Why are kitchen cabinets (I'm talking about the sort that line the whole length of a wall, especially above the stove or counter) never built right to the ceiling, but have that gap to presumably display big bowls and accumulate dust?
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Mainly it is a matter of cost and ease of installation. Most kitchen cabinets are built in standard sizes and, when mounted on the wall, they leave space up above which gives the installer some wiggle room when leveling the cabinets. If you had to flush mount to the ceiling, you might find that he ceiling is not level and you would have to do a lot of custom work to make the fit.
If you are lucky, sometimes you can mount smaller cabinets on top of your lower ones and push these flush to the ceiling. Again, however, this is more expensive, can be a hard fit and it can be a waste of cabinet if you never reach up that high to use it.
What is nicest is when you install a thick molding at the top of your cabinets to either fill the space or to hide a long run of lighting (ropelight works great) which illuminates this space against the ceiling (it also makes it easier to clean). This brightens the space, removes shadows and visually will lighten up your cabinet wall.