In the Kitchen design industry I see a lot of people trying to maximize storage space in any way that they can - and rightfully so. Here's a storage solution that I am currently incorporating into the design of one of my clients' kitchens.
An under cabinet knife storage drawer. This gives the illusion of a light valance, as it is the same size (and potentially the same style - which I recommend, otherwise it could look a bit off if your light valance is beveled and this drawer front is a slab style). No one will be the wiser that you have extra storage under your upper cabinets, and let's face it...it's pretty cool.