Mother of the gods, it is Surfingbird!
You finally got here. We've been waiting for you and we have so many interesting things!
• Use the space over the refrigerator. Of course not all of us will have the luxury of built-ins surrounding our fridge, but that doesn't have to stop us from utilizing the space above it. It would still make a great spot for a wall-mounted wine rack, a floating shelf for extra dishes or cookbooks, or a resting spot for the microwave. My kitchen life was revolutionized the first time I saw someone put the microwave about the fridge. We don't use ours on a daily basis, and it takes up so much counter space. Getting it out of the way was wonderful!
• Paint the upper cabinets a lighter color than the bottom ones. This is a great way to introduce color without overwhelming a small space. Keeping things light and simple on top allows a small space to breathe, giving a room almost as open an effect as open shelving would. PS- for tips on painting cabinets, see this post from earlier this week.
•Raise up the cabinets. This looks 100% better than having the awkward empty space above floating box cabinets. Raising them to the ceiling and adding crown molding adds a polished look that is hard to beat. Admittedly this may not be the best option for those of us on the shorter side unless you...
• Add a row of floating shelves below the cabinets for everyday dishes and items used on a regular basis. I have a combination of open and closed shelving in my own kitchen and find it extremely helpful. All the essentials are within reach! But really the best part about it is that anyone who is helping me in the kitchen knows exactly where to find (and help put away!) dishes and kitchen staples without having to open up every cabinet. The set up also allows a place for rarely used or unattractive kitchen things.
(Images: 1-4: Cottage Living, 5: Urban Grace)