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Differences and Benefits of Bulkheads, Shadow Lines and Open Space Above Your Cabinets

When renovating your kitchen, one important design decision revolves around that often overlooked space above the wall cabinets.

When it comes to the space above your kitchen wall cabinets, two distinct design options are available - shadowlines and bulkheads. Both offer their own unique aesthetics and functional benefits that are worth exploring as you plan your dream kitchen layout and style.


100 mm+ - A bulkhead is an enclosed space of 100 mm or more above the wall cabinets that extends up to the ceiling. It completely covers that overhead area.

Bulkhead Benefits

  • Finished Look: Creates a clean, cohesive appearance by filling the space between the cabinets and the ceiling.
  • Prevents Dust: Reduces the accumulation of dust and debris on top of cabinets.
  • Hides Utilities: Can conceal electrical wiring, plumbing, or ductwork.
  • Additional Storage: In some designs, bulkheads can incorporate additional storage or lighting.
Kitchen - with flower flair

Shadow Line

20 - 30 mm - A shadow line is a narrow 20 - 30 mm gap between the tops of wall cabinets and the ceiling. It creates a subtle shadow effect.

Shadow Line Benefits

  • Modern Aesthetic: Provides a sleek, minimalist appearance with a defined separation between the cabinets and the ceiling.
  • Visual Interest: Adds depth and dimension to the kitchen design.
  • Ease of Cleaning: Easier to clean compared to the open space since it reduces the accumulation of dust and grease on top of cabinets.
  • Customisable: Allows for design flexibility with varying depths and lighting options.
Maria Shadow Line Cabinets


200 - 300mm+

Open space above cabinets leaves the area open, creating a sense of openness and allowing for decorative displays. It can also work when you have really high or sloped ceilings. 

  • Airy Feel: Creates a sense of openness and spaciousness in the kitchen.
  • Decorative Opportunities: Allows for decorative items or plants to be placed on top of cabinets, adding personality to the space.
  • Easier Access: Provides easy access to the tops of cabinets for cleaning or storing infrequently used items.
  • Cost-Effective: Generally less expensive than constructing bulkheads or installing shadow lines, as it involves fewer materials and labour.
Kitchen with Butlers Pantry / Laundry

To Sum Up

Ultimately, whether you opt for a shadow line's sleek aesthetic, a bulkhead's enclosed architectural feature, or open space's airy feel depends on your design priorities.

If you want to create an airy, floating look, a 20 - 30 mm shadow line provides that subtle shadow detail. However, if maximising storage and concealing utilities takes precedence, a 100 mm+ bulkhead accomplishes that by fully enclosing the overhead space. Alternatively, if you prefer a sense of openness and a space for decorative items, leaving the area open above the cabinets is the best choice.

All options thoughtfully utilise the area above kitchen wall cabinets - it's just a matter of choosing the aesthetic and functional needs that best suit your kitchen renovation plans.

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