Asked on Dec 20, 2015

What is this wood box over my kitchen Island?

Jennifer Rapp
by Jennifer Rapp
The house was built in 1980. The kitchen has dark wood cabinets and dark wood floors and gets little natural light. To lighten it up I am in the process of painting the cabinets white. I am planning to do white subway tiles on walls and put in stainless steel counter tops. My question is: What can I do with the the wood box over the island?? Does anyone know if it serves a purpose or was it a 80's thing? I was thinking of removing it but not sure if that would be a mistake. When I mentioned removing it, some family members feared that I had gone mad. (they also have Dallas, Dynasty and Knots landing on DVD) Oh, there is a 4 ft fluorescent utility light in the middle. which is useless in 8ft ceilings. All opinions/advice will be greatly appreciated.
q what is this wood box over my kitchen island, cosmetic changes, home improvement, kitchen design, large home improvement projects
  52 answers
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Dec 21, 2015
    It might have been installed to focus the light on the work area of the island instead of glare. Personally I think it looks cumbersome so I would remove it. You could always replace the existing light with a pendant or such..

  • Louis Lieberman Louis Lieberman on Dec 21, 2015
    it could be either for lighting or for an exhaust fan

  • Kathleen Mckirkle Kathleen Mckirkle on Dec 21, 2015
    I think the box would be there to focus the lighting down on to the island and like Marion I too think it looks pretty cumbersome and would look much nicer with a pendant light. It would look more 'airy' without it.

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 21, 2015
      @Kathleen Mckirkle Thanks. I hate this box. I will be attempting it's removal. love the pendant light idea!

  • Annette Wilson Annette Wilson on Dec 21, 2015
    I agree with the previous posts...take it down and add pendant lights over the island. If possible, I would remove the track lighting sometime in the future, as it looks outdated.

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 21, 2015
      @Annette Wilson Thanks for your advice!! I forgot about the tacky track lighting. It's history. Good eye!

  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 21, 2015
    I think it was a trend in the 80s not necessarly used for a particular purpose.I would look ito removing it to give the kitchen a more open appearence.

  • Francine Nault Francine Nault on Dec 21, 2015
    I agree with Annette and all above. By removing it the kitchen would be brighter.

  • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Dec 21, 2015
    Hi Jennifer. Go up in your attic and see if you can get any clues. If there is a tube, rectangle or round, it was a prior vent hood system. If it is just an electrical junction box, then it's just a light system. Pull your insulation aside to help get a clear view. I'm willing to say it is 100% removable as most everything is. You just have to run down the list of possibles. If attic access is not possible, just start pulling trim on one side then move on to the panels. It is not structural so don't let that stop you. Let us know if we can help.

  • Cynthia Nye Cynthia Nye on Dec 21, 2015
    Was the island ever a cooktop? So the tube could have housed the exhaust fan? Island remodeled, fan became light? You could put some cross beams in it and turn it into hanging pot rack...

  • J Vaught J Vaught on Dec 21, 2015
    We bought a house with a similar box that housed a fluorescent light fixture but it had a piece of acrylic covering the opening. We removed the box and installed a light fixture.

    • See 2 previous
    • Jen Clemons Jen Clemons on Dec 21, 2015
      I agree. No matter what it was removing it will open up the sight line. Try painting the doors white also or you will end up with a giant eye-catching black hole. ( and reflect more light) · Reply · Just Now Edit

  • Renee Confere Renee Confere on Dec 21, 2015
    I'd make a pot rack out of it

  • Sharon Sharon on Dec 21, 2015
    With white cupboards and stainless steel worktops you are going for a great modern look. This box is not modern, not sure what it is but I'd loose it.

  • Peppi Peppi on Dec 21, 2015
    get rid of it! go to etsy, yehudalight, you will find great ceiling lights and you will never see another one like it! also will be the envy of all who see it.

  • Flying Texan Flying Texan on Dec 21, 2015
    What if you painted it inside and out and drilled holes in the sides? You could make a design and using a relatively skinny bit, drill holes so the light shines through. It does need to be lightened up if you keep it. Good luck!

  • Carole Bisby Carole Bisby on Dec 21, 2015
    I would either remove it or use it as a pot rack as the other lady said. I think the pot rack would look nice but I would definitely paint it. I would take that wall paper down and paint it a nice color maybe Med gray and paint the box a dark gray to blend it in. Then it would look more modern.

  • Linda Linda on Dec 21, 2015
    It looks like it was supposed to be an exhaust fan for a range, but clearly that is not the case! I would get rid of it if it has no useful purpose!

  • Holly Holly on Dec 21, 2015
    For some reason I can't see the other answers so I apologize if someone may have already suggested this. But it could be the stove once was there and the hood served as exhaust. Then converted to a light and the stove moved. You should be fine to remove it either way.

    • See 1 previous
    • Hope Williams Hope Williams on Dec 22, 2015
      Hi Holly, do you see the "previous" button is back? I'm a happy girl about that one!! Help cut down on repeat suggestions! Thank you admin!!!!!!!

  • Johnchip Johnchip on Dec 21, 2015
    Take it down, turn it upside down, fill with chocolate pudding and invite Joan Collins and Linda Evans over for a pudding wrestling match!

  • Johnchip Johnchip on Dec 21, 2015
    I am also not a fan of subway tiles. They look just that, like a bathroom in an old train or subway station. There are so many wonderful tile choices, don't go so common looking, guaranteed most will be torn out and be joining pet rocks and troll dolls in the landfills within ten years when the fad is over with.

  • UpState UpState on Dec 21, 2015
    Re-configure and use it as a "Cone of Silence". Will need mechanism to raise & lower. Family fun for all.

  • Leslie Leslie on Dec 21, 2015
    Hi Jennifer, the question is what do YOU want?? If you hate it get rid of it. It was a light and not a vent otherwise there would be a vent in the ceiling instead of lights. If you want to keep a clean look I suggest recessed lighting throughout the kitchen. You can google DIY pot hangers. I will bet you will see gobs of interesting ones that will go with your aesthetic. Check Pinterest. Also a suggestion for the countertops is cement instead of stainless steel for the counter tops. I have seen some beautiful ones with different muted color patterns and after it is sealed almost indestructible. Stainless is nice but do you want to take time to polish and how resistant to dings and knife cuts is it? I know I threw a fly in your ointment with the cement countertops so here is another lol, decide on the backsplash AFTER you decide on the countertops. If you are doing the installing you can do this last :) Good luck.

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 21, 2015
      @Leslie I did some research on concrete counter tops on your suggestion. You are a GENIUS!! I was a little concerned about the upkeep of stainless steal as I am not a big fan of housekeeping. You made my day!! Thanks!!!

  • Linda Johnson Linda Johnson on Dec 21, 2015
    It looks like the frame is just to direct the light on the counter below. I'd remove it and put in newer lighting. Perhaps recessed led lights...

  • Bonnie Bonnie on Dec 21, 2015
    It's simply a huge ... lampshade. The box concentrates the light down onto the workspace because the ceiling is high. (Remember, in the 80s the thought was bigger is better. ha) Industrial look was a big thing, too. Soo, if you don't like it, take it down, put up a chandelier or hanging light that will bring your lighting down from the ceiling. You could even use a fan light if you're needing some air movement in there too. Make sure you turn the breakers off before you start disassembling....

  • Charles Prock Charles Prock on Dec 21, 2015
    No matter what it is.....get rid of it....You have no idea how much larger your kitchen will look.

  • Kathy Paullin Kathy Paullin on Dec 21, 2015
    We had a similar box over our island in the kitchen. It came down even lower and had an exhaust fan because it was over our stove. we got rid of it, installed a great light fixture, and put in a jenn-air type stove. the difference is amazing!

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 22, 2015
      @Kathy Paullin Thanks. I'm getting rid of it. I remember when my parents bought this house 30yrs ago. It was a huge selling point. I didn't get it then. (and still don't) just figured I had no eye for interior design.

  • Katrina Warren Katrina Warren on Dec 21, 2015
    It may have been to hang pretty copper pots from, but unless you are going to use it for that, I say take it out it will open up the space & make the whole room look larger but be prepared to fix any damage to the ceiling in that area.

  • Louis Lieberman Louis Lieberman on Dec 21, 2015
    u are very w3elcome

  • The Redesign Habit The Redesign Habit on Dec 21, 2015
    It looks like it was maybe originally an exhaust vent and was converted to a light box. Whatever it was then, if you get rid of it now, you will really open up your whole kitchen. You can put some great modern lighting over you island..maybe some recessed lights or a beautiful pendant fixture.

  • Jen Jen on Dec 21, 2015 guess is they had a stove on the island back in the day..thats the exhaust hood

  • MN Mom MN Mom on Dec 21, 2015
    Looks like the island may have been the site of a cooktop back in the day and my guess is that box was the exhaust fan vent. If it doesn't do anything important now have it removed. Enjoy your remodel!

  • H H on Dec 21, 2015
    Rather than remove it completely, which will leave you with ceiling damage,maybe you could take the longer skirt bit off the box and leave just the first few inches and use that as a frame for hanging pots or putting your lights into. The box skirt could be turned upside down and used as a coffee table base or a raised herb garden?

  • Carol Tanner Carol Tanner on Dec 21, 2015
    I would add hooks to it and use it for hanging pots and pans from - probably was originally a vent hood for a long ago removed cooktop. Why they left the vent hood after they took out the cooktop, you may never know!

  • Leslie Leslie on Dec 21, 2015
    Most welcome :) Keep us informed of your progress and post pictures of the end result I am interested in seeing how it all worked out :) Good Luck!!!

  • Doc Jackson Doc Jackson on Dec 21, 2015
    Or, since the wiring is still in the cabinet below, you could do the unthinkable and reinstall the cooktop and put the ventilation fan back in the hanging unit. Yes, more expensive, but would greatly enhance your kitchen, especially if you have an older range.

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 22, 2015
      @Doc Jackson Cool idea! I have no range at the moment. Justgetting ready to shop for one. Great timing

  • LD LD on Dec 21, 2015
    At one point there was probably a rooftop on the island and the exhaust was probably installed within the box as you call it. I would remove this box light area and your track lighting, and install recessed LED lighting with soft lighting underneath the cabinets, which can give extra task lighting, but also you can turn t these on after your finished in the kitchen for anyone coming in for a beverage or snack. Instead of white subway time I would go with a glass mosaic tile which will give you texture and color to the room. Here are a couple of links:;

  • Jean Myles Jean Myles on Dec 21, 2015
    If it was mine I would just demolish it and deal with the celing as you would like. If it had a use you don't sound like you like it ,so you might need to do a bit of dry wall repair. Then you can put what ever lighting you choose.

  • Karen Stark Karen Stark on Dec 21, 2015
    Was it always a light? Looks like it was meant to light the island. Be glad it's wood. My in laws' kitchen has a similar looking light, except their's is forged steel and is very, very heavy. I think it is from the 80's. Not only that, theirs isn't even over an island.

  • Luanna Luanna on Dec 21, 2015
    Good grief! Get rid of it, whatever it is!---it's like an elephant in the room! I'd put in bead board ceiling and a new light fixture--maybe pendant lighting over the island if you are keeping the island there.

  • Mickey Baron Mickey Baron on Dec 21, 2015
    I'm not sure what its original purpose was. It does look like it had been an exhaust, possibly, then reverted to an island light. Right now it looks like the elephant in the room. I'd remove it, AND that track lighting, update it to your liking. (You're on the right track)

  • Sandra Sandra on Dec 22, 2015
    Looks like a vent... Was there a counter stove top below it sometime ago?

  • Lynda Dexter Lynda Dexter on Dec 22, 2015
    It could have been a pot and pan rack that got converted into a light. If you do not like it get rid of it or convert it back to a hanging rack for pans.

  • Leslie Leslie on Dec 22, 2015
    Most welcome :)

  • Lola Lola on Dec 22, 2015
    Get rid of it, it will lighten up the look of your kitchen greatly. Add different lighting. It looks obtrusive and clumsy. It looks like a massive job, but it's not. I had the same thing and after looking at it for a year I asked my husband if he could take it down. He didn't understand why I would want to take down a perfectly functioning fixture. Half an hour later it was down. I found vintage ribbed glass lights (2) that I put in it's place, hubby patched and painted and it looks beautiful. You won't be sorry

  • Betty Miller Betty Miller on Dec 22, 2015
    I would take it down but be prepared to do dry wall patching and little electrical you will probally want pendant lits or something over the island.

  • Duv310660 Duv310660 on Dec 23, 2015
    Maybe trade in for a quirky chandelier? I have one in my laundry, and I love it every time I turn it on!

  • Katie Lloyd Mansfield Katie Lloyd Mansfield on Dec 23, 2015
    Take it down. It would open up your space. I think it is just a weird 80s light fixture. You may have some ceiling work to do but it would be worth it.

  • Nancy Nancy on Dec 24, 2015
    If there is a light inside, there was probably some type of plastic/glass covering the opening. If you remove this, be sure that you know how to remove the fluorescent fixture. Be prepared to plaster your ceiling.

  • Nancy Nancy on Dec 24, 2015
    Just another suggestion, Get a glass cut and fitted for it. If you plan on stainless steel counter tops, you could paint this a stainless steel color or if you are super handy, cover the sides with stainless tell sheathing.

  • Nancy Nancy on Dec 24, 2015
    I meant to type stainless steel sheathing.

    • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 24, 2015
      @Nancy That would look great. I love whe creative people respond to my questions. I wonder if stainless steel contact paperwould do the trick. Thanks!

  • Nana moving on Nana moving on on Dec 24, 2015
    Just take the lower angled part of the box off and replace the old light with a new energy efficient one. Then you'll only have to paint the more shallow part left there to match your cabinets.

  • Jennifer Rapp Jennifer Rapp on Dec 24, 2015
    Excellent idea. That would save me from having to fix the ceiling. Thanks for the tip!

  • Psellers Psellers on Dec 30, 2015
    You could make it a focal point but since you have the busy wallpaper, maybe you could just paint it to blend it with the surroundings. Any covering, even glass, will soften the light benefit. I'm sure it was originally there to direct the light to the work counter.

  • Teresa C Teresa C on Dec 31, 2015
    I have seen where they totally remove the structure and then place plywood the same size over the hole and then use molding to replicate the look of the front of your cabinets. Paint white before attaching to ceiling and once you find a light for the area make sure to cut a hole to fit the new light kit.