Backsplash without Upper Cabinets Highlight Your Backsplash


A backsplash is an integral design element in any kitchen. Not only does it serve a functional purpose by protecting the walls from splashes and spills, it can also provide a major decorative accent. When designing a backsplash, there are many factors to consider – materials, color, pattern, and how it coordinates with the overall kitchen aesthetic. One interesting backsplash trend that has emerged in recent years is foregoing upper cabinets entirely to highlight and draw focus to the backsplash itself. Removing upper cabinets creates a sleek, modern look and really makes the backsplash a focal point.

There are several advantages to eliminating upper cabinets and letting your backsplash shine. First, it creates a much more open and airy feel by opening up the wall space. Second, it puts all the attention on the gorgeous backsplash tile or materials used. And third, it makes cleaning and maintaining the backsplash much easier without cabinetry in the way. However, it also means you lose some storage space. So this look works best in kitchens that have plenty of lower cabinets, an island or peninsula, or other storage solutions. When thoughtfully designed, a backsplash without upper cabinets can look absolutely stunning.

Below we will explore how you can highlight your dream backsplash by getting rid of upper cabinets. We will discuss:

  • Pros and cons of removing upper cabinets
  • Ways to ensure adequate storage in your kitchen design without uppers
  • Types of backsplashes that look best when cabinets are removed
  • Design ideas like floating shelves and decorative range hoods to draw the eye upwards
  • Styling tips for accessories and decor that enhance the backsplash as a standout element
  • Cleaning and maintenance considerations for an open backsplash space

Removing upper cabinets is a bold, dramatic choice that puts all eyes on the star of the kitchen – the backsplash. If thoughtfully executed, this look can be absolutely breathtaking. Read on for all the details on how to design and decorate your dream backsplash-focused kitchen!

Pros and Cons of Eliminating Upper Cabinets for a Backsplash

Removing upper cabinets entirely is an increasingly popular kitchen trend, especially in modern and contemporary kitchen designs. This creates a sleek, uncluttered look and really lets your backsplash take center stage. However, this dramatic choice also has its downsides. Here we will examine the pros and cons of eliminating upper cabinets and focusing just on the backsplash.


  • Creates an open, airy aesthetic by removing upper wall cabinets
  • Backsplash becomes a standout focal point and decorative feature
  • Allows you to use a full height backsplash material like stone slabs
  • Easier to clean and maintain backsplash without cabinetry in the way
  • Makes a small kitchen appear larger and more spacious
  • Allows more light into the kitchen without upper cabinets blocking windows
  • Achieves a very modern, minimalist look popular in contemporary kitchens


  • Loss of storage space provided by upper cabinets
  • Need alternative kitchen storage solutions
  • Upper area of kitchen walls can look bare without cabinets for decor
  • Backsplash requires more cleaning and maintenance since it’s exposed
  • Can make kitchen feel less private without upper cabinets to enclose space
  • Loss of display space usually provided by upper glass cabinet doors
  • Requires hiring contractors to properly remove and rewire upper cabinets

As you can see, removing upper cabinets is a trade-off. The pros are mostly aesthetic by opening up the kitchen visually. But the cons deal with the loss of functionality provided by upper cabinet storage and display space. Weigh these considerations carefully before committing to a backsplash-only design.

Alternative Storage Solutions Without Upper Cabinets

Losing upper kitchen cabinetry means losing a lot of storage space. For a backsplash to properly stand out, the surrounding walls should be fairly bare. That means all dishes, glasses, food items, appliances and more need a new home. Here are some creative storage alternatives to upper cabinets:

Increase Lower Cabinets

Adding extra lower cabinets or drawers where uppers once lived can help compensate for lost space. Optimize storage with pull-out shelves, Lazy Susans and other functional additions to base cabinets.

Island or Peninsula

Adding an island or peninsula provides ample counter and cabinet space in the center of the kitchen. Optimize with built-in storage, shelves, wine racks and drawers.

Pantry Cabinet or Closet

A floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet or walk-in pantry closet can house all your food storage needs. Install next to refrigerator for convenient access.

Open Shelving

While you don’t want upper shelves on the backsplash wall, open shelving on a different wall adds useful display space. Style with decorative brackets.

Tall Utility Cabinets

Standalone, floor-to-ceiling utility cabinets can provide vertical storage for appliances, pantry items, or dishes you use less often.

Floating Shelves

While floating shelves on the backsplash wall compete with the tile, floating utility shelves on another wall add display space.

Under Cabinet Organizers

Lazy Susans, pull-out spice racks, tray dividers and other organizers maximize existing lower cabinet storage efficiency.

With some creativity and careful kitchen layout planning, you can find ways replace your upper cabinet storage and highlight your gorgeous backsplash.

Backsplash Materials That Shine Without Upper Cabinets

Choosing the right backsplash tile or material is crucial when upper cabinets won’t be installed. The backsplash itself needs to command attention and feel like a purposeful design decision, not an afterthought. Here are some stunning backsplash materials perfect for open display:

Stone Slab Backsplash

A full height granite, marble or quartz slab backsplash makes a dramatic statement. The natural patterns and veining become an artwork.

Glass Tiles

Clear glass tiles or mixed with opaque glass can refract light beautifully without competing decor. Illuminated niches can also be used.

Metal Tiles

Stainless steel, copper, brass or aluminum tiles in geometric patterns or modern textures shine in an open backsplash space.

Mural Tiles

Custom mural tiles designed into an artistic focal point turn the backsplash into a kitchen accent wall.

Geometric Tiles

Tiles in intricate geometric shapes, patterns and 3D designs mesmerize the eye and feel sophisticated.

Decorative Accent Tiles

Handpainted, carved, crackled glaze or handmade artisan tiles bring artistic flair even in small doses.

Natural Stone and Marble

Elegant slabs or structural tiles of marble, travertine, limestone and other natural stones make a striking statement.

Keep scale, visual interest and overall kitchen design harmony in mind when selecting your backsplash without uppers. The possibilities are endless for creating a truly one-of-a-kind focal point!

Design Ideas to Draw the Eye Upwards

Once upper cabinets are removed, it leaves a large blank wall space above the backsplash. While you don’t want distracting decor here, there are subtle design choices to draw the eye upwards and make the space feel finished:

Floating Shelves

While shelves on the backsplash compete with tile, floating utility shelves on a side wall add function and draw the eye up.

Two-Story Pendant Lights

Pendants that hang in long, dramatic lines from the ceiling enhance vertical space. Cluster above a kitchen island.

Range Hood as Focal Point

A bold, oversized range hood with decorative tile or ornate detailing serves as art above the cooktop.

Textured Paint or Wallpaper

Add subtle interest with textured paint, faux finishes, wallpaper or a painted mural on blank walls.

Rail Track Lighting

Rail mounted task lighting and pendants marching across the length of a wall add sleek illumination.

Niche Displays

Small wall niches with glass shelving, artwork spotlights or decorative objects break up the wall space.

Vertical Garden

A vertical green wall of living plants can serve as a focal backdrop and inject life into the space.

Get creative with these vertical design elements to complete the look and balance out all that open wall space.

Decor and Styling Ideas for a Backsplash Without Upper Cabinets

Once upper cabinets are nixed, decorating and accessorizing becomes even more important. The right styling takes the backsplash display to the next level. Consider these décor ideas:

Suspended Pot Rack

Hang a wrought iron pot rack right above the kitchen island to utilize vertical space stylishly.

Bold Light Fixtures

Make a style statement with an oversized chandelier, linear suspension light or funky pendant cluster.

Wall Mirrors

Mirrors visually expand the space and refract backsplash tile colors, sheen and details.

Artwork Above Sink

Curate special artwork, photos or a gallery wall grouping above the sink area.

Fresh Greenery

Plants, ferns and flower arrangements enliven the space and soften hard surfaces.

Dramatic Hood Fan

As mentioned, the range hood itself can become a sculpture-like focal point.

Fruit and Vegetable Displays

Fresh fruit bowls, dangling garlic braids and decorative veggie displays add personality.

Bold Window Treatments

Frame out large windows or glass kitchen doors with eye-catching drapery.

Have fun accessorizing and watch your gorgeous backsplash shine as the stunning centerpiece it deserves to be!

Cleaning and Maintenance of an Open Backsplash

One major downside to eliminating upper cabinets is that the backsplash becomes more prone to grease splatter, food mess, and general cleaning needs. Without cabinetry to protect the lower portion, your beautiful backsplash will require diligent maintenance. Here are some backsplash cleaning tips:

  • Use a gentle, non-abrasive sponge or soft bristle brush. Avoid scouring pads.
  • For ceramic or porcelain tile, use warm water, mild dish soap and baking soda for a cleaning paste. Rinse well.
  • Disinfect backsplash tile with a 50/50 vinegar and water solution. Rinse thoroughly.
  • For tougher oil and grease stains, try some diluted ammonia or an enzymatic cleaner like Krud Kutter.
  • Rinse the backsplash well after cleaning and dry with a soft, lint-free towel.
  • Use a squeegee after cleaning to prevent water spots and mineral deposits as it dries.
  • For hazy tile or grimy grout, rub with a baking soda paste or a commercial grout cleaner.
  • Re-seal natural stone backsplash tile annually with a granite or marble sealer to prevent stains.
  • Limit tile exposure to acids from citrus, tomato sauces and harsh cleaners which can etch surfaces.

With the proper products and practices, keeping your open backsplash kitchen in tip-top shape is easier than you think. The minimal look is worth the effort!

Designing an Open Backsplash Kitchen – Bringing It All Together

Designing a stunning kitchen with an open, focal point backsplash requires carefully thinking through the entire space. Here are some architecture and design tips to execute this look successfully:

  • Work with kitchen designers experienced in backsplash-centric layouts.
  • Explore backsplash materials and placements to find the best large-scale statement.
  • Edit down to just essential lower cabinetry to keep walls open and spacious.
  • Incorporate an island, peninsula or pantry cabinetry for alternate storage.
  • Use glass cabinet doors and open shelves for a lightweight, transparent look.
  • Include decor like pot racks, chandeliers and plants that enhance vertical space.
  • Select durable, easy-to-clean backsplash materials to limit maintenance.
  • Accentuate decorative range hoods, ceiling beams and exposed vents.
  • Frame the backsplash with contrasting countertops and flooring as an intentional focal point.
  • Add subtle wall texture, sconces or floating utility shelves to complete bare walls.
  • Finish the edges of the backsplash to look polished if ending below ceilings.

Removing upper cabinets is a bold move, but Iif executed thoughtfully, an open backsplash can take your breath away. Just take care to problem-solve storage needs creatively and clean diligently! Soon you’ll have a stunning kitchen showcase worth all the effort.

Frequently Asked Questions About Backsplashes Without Upper Cabinets

Does removing upper cabinets increase cost?

Yes, eliminating upper cabinets usually increases overall kitchen renovation costs. The existing cabinets need proper removal, the ceiling and walls may require patching and finishing, and new lighting fixtures often need to be added. Added expenses like backsplash material, island or pantry cabinetry, and specialty range hoods also increase costs.

What about dust and grease on open backsplash tile?

This is a valid concern. Without upper cabinet protection, the backsplash requires thorough and regular cleaning. Use gentle, non-abrasive cleaners and limit oil splatter. A squeegee prevents water deposits. Re-seal natural stone annually. Be diligent.

How do you decorate blank walls without uppers?

Add subtle interest with floating shelves, wallpaper, painted murals or textured paint finishes. Rail track lighting and wall sconces provide task illumination. Niches, framed artwork, vertical gardens and bold window treatments also enhance blank walls.

Should the backsplash go to the ceiling?

It can! Full height backsplashes make a dramatic statement. Stone slabs, stacked tiles or mosaic sheets work well. For partial backsplash height, finishing the edges cleanly is key. Coordinate material thickness with cabinetry depth.

What about dust on open shelves?

This can be an issue. Use less decorative open shelving in cleaner zones like drinkware. For dish storage, glassed-in cabinets or closed storage is preferable. Wipe down open shelves frequently and limit bibelots.

How do you clean an exposed backsplash?

Use gentle, non-abrasive sponges and soft bristle brushes. Avoid scouring pads. Create cleaning pastes with dish soap, baking soda, vinegar or ammonia for grease-dissolving power. Rinse thoroughly and squeegee dry. Re-seal natural stone annually.

Should the backsplash be centered on the wall?

Not necessarily. Creatively aligning the backsplash to compliment other elements like the range or sink placement is an option. But for a focal point, visually anchoring the backsplash in the middle of the wall space often works best.

What about resale value without upper cabinets?

Removing upper cabinets does limit flexibility and resale value for future owners who may want more traditional cabinetry. But the clean, open look is also on-trend for modern spaces. Emphasize alternative storage solutions to make the space more functional.

How do you clean an open backsplash?

Be gentle and limit abrasion. Use soft sponges, microfiber cloths and brushes. Create pastes out of dish soap, baking soda or vinegar and water for cleaning and degreasing. Rinse extremely well. Avoid harsh chemicals that could stain grout or etch surfaces. Use a window squeegee to prevent water deposits as it dries.


A stunning backsplash becomes the star of the show when upper cabinets are eliminated. The gorgeous tile or materials are displayed in all their glory in an airy, modern kitchen aesthetic. But this dramatic look requires serious storage solutions and diligent cleaning routines. Focus on maximizing base cabinetry, islands, and standalone storage furniture. Curate wall decor thoughtfully and clean gently, but frequently. While not for everyone, an open concept backsplash executed well elevates a kitchen to a true work of art.

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