazon.com.
These will give the look of extra storage above your existing cabinets without any costly renovations.
Strategically placed lighting can do wonders to showcase your kitchen, and instead of drawing attention away from the soffits, you can use them to achieve this.
Recessed lights built into the underside of the soffit are a great way to highlight your gleaming cabinets and workspace.
Alternatively, use rope lights on the ceiling or along the inside of the soffit. It’ll give accent lighting to your kitchen.
Kitchen soffits were once a necessary evil, used to hide ugly wiring and ductwork in the space above your cabinets. However, most people now find them to be bulky and outdated.
In most cases, they loom over the kitchen, making the space appear dark and much smaller than it really is.
To remove your soffits, chances are, you’ll need to hire a team of professionals to ensure everything is moved and replaced properly and safely. Alternatively, why not try sprucing up your existing soffits with tiles or artwork to save some time and money?
- Bath Plus Kitchen: Kitchens Through The Decades
- Little Lovelies: 31 Creative Kitchen Soffits Ideas
- Kitchen Magic: Design Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinet Soffits
- Apartment Therapy: 8 Ways to Deal with Those Awkward Kitchen Cabinet Soffit
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.