Timeless or Trendy? Open Shelving in Kitchens

July 12, 2011

Hey all, thanks so much for the amazing feedback on the faux bamboo chest earlier today!  Thanks to many of you, I picked a bold color at your suggestion, and it’s actually one I’ve worked with before, can you guess it?  Oooh, I’ll leave you in suspense but it’s looking really good so far, can’t wait to show you when the paint dries!

Did you catch Design Star last night?  I did, loved it!  Great designer contestants this season, I have my top four picked out.  I completely agree with Julia’s assessment, loved David and Tamika, giggled at Kellie’s “confetti” analogy, and oh my, who dressed Candice? 

With all this talk about what’s good, bad, and current in design, I remembered I did a post a while back asking your opinion, do you remember this article:  All White, Timeless or Trendy?  It got a lot of feedback, you all certainly have opinions to share, I loved it !!

I thought it fun to run a series of these throughout the summer and take polls so you can all weigh in with your opinion.  This week’s topic is open shelving in kitchens.  I tend to be old school when it comes to cabinetry, I love a lot of glass fronts and traditional upper cabinets with doors, but no doubt you’ve noticed how many designers have been using floating or open shelving in kitchens, restaurant style.  You can’t deny when decorated with pretty dishes and accessories, they look amazing, and they do seem to make kitchens feel bigger and brighter.

I wonder about practicality, and would love to hear your thoughts.  What happens when there’s a gap when using the dishes, cups or accessories?   I don’t live with open shelves in my kitchen (except for one small cookbook and display shelf, seen here) because I know myself, I am not this meticulous or organized.  How often do you need to clean them, and what’s the secret to maintaining the look?


open shelving via decor8

via Decor8


This version seems a bit more practical.  Here cookbooks, baskets, platters and pitchers help to fill the void, while the daily use items appear on only the bottom shelves.

open shelving white kitchen

via Pinterest

I die over this look and love that paneled backsplash, but petite little me would need a footstool all day long to reach those lovelies on the upper shelves.

cottage kitchen bhg via hoturq

Better Homes & Gardens


Leave it to Martha to make perfection look easy. 

martha open shelving

Martha Stewart


Love the pops of color and mixed arrangement here.

open shelving with corbels

via Pinterest


I find it difficult to concentrate while I’m staring at this backsplash.  What were we talking about?  Oh yes, open shelving.  Pretty!

alice lane backsplash open shelving

Alice Lane Home

Here’s a more narrow display of open shelving in stainless steel.  I really admire the dramatic contrast between the dark glossy backsplash (to the ceiling!) and white countertops.

stainless steel open shelving

Apartment Therapy


This is a favorite look of mine, white with wood countertops. Those plates and glasses though, do they serve the purpose of looking pretty or do they get used?  I must know.

bhg open shelving

Better Homes & Gardens

Gorgeous dark cabinetry and shelving here, styled with white plates and accessories, design by Jeff Lewis.

open shelving house beautiful

House Beautiful


A rustic wood version, loving the gray and yellow combo.

open shelving kitchen

Country Living


With all this inspiration, are you ready to vote?  These polls are not meant to discourage anyone from embracing their own style and taste.  I’m convinced the best homes are the ones filled with the homeowner’s personality, and originality is to be celebrated, so let’s keep it fun.

There are two polls and your vote is anonymous, instant results as the votes come in.

(If viewing in a reader, visit the page to place your vote)


Poll#1:  Open Shelving in Kitchens, is it timeless or trendy?

Poll #2:  What’s your preference?


Any other design trends you’d like to see in this ‘Timeless or Trendy’ series?  Sunburst mirrors?  Stenciled walls?  Decorating with pallets?   Let’s hear your suggestions!  Got something to say about open shelving in kitchens?  Spill it. 






166 Responses to “Timeless or Trendy? Open Shelving in Kitchens”

  1. mandi says:

    All I can think about when I see those kitchens is how much dusting they would require! I live in the desert, so maybe it’s just an issue here. but if I dust once, it’s back within a day!

  2. I love the look, especially since they’re staged for the photos. Just don’t think it’s practical in real life.

  3. Virginia Mom says:

    I’m on my third “remodel” of the kitchen in my almost 27-y.o. Pleasure Dome. This one consists of adding 3 coats of primer and at least 2 topcoats of a lovely, fresh ivory semi-gloss to my Icky-Orange, Grainy Disco Golden Oak cabinets, enthusiastically installed a week before my wedding that many years ago, by me and the fiancee who had hair back then.

    I remain Alice-free (and Hazel-free — now I’m REALLY dating myself!) and cannot imagine trying to keep open shelving dust-free and orderly. There is a reason they put doors on cabinets. I believe it is to give the plastic food containers and drive-thru cups the privacy they need to multiply prodigiously. A lady should maintain some modicum of mystery and open shelves are simply too exposed.

    Leave the all-white teapot and French coffee bowl collecting to Martha, close the doors and go out for a peddle on your beach cruiser (preferably a pink one.) Life is too short for dusting teapots.

  4. I LOVE it, however, I think open shelving should be combined with some closed cabinetry. Just for practicality’s sake! : )

  5. CentsationalGirl says:

    Virginia Mom,
    You. Crack. Me. Up.



  6. Angela says:

    I have to agree with Mandi! Oh the dust! I used to keep plates restaurant style on some metro shelving (the stainless steel kind) and always had to wash them before using… I prefer my new house with lots of cabinets to hide mess! Plus imagine what the Tupperware would look like! Yikes!

  7. Emily says:

    I feel like a mix of the two would be the most practical because you could store your pretty serving pieces that get used once or twice a year out on display all year long (And then make seasonal displays during the times you do need to use the plates). Or use them for a collection on old plate or pitchers or things like that. They would drive me crazy though. I hate dusting and I like to hide my clutter. It would definitely force you to be organized though!

  8. Adri says:

    I love the openness of open shelves, but I also hate to dust! If I ever have open shelving in my kitchen, it would be only for items that are used very frequently (everyday dishes, etc), thus – no dusting required!

  9. Shannon says:

    I like the look of open shelving, but I had in the last two places I lived and I didn’t like it. It can open up a smaller space, but I’m not keen on it anymore….

  10. Julie says:

    I love the look and might do it after my kids are grown and gone… and I can buy a matching set of dishes that I can reasonably expect won’t be broken. My plastic Disney character cups will be gone… Oh, wait. I am almost 48 and my youngest is 65! I will effectively be parenting my entire alloted life span. I will learn to be content with clutter. :o(

  11. I truly love open shelving. But I wonder about things like dust, or pet hair. I have one open shelf above my sink where I display pretty things like cake stands, platters, vases and such, but otherwise it seems very impractical. Especially for people with kids who likely have a lot of tacky plastic cups and bowls (like me!)

  12. Noelle says:

    I love the look of open shelving, but this would not work until my nest is empty!!! :)

  13. o-girl says:

    I’m in agreement with other comments, open shelving is pretty but I can only imagine the cleaning & dusting you’d have do to keep everything looking nice, not to mention the organization & attention to keeping everything looking “just right”.

  14. Deb Owen says:

    I could see me doing it if I had a small beach cottage or pretty vacation home in the mountains, or even a hip trendy apartment back before kids. In my home now…over my dead body! I have accumulated too many “good” gadgets. My dish displaying is limited to my fun bright everyday fiesta ware dishes, and even they are in a primitive cabinet behind the glass.

  15. Loved Virginia Mom’s comment–“There is a reason they put doors on cabinets. I believe it is to give the plastic food containers and drive-thru cups the privacy they need to multiply prodigiously.” So true. I have to say I wouldn’t want anyone to get a look inside my Tupperware cabinet!

    My other issue with open shelving is that it’s my kids’ job to put the dishes away each night, and I’d rather not have to fuss with each dish’s placement and whether or not things are artistically arranged. Ha.

    However, I LOVE the look of them and am drooling over these gorgeous photos. I would like to have a few shelves in my kitchen like this, but I’d still need plenty of storage behind closed doors. :-)

    P.S. Thx for the shout-out!

  16. kamccle says:

    I love the way they look, but also wonder about keeping everything dust-free. Also, since I live in southern California, I dread to see what would happen after an earthquake. I still shudder when I remember what a mess the 1994 quake made at Cost Plus World Market. (I was an employee there at the time.)

  17. Kyna Leyva says:

    I really like the thought of a mix of the two…the perfectionist side of me would love to have the open shelves with my beautiful things on display and then the realist side of me speaks up and says hey lady… you have three kids 4 and under…you do not have pretty things nor time to make sure it looks perfect…So if I could have a few open to display the FEW pretty things I do have and closed cabinets to cover the MANY used, cracked, I mean loved items then I think its a win win for both sides of me.

    I am looking forward to this series!! :)

  18. Senora H-B says:

    I can see having open shelving down low for the daily items, especially if children help set the table. However, where am I supposed to put my spices? My canned goods? (I suppose we can assume I have a pantry for this?). I’m with the others, though. TOO MUCH DUSTING!

  19. tinajo says:

    I do love the look of open shelving in magazines and such – but I don´t know how I´d pull that off in my home. Sure; I have pretty stuff that I´d love to display – but where would I put the stuff that belongs to the kitchen but maybe isn´t that pretty? And how much grease would get stuck on everything (no matter how much you clean the kitchen it does get greasy)?

    So I love the look but think I´d stick with having just a couple of open shelves in my own home – just for the prettiness. :-)

  20. stephanie says:

    How about board and batten in the trend series? I really want to do some form of it, but my baseboards would need to go. Since my home is less than a year old, this is not practical! I would keep dreaming about it if I knew it was a KEEPER:)

  21. Dana says:

    I love open shelving and have been tempted to get out the screwdriver to remove my cabinet doors many times. I do have that pretty red Fiesta afterall….

    But I have pets; hair is a problem no matter how proactive we are. I can just imagine myself pulling down a bowl off that beautiful shelf only to have it full of hair and dust. Unfortunately, this just won’t work. I’m convinced open shelving is always staged or in show homes. And I, most certainly, do not live in a show home.

  22. I definitely think it’s practical in real life! Encourages organization and the cutting down of items that you don’t need. Besides, you could always do a mix and have door units on the bottom for stuff like plastic containers, water bottles, etc. I have an open pantry and l-o-v-e it.

  23. Rachel says:

    I LOVE open shelving! I took the cabinet doors off when I painted my cabinets and didn’t put some of them back on. I haven’t really had a problem with dust–there are three shelves in each cabinet, the top shelf holds seldom used items and the lower two shelves hold everyday dishes/glasses. The everyday dishes get used too often to get dusty. The top shelf does get a bit dusty, but it’s a foot over my head and I can’t tell from where I stand. I just give the items a quick rinse on the rare occasion I need to use them.

  24. sue says:

    I agree, a mix of open shelving and closed for practicality’s sake is a must. However, I have to smile a bit because what is old becomes new again in fashion. I look at some make overs and I see styles that were once the bomb and now, the owner wants to destroy them. I grew up with the 50’s look and it is coming back on many posts. I don’t have a problem with that at all, but mark my words, we will see make overs of pieces that have been distressed and have chippy white paint. The new owners will probably strip the pieces and try to recapture the previous look of the wood. And, I’m not saying this as an old grump, I just have seen a lot of fashion styles come and go. My own style depends on a mix of items, I have pieces that I bought 35 years ago that I still love and some items that I got rid of that I wish I had kept. Oh, well….

  25. ellen says:

    We have three half circle shelves on the side of our kitchen island and I have no idea how to decorate it. Cute in show homes but not in mine. I like diiferent fun coffee mugs and they would look terrible out in the open!

    Worst trend of the moment is wallpaper…bluck. again…cute in magazines but not in person!

  26. Karla says:

    I LOVE open shelving and I have two long LACKS sitting in my kitchen waiting to replace my current cabinetry. But I’m very scared because we have three cats and hair.is.every.where. Also our kitchen is tiny so I’m afraid it will make it look too crowded and cluttered.

    In my mind I would love to simply display dishes that are for decoration or for special occasions but we don’t own either lol So the whole open shelving is on hold for the moment. But the pictures you posted have inspired me again and given me hope on the impracticality of open shelving. I’ll probably have to shave the cats before we install the shelving though. Yikes.

  27. Alexis says:

    I think it’s very pretty in pictures, but I’d hate to have to wash my dishes before AND after using them. Washing them once is enough for me!

  28. Lesley says:

    I opted for replacing some of my cabinet door panels with bubble glass. I love it!

  29. Lisa says:

    i have open shelving and although i love the look, i am thinking of adding glass doors. i live in a very dusty area and while the dishes are used everyday, they have no time to gather dust- it’s the shelves themselves that are the dust gatherers! i am constantly removing dishes from all the shelves to clean them!

  30. Wanda Collier says:

    I love the look, however with two dogs and cat in the house, I think closed cabinets work best for me. I have thought about using the open shelving in my son’s dining area. Interesting Topic! Wanda

  31. Alanna says:

    I actually had some open shelving in my kitchen (which we just finished remodeling). While it looked great and was a nice place to display pretty serving dishes and glassware, it was not practical. Our open shelves were over the stove– like the picture above with paneling behind the shelves– and everything became coated in cooking residue and then dust on top of that. While the cook books took the worst of the residue, it’s not very pretty on glassware either.

    Now that we have an entirely new kitchen, we have no open shelving and I do miss displaying my nice serving dishes but I don’t miss taking out wine glasses and having to clean them. Glass fronts on a few cabinets would be the best way to go (or a china cabinet?).

  32. Carrie says:

    I love the look but also wonder about how it actually works. I’ve heard designers say it’s practical because everything you use regularly is out in the open and easy to grab. But, then it would look bare and empty while you’re actually eating (like when you have people over, which is when I really want my home to look “styled”). On the flip side, if you style them for beauty putting only display items or seldomly used serving pieces up they lose all practicality and I don’t think many of us have room in our kitchens for that. Aren’t we all always looking for more storage solutions?

    I would love it in a beach cottage where easy living is really the number one priority. Guests could easily find what they want and have NO excuse not help put away the dishes! So when it comes to open shelving I figure it’s like everything else in life…good in moderation.

  33. Jenn says:

    I think cabinets have doors for a reason as well but two or three open shelves with carefully chosen accessories would enhance any space. I have a friend with an open-shelved kitchen (uppers) and her complaint is that bowls and such get “dusty” from every day life and she often has to re-wash even every day wares because they’re not kept behind closed doors. I’m not a fan of clutter so I like closed door cabinetry myself.

  34. lucinda says:

    When I clean the top of refrigerator (which isn’t that often) I’m astounded at how all that greasy like dust gets up there. And mind you I am not a fryer of food. When I see all of those open shelves I think of all that hard to clean dust that you’d have to deal with cleaning. It’s not like dusting the furniture it’s thicker. Anyone else know what I’m talking about?
    Beautiful and if it’s not directly in the cooking area but say in the breakfast room area I think it would be a big deal.
    **they all look gorgeous though!

  35. Erin says:

    Hey Kate!

    GREAT post! I just lived a year with open shelving and have to say that I LOVED it. I am not a type A person when it comes to keeping things immaculately clean though (I’m probably a B+) and would rather have the “pretty” of the open shelves and live with a little dust, etc. than have everything neat and clean behind closed doors. So maybe it is a personality thing. Some of my fancier dishes are always just there on display and the rest get regular use. I also have things like baskets, cookbooks, etc. that are there all the time and not swapped out.

    We are moving this weekend into a summer beach cottage we just bought and are going to be “cosmetically renovating” and I am putting open shelving in the kitchen for sure. I think an important consideration is that you can have a gorgeous kitchen with open shelving for a fraction of the cost of beautiful full cabinetry. Shelves + brackets at Home Depot= reasonable DIY. For that I will put in a little extra elbow grease to keep things dusted and organized. ;)

    I debated how to vote in the poll. I do think open shelving is popular right now but that it is also timeless-so that saves it from being classified as “trendy” for me. That said, I can certainly see people looking back in 30 years and saying “they took down solid cabinetry to install SHELVES!?!?” in the same manner that we look back on the 1950s and say “they put wall to wall carpeting over that gorgeous heart pine floor!!??”

    Time will tell, but in the meantime, I will be loving the beauty of my open shelves :)

    Hope you are well!

    Erin @ Rare & Beautiful Treasures

  36. I absolutely LOVE the look of it, but know that I would be too obsessive about things being greasy or dusty all the time! I’ve had some plates hanging on my wall, but I had to wipe them down every week or so or they’d be gross! Can’t imagine what happens with the shelves where people just leave it sitting there for ages if they don’t get used!

  37. sue says:

    I Love the shelves but would mix it with cabinets……and only put dishes on the shelves that I would use often so I would not have to dust.
    :) Great Inspiration

  38. Jane says:

    I live in a very old and run down rental in need of some renovation but here in Australia you don’t renovate rentals as there is no cost benefit. Having said that my kitchen is mostly open shelves and even though they get dusty, the items on them are the ones I use often so it is not such a big problem, I do have one shelf that is for my retro pretty things but I also use them sometimes and they are the first thing you see when you walk in the door so I like it. I would go for some open shelving in any kitchen I have in the future, it just looks so nice.

  39. I absolutely LOVE the look of open shelving in kitchens…in magazines. When I was remodeling my own little kitchen, and I removed the doors from my cabinets, I considered leaving them off on one side for the open cabinet look. That all changed when I walked into my kitchen one day and saw this (first picture).

    So, I love the idea, love the look, but I’ll just have to enjoy them in perfectly-staged, beautifully-styled magazine pictures. I think for most households, they’re simply not practical.

  40. jane capri says:

    ok, i LOVE the look completely and plan on doing this myself to our kitchen. This lady has the BEST TIPS EVER ON MAINTAINING that OPEN SHELVING UPPERS:


  41. michelle sines says:

    LOVE THIS! To me it’s timeless and trendy, and i can only vote for one, so I did choose timeless! If done right, it brings me back to Little House days. Honestly, though, on the trendy viewpoint, I am a former caterer, and open shelving is a must when flying thru the kitchen. One day I will have my open shelving, until then, I simply have removed my cupboard doors, (they keep getting in the way!) lol! And dusting… yep. live on a dirt road. wipe things down once a week, and always before company! Thanks for the post!

  42. Ellya Brill says:

    I totally agree with what Jen had to say ; combined closed cabinet with 1 or 2 the open ones. You can then put your prettiest china with other accessories. This open shelving is for one person kitchen or two with your loving husband, and a dust free environment. Not with children. It is not practical. But it is pretty though the way they display it, I must say.

  43. jane capri says:

    Oh, also, [I forgot lol] the REASON we’re doing the shelving upper is partly to open up the kitchen but mostly to force us to live with less, and more minimal. It’s a full on lifestyle that we have been slowly moving towards, buying less, giving away excess and the shelving uppers help. I hate clutter but we have it. … it won’t be in the kitchen shelving [now i can’t comment on how the lower cabinets will look haha!]

  44. Vera says:

    I have a tiny little kitchen with only two open cabinets. Canvas bins filled w/extra glasses and mugs ae on the top shelves. The bottom and middle shelves have plates, mugs, glasses, serving bowls, pot holders, etc. It stays tidy because it’s just my hubby and myself and since I’m a visual person, I make a point to keep it tidy!

  45. Emily says:

    It’s a matter of function: right by the stove? no. everything would be splattered with cooking grime before you know it.

    I actually took the doors off most of our uppers because i kept whacking myself in the face with them. I don’t regret it. For our setup, it’s a million time better. The secret to keeping everything neat is to not have too much of any one thing and to put things back where they came from.

    But I alphabetize everything, so it could just be me.

  46. Michelle says:

    You would simply HAVE to use the stuff on the shelves on a daily basis or you’d be forever dusting the things!

    I am going to install two small open shelves in my kitchen (above the fridge) but they are going to house my bright collection of teapots instead of my ‘whiteware’!

    Enjoy your day
    Bok Bok B’Gerk

  47. Susie Homemaker says:

    I love this look – specifically, the BHG kitchen with the blue beadboard and white shelving. We plan to do a kitchen makeover and those photos are on the top of my inspiration pile. I find that I can manage to keep thing clean and dust free if I just do a little each day. We have a small kitchen, so would have small sections of open shelving. I agree, still need some closed off storage for the not so pretty stuff – but I try to buy mostly pretty stuff for my kitchen anyway!

  48. I love the look of them and think they make a kitchen look FRESH, but after our cats killed a few vases and frames on the open shelves in our bathroom AND murdered a pretty but dainty champagne flute (one of the cats jumped into the cupboard when we were unloading the dishes and sauntered around), I definitely know that open shelving isn’t for us.

    Sad… but I love the little devils more than any open shelved kitchen!

  49. Cassandra says:

    When looking at homes, all I hear about is stainless steal appliances. Timeless or Trendy? Will they become the new avocado of the 70’s?

  50. Ally says:

    Open shelving is too cluttered-looking for my taste; some things need to remain behind closed doors. Plus, like others have said, the dusting required could never make it worthwhile.

  51. Elz says:

    The house we’re buying has this weird blank stretch of wall space that we’re planning on putting LACK shelves + corbels up to hide/ make it look intentional. We won’t be taking any doors off the cabs though because my big butt cat would attempt to sleep in them just like Kristi’s! Except my cat is so huge he’d fall off and think it was all my fault!

    The shelves we’re putting up are up too high from the counter for him to jump (its above the sink so they will be mounted a bit higher than the lines of the cabinets). We’ll probably put pretty dishes up there and just let the dust accumulate for a few weeks. I’m not an anal cleaner, and that room is so badly lit (for now) I could get away with it.

  52. Tracie says:

    I love the look….I just dont know how practical it is in a very busy kitchen with lots of little people ;) Plus….I would think you would have to be sure to dust the entire shelf….because I would think grease in the air and dust would settle easily. But I do love this look!

  53. rhonda says:

    I have to agree with most of the comments…TOO much dust to leave dishes out. I cook at home everyday and even though the dishes get used a lot they still get dusty..kids, dog hair (<—I know gross huh?) but that's how it is when you have pets..

    I LOVE the look but it's just not for our home. I also think unless you have a 100K kitchen, those just wouldn't look as good in the avg. everyday kitchen. I have NEVER been to any persons' home with a kitchen as nice as these..I know you have a fabulous kitchen but I don't think the majority of people even come close to that kind of glam. A person just has to have "that" kind of home and style throughout their house to pull it off. If not they just look like ghetto cabinets without doors..LOL

  54. We had open shelving in our first apartment. Uhh… I never dusted. Maybe I am a gross, dust-loving person. I loved the look. Open shelving on top, closed on the bottom. Love it. The best of both worlds.

  55. Kelly says:

    I love this look, but I definitely don’t need anything else to dust. I am not organized enough either.

  56. Love this post and love open shelving! We took some doors off the upper cabinets in the house that we fixed up for my grandad. It started for practicality so he could see where all the dishes and food were. Then we ended up liking it so much we took off the rest of the upper doors. We still have the doors on the bottom cabinets and that’s working out great. I think one of the reasons it works well is that it’s a small kitchen so taking off the doors opened the space. Also, since we’re starting from scratch, there aren’t a lot of extra dishes and gadgets yet.

    But I do totally understand the tupperware problem. The good thing about starting fresh in this house has been controlling the tupperware. We recycle what we don’t need and try to keep the reproduction at a minimum :)

  57. Laura says:

    Hi Kate–We have open shelving in our kitchen (1920s, Craftsman-style home). I love it–practical, easy, and uncluttered. The secret is buying your dishes and glassware in all the same colors. I recently did a blog post on our kitchen–you can see our real-life, everyday-use kitchen here:


    Thanks for the lovely pictures and constant inspiration!

  58. Sherry says:

    I have always had a combination – as a matter of fact I am notorious for taking doors off of cabinets even in rental apartments. Not all though. One or two to display pretty bowls and cookbooks and decorative items. I like the way it breaks up the upper cabinets and gives the eye something more interesting to look at than a flat door. For everyday items I actually have a plate rack hanging on the wall – not the same, I know, but I painted it to match when I painted all of my kitchen cabinets and it looks great, even when the plates are in use or in the dishwasher. I love the look of the open shelves you show above, but WOW the dust! Love your blog! Keep up the good work.

  59. beth says:

    Why would anyone want to create more chores for themselves? It looks great in a magazine shoot, but I have better things to do than dust and rewash dishes. A small display shelf is enough to catch the trend in my opinion.

  60. Aimee says:

    I’m with all those who say this is a trend. I would rather have frosted glass cabinet doors than just put all of my stuff on a shelf for the world to see. I can’t be the only one who occasionally leaves clean/dirty dishes in the dishwasher or sink for more than a day. Just like you said, Kate- what about the empty spaces on the shelves for the items being used?

    Very pretty, but definitely not practical.

  61. Yolanda says:

    I love the look, but in earthquake country (do you feel me, CG?) I would be paranoid all day long! I guess I could fake the upper shelves by using museum putty under the contents, and be prepared to lose the whatever is on the lowers, which would be the frequently used things and wouldn’t collect dust. Any ideas how to have my cake and safely eat it too?

    Love your blog!

  62. Julia says:

    I am not a fan of upper cabinets.
    My dream kitchen in my dream house, would have a perfectly organized pantry to store most of the things I would put in upper cabinets. I would have some open shelving for day to day stuff. I just feel that upper cabinets can make a space feel closed in. I would rather look out a large window than look at upper cabinets.

  63. Kim Wright says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for months, but haven’t ever commented. Goodness, I didn’t even know design type blogs existed until I started doing internet research for our kitchen remodel back in January! I think I may have visited them all now, but I’d like you to know that your blog is one of only a few that has stayed in my favorites as a daily visit. Can I take a minute to tell you all that I love about your blog? I marvel at your energy! Seems like you accomplish so much and you blog about so many different things….home reno, crafts, food, design, etc….very Martha Stewart-ish in that you have a variety of knowledge and talents and your “delivery” is very professional. I also appreciate that you post nearly every day. Your BOTB is such a smart feature addition because it brings me here even on the weekend, when most everyone else has taken the weekend off. Your website design is appealing to the eye….clean, pretty, uncluttered. I also think the way that you have your blog posts set up is the best. You show a good amount of the post before I must click “rest of the entry” so that I can make an informed decision whether I want to read the rest if I’m in a hurry. I find the blogs that only show a couple sentences of each post, or those that may show a full post for one or two of the most recent, but then require me to make an extra click to see if I even want to read older posts, to be frustrating. May sound lazy, but I don’t have all that much time and the fact that you make it easy for me to read your blog is a detail that has not gone unnoticed.

    All that said, onto the topic at hand! We are at the tail end of the aforementioned kitchen remodel, but I’m still waiting for my open shelves to be hung. I’ll have to get back to you after I’ve lived with them, but the plan is for all the dishes, glasses and most frequently used serving & mixing bowls to occupy them, with the top-most, out-of reach shelf more for decorative items. I have 6 children and we go through nearly every dish every day, so it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be impractical for us. I’ve loved the look of displaying pretty dishes for years and years….I can’t wait to display all my Fire King bowls and Fiesta dishes! I’ve spent the last year collecting them and color coordinating. I voted in your poll that open shelves are timeless because kitchens long ago didn’t have upper cabinets! It’s just coming back around because it’s just that- timeless. I don’t think they’ll ever go completely out of style again – the same way that upper cabinets won’t ever go out of style, it will just be a matter of preference. I also find it, for us, a purposeful move towards simplicity. I’m hoping it helps keep me from keeping things hidden in cabinets that I rarely use. Thanks for asking, Kate! Blessings to you~Kim

  64. When we moved into our current apartment I was brain storming ways to make the small kitchen feel bigger and be more functional. I ended up taking a few sets of cabinet doors off. I added a fake backsplash (fabric wrapped cardboard) to add some color and visual interest. I love it now ad wouldn’t change a thing! I’m going to create a blog post about my finished kitchen some time this week after I take a few pictures (if I can ever get the kitchen to stay clean!)

  65. courtney says:

    Yikes, I cannot believe “trendy” is leading. We have open shelving in our kitchen. We gutted our kitchen four years ago and I still love the remodel! Our house is old (115+ victorian) and our kitchen is small, so mixing open shelving with cabinets was the best option. Yes, you must dust, but its not that big of a deal. And if you have empty spaces because of items in use thats fine too. Well at least it is for us :)

  66. Ugh — sure it looks okay, but really?? I’m not going to worry about gaps or how it looks when I’m — you know — actually using my dishes, but what about dust??! I really don’t want to have to rinse off every single plate or bowl before I use it because of dust build up or a fly died in there or something…

    Now DRAWERS are a kitchen feature I love. Almost all of my base cabinets are drawers, and I couldn’t be happier. All of my plates and bowls are stored in drawers as opposed to uppers, and they’re so much easier to access.

  67. nikki merson says:

    With a family of 11, most of the time most of my stuff is in use, in the sink, or in the dishwasher. My open shelves would be empty. Not to mention I live in the country, where many bugs and flies find their way into the sink and surrounding area at night…I read a blog once where a lady found a snake in the bowl of her Kitchen Aid mixer. I shudder at the thought of finding a big hairy wolf spider in the bottom of my coffee mug, or crickets or tree frogs finding their way in the glasses at night….yeacchhh! I’ll keep my cabinet doors, thanks!

  68. Ang Freda says:

    I think it’s timeless, look at those pictures!!! BUT it’s not practical for my mismatching pots/pans/dishes/glasses/mugs/… hodge podge of stuff we store, nor for my smaller kitchen.

    AS for what else is trendy/timeless? How about Stainless Steel appliances? I keep hearing people say they are a fad, while I think they are timeless and perhaps more popular now than they were, and perhaps will be, but they will always look good and be ‘in style’

  69. Leanne says:

    I like the open shelving but only if it looks very neat and organized. The all white dishes displays or mostly white with strategically placed pops of color are nice. I wouldn’t choose it instead of cupboards though – only in addition to them. :) I need to hide my clutter. ;)

  70. joyce tx says:

    Open shelving can just be too visually busy. Besides, where do you put the mismatched mugs?

  71. CAS says:

    It’s not that I’m totally against open shelving, I just prefer smaller “designated for a purpose” areas of open shelving. The poll was very interesting.

  72. Gina says:

    I absolutely love open shelving but my mind tells me one thing….DUST!

  73. Karen says:

    I love the look, but I think it’s impractical for the way I live. I’m a cleanliness nut… so the idea of dishes sitting out on a shelf and then being used would drive me crazy. I’d have to rinse them off before I used them. LOL Plus… the dusting required doesn’t seem appealing.

    I have one open shelf behind my stove that I keep the pepper mill, bottles of oil and a couple of decorative items on, and that’s enough for me.

  74. I think they look great, but seem impractical for everyday life. It looks so pretty when it’s styled, but what about when all your dishes are in the dishwasher? And who wants extra stuff to dust?! Not me!

  75. Annie B says:

    I too love the look but as a few have mentioned before I think what keeps open shelving neat, simple, etc is the dishes in the photos above appear to be beautiful, complete sets in complimentary or coordinating colors…not the mustard yellow mixed with whats left from our first black and creme set :)

  76. I love, love, love, LOVE this post and am so glad someone is finally asking this question. I have been drooling over the look of open shelving and even have an entire Pinterest board dedicated to it. But, I also have a pot rack over my island and feared the same outcome with open shelving. First of all, I don’t have enough cutesy, matchy, or all white dishes that would be “open shelf worthy”. Also, how totally embarrassing would it be to pull down a serving platter or whatever when you have company only to find dust and who-knows-what on it. I know this because my pots, even though they are used often, collect dust on the potrack. I waste more time washing them before I use them!

    So, I will continue to love the look, but don’t think it’s practical for me. Also, has anyone mentioned the resale value of your home? I’d be afraid to remove a bunch of cabinets and then people who aren’t into this look would ditch your home if you were trying to sell. Don’t they say that kitchens and baths are what sell your home?

  77. carol ann says:

    I like the picture by bhg with the blue background! The blue makes the white shelves really stand out! My kitchen is too small to have open shelves.

  78. Aimee says:

    Oh and I’d also like to see your reader’s ideas on white kitchen cabinets (or the ever common “white” kitchen in general), board and batten, and generally neutral colored decor. I happen to love all of those things, but I wonder if home decor, like hairstyles or fashion, can go in-out-and-back-into style, or is the home decor of today constant evolving?

  79. Laura too says:

    Open shelves look pretty but not real. All your dishes and glasses and bowls need to be there to make it look right, so you need other dishes to really use. Sort of like those glass jars of lemons “for a color pop” which would rot within a day. (hello – what are they thinking?) It’s all for some “look” for a moment in time instead of a practical work place. It is so fake!

  80. Brooke says:

    No offense, but the whole chevron and sunburst mirror kicks are driving me crazy! Talk about trendy! Wait a season and they will be out!

  81. treen says:

    I agree that most of these kitchens look pretty fake. Where’s the pasta sauce splattered all over the stove, or the coating of flour on everything from baking? My husband is a fantastic chef but a very messy one so stuff can’t be out on the counters. Or open shelving. Plus, on the first Better Homes and Gardens shot with the shelving surrounding the stove – dust wouldn’t be nearly the problem as that grease crud that gets on everything in the vicinity of the stove, including the ceiling. That is a pain in the neck to scrub off!

  82. Kirsten says:

    I love the look of open shelving in the kitchen, especially when it’s a less contemporary design as it feeds into the whole casual cottage thing I love. But while I know I’d have no problem keeping them organized, I’d be worried about dust. Dusting is one of my least favorite chores and one of my biggest pet peeves, especially when it comes to the kitchen. So I’d personally pick a happy medium of upper cabinets with glass doors.

  83. Dana says:

    I guess I’m in the minority, as I despise open shelving. I’m one of those people who prefers to have things out of sight. Our house is a mass of boxes, drawers, and other “hiders” because I have issues with visual clutter. I think open shelves are great for art displays, not for actually using things. Given my druthers, I’d even put my books behind closed doors on their shelves :)

  84. Still fairly new to your sweet blog… Love this post!!

    I feel like the open shelving is a pretty trendy look, and though it looks lovely in a magazine, I’ve recently redone my kitchen and opted to keep the existing cupboard, but install some glass fronts in two of them, rather than go with all open shelving. The deciding factor, was that my man and I watched our children getting dishes to set the table one night. (My kiddos are ages 8 and 10) They were like little monkeys, jumping up on the counters, and grabbing the edges of doors to balance as they walked from the cups to the bowls… I could visualize an entire shelf of my stoneware crashing to the ground amidst tears and frustration. We have been so happy with glass fronts instead, and it’s been a good reminder that keeping a few cluttery and mis-matched items hidden is a good thing!

    You can view my kitchen makeover, to see what we ended up with if you’d like. http://www.lemonademakinmama.com/2011/07/kitchen-makeover-reveal-98-finished.html


  85. Candela says:

    I looks so charming and “warm” to me. It makes me think of the pretty little kitchens I see in children’s books, where there’s a fire going at all times and the big bear owns two of each thing (plates, cups, forks, pans, etc). With that amount of things, of course it’d be easy to keep it tidy! HOWEVER, I could never keep all my kitchen stuff that tidy AND dust-free!!!!!! I’d hate to have to wipe off every plate before using it!

  86. lisaroy says:

    I like the look but judging from the greasy film on my mixing bowls up on an open shelf, I think one shelf of everyday stuff is all I could handle – I just wouldn’t want to be constantly washing everything!

  87. roryjean says:

    It’s pretty, but I don’t think all of the plastic plates and sippy cups I have for my kids would look good on a open shelf. I like being able to hide my clutter.

  88. Monique says:

    Open shelving looks so pretty but I am short and I just can’t reach those upper shelves. I keep most of the dishes and other items I use on the lower shelves so I won’t have to grab a step stool.

    You asked for some suggestions for the “Timeless and Trendy” series so here are a few more to add to your list….bunny ear or karate chopped pillows; white painted woodwork; arm chairs at a dining room table (Aren’t wingback chairs difficult to move to/from the table? What about the food getting smeared on the white chairs?); Birds on pillows, curtains, dressers, buffets, everywhere; vases with dead tree limbs stuck in it. :-)

  89. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for today’s post. I have been planning a kitchen update and the bhg open selving picture is exactly what I want. I’m so excited. I have been mulling this over for a while and can’t wait to get started. However, mine will not include open selving (sorry to say). I do have one cabinet with a glass door and I plan to “update” this by adding vintage seed glass.

  90. Josee says:

    What I’ve found to be the key to easy maintenance open shelving in a kitchen are:
    1) Keep them away from your cooktop – mine are on the wall to the left of my sink above my dishwasher so when I unload I just put my dishes right up on my shelves which brings me to…

    2) Put out dishes that you like to look at and that you use daily. This way, they get used and washed daily and you don’t have to worry about dust or grime. My dishes are a combo of white and light apple green.

    3) I stack my white dishes together and green dishes and have them organized in a pretty way. Now everyone is so used to it, that stacking them back after they’ve been washed is easy-peasy.

    I’m slightly OCD when it comes to cleanliness and organization and I really, REALLY love my open shelves. It’s very practical for our family and I haven’t had any issues with dust or dirt or anything!

  91. SheilaG says:

    Sometimes a little impracticality is worth it for the aesthetics. However, not in this instance. Grease and dust just don’t seem like good playmates with open shelving. Plus, I’m short and oftentimes just kinda’ throw (plastic) bowls toward the upper shelves- the only shelf I can reach comfortably is the bottom one. So, my shelves just aren’t gonna’ be pretty. I’d rather save up for gorgeous cabinets and tile. But, I do love looking at all the open shelving designs, I just know it would never work for me. :)

  92. Robin says:

    It feels too cluttered for my taste. Plus the dust factor would drive the OCD out of the closet for me. Oh and the 2nd pic where you said you’d need a footstool? I think that’s what may be hidden in those lower drawers under the sink cabinets. So you’re good to go!

  93. Winifred says:

    Sunburst Mirrors: Trendy. They are everywhere! It is time to move on.

    Can’t wait to see your painted cabinet! I’m having serious junk store envy.

  94. Jenna says:

    A mix of traditional cabinets and open shelving makes the most sense I think. Plus, if you’re ever planning on putting your house on the market, I would think open shelves would deter buyers. Kitchen cabs are expensive, you know! Shelving is beautiful, but I think the only people who can get away with it are those who pay a kitchen staff to keep it clean.

  95. sarah says:

    i actually have open shelving in my kitchen, but it’s in the eating area…..and it’s for all things…cute canisters, a few dishes, etc.
    i love it, and definitely want to mix that with regular cabinets someday in our forever house.

  96. Juliette says:

    I am a HATER. I admit it.

    I lived with open shelving for 2 years in our first apt here in Germany and hated it with a passion. My husband is the clean freak, not me, but even I was going nuts over the amount of dust that collected. Don’t even get me started on the kitchen grease that made everything so sticky and opaque (we cook healthy and even had a fan, but since it wasn’t external, maybe it wasn’t enough?) -and our shelves were on the opposite wall; I won’t tell you what became of the vases and cake stands that were over the stove…

    We eventually hung a cable with fabric panel curtains to try to protect things on the main wall of shelves (and hide some of the visual clutter) and it helped a fair amount. The top shelves were still always bad though.

    The only section of open shelving that was fairly dust-free was a 4×12″ section where we kept our drinking glasses. We slid them in and out and the dust slid off with all the action. But there was always dust around the stacks of bowls and plates we used everyday.

    Maybe if I could afford a housekeeper to come 2x/week…. =)

  97. Kristin says:

    I love the look, but i couldn’t live with it. I have visual clutter issues and it would be too much for me. I have a hutch that I display some vintage jadeite and some vintage Limoge dishes that I don’t often use, but that is it. I dust them once a week. I think the look works if everything you have matches or goes well together. Unfortunately, I have a husband and son who love Tupperware cups that I wouldn’t want to be displayed. I am going to re[lace some doors with seeded glass panels to display some of my vintage stuff, but not my everyday stuff.

  98. Kristina says:

    I could drool over them all day long too! I love the look! I’m with you, however, on it being too hard to maintain. Not to mention I’m only 5ft tall! I would need a ladder to reach everything! You’d have to make sure every thing that you use in the kitchen matches your decor, also. I don’t know about everyone else, but things like my toaster and can opener arent pretty enough to be on display! I like the idea of having SOME open shelves to hold things that are pretty, the other things you can hide!

  99. Tiffany says:

    In theory, beautiful. In reality, pain in the ass. My husband likes to cook with high heat which means things go a-flying. Dust, grease= all over your beautiful dishes and whatever else you’ve got going on up there. I’ll take closed cabinets thank you.

  100. Rhonda says:

    I like the look in catalogs but it wouldn’t work for me in everyday life. Maybe in a beach cottage vacation home. I agree with the comments about dusting and cooking…and, my dishes are not the collection that I dream about either……
    One other thing I notice is that it really depends on the kitchen space. Sometimes I feel like the shelves do not balance the space and the lower cabinets end up looking clunky and the upper space feels like it is “lost”….not sure that makes alot of sense to anyone but me….LOL
    Just my 2 cents! Blessings Abundant!

  101. Andrea says:

    I think the chevron print is so treandy right now. You cannot go on a design blog without seeing it! I like a mostly classic home with punches of trendiness so it is easy to remove those items when they become dated. You do a good job of keeping your home classic with hints of trendy. Great job!

  102. Stephanie says:

    I ADORE the look and can see me rocking it in my kitchen IF I had no husband, children or dogs. I know if I lived all alone (where would be the fun in that?!) I could maintain this pretty look! However, with a 2 year old and 2 dogs underfoot, anything “pretty” lasts for about 10 minutes. Also, my husband would never keep the look maintained. He would grab something pretty – perhaps a display item – and put peanuts in them and take it out to the garage. Also, on the occasions where he empties out the dishwasher (he’s pretty good!), he’s never know where to put everything. (I’m one of those people that opens the cabinet doors with caution: You never know when a stack of sippy cups are going to topple over on your head!

    All in all, I love the look, but I’m with the “it’s too impractical” crowd.
    Beautiful pics and design, though!

  103. Shaunna says:

    Okay, I am loving my open shelves. Kinda scared to say that, though, lol. We do have our stove in the island, so there’s no direct cooking (grease, dust,etc,) directly under our dishes,etc. I removed my cabinet doors in Jan, so there’s a casing to protect them a little. I have 2 toddlers, so for me, I thought it would be impossible, but it just made me reorganize and shift things around. I cleaned out a huge drawer filled with appliances, gadgets we never used and sippy cups, travel mugs, and plastic cups went there. I added a couple of baskets to hide a few plastic cups in the open shelving….and got rid of twenty-something sippy cups…and we still have 15! Talk about unnecessary. Anyway, I’m totally cluttery now that I’m a mom, but the one place that stays clean is my kitchen (shelves, in particular). Everything has its place, and it’s quite simple to keep it that way. My husband loves tervis tumbler plastic cups, and you know, one or two of those might stay out, but that’s no big deal to me. We just put them away for parties/company. That’s been my fun success with open shelves…love them….will always have them in at least some part of my kitchen. :) Here’s the link….fun topic, friend! :-)


  104. Tarcia says:

    After we painted our cabinets, we went a few days with open cabinets. I like the way it looked and it made our small kitchen look so much bigger. For a second, I thought about keeping it that way. We just didn’t have enough space for the things that needed to stay behind doors, like sippy cups and less used items.

  105. Emily says:

    While I can admire the beautifully styled photos of open shelving, there is no way I could live with it! I want to hide the sippy cups behind a cabinet door!

  106. I love the open shelving in my kitchen. All of my clear glass and and white everyday dishes are displayed and easy to get. Since we use these items everyday their washed just about daily, so dust have time to collect. It also makes it easier for children unloading, and putting away the dishes. :) All my mismatch glasses, and sippy cups are in the cabinet hidden. :)

    When building our home this was also a budget cutter for us…shelves were less expensive than cabinets.

    I love my kitchen and how it functions for our family of almost 7. :)

  107. Jessica says:

    We removed the cabinet doors to the top kitchen cabinets at my last house and they looked beautiful. But those were all-wood custom cabinets built in the ’50s. In my current home (built in the ’80s), the inside of the cabinet isn’t in as good condition. We recently considered buying floating shelves and removing the cabinets until we noticed that the shelves had a 15 lb weight limit…just not practical.

  108. Caroline says:

    I do think that open shelves are trendy at the moment, but I also think they’re practical enough for the long haul. I think that the key to using open shelves is to have ample closed upper and lower cabinetry for all of the things you need to store in the kitchen that aren’t open-shelf-friendly, like tupperware. So as long as you have enough space to store all of the things that you don’t want out in the open, I think that open shelves are an excellent way to accessorize with functional items like dishes. I love collecting beautiful dishes, and my glass front and open shelves make me smile when I see all of the interesting finds and gifts I’ve collected over time.

  109. Kathy says:

    Love the look of the open shelving and may actually incorporate it into my kitchen, but I am concerned about the dust on the items that are used less frequently. I live in Middle TN and believe me, we have the dust! We are installing T-111 on the walls and painting it a beautiful red that matches my red Fiesta Ware dishes. It will look similar to your 3rd pic, only RED. Lower cabinets will be beautiful glossy white. Upper “cabinets” will either be glass front or open shelving, depending on how my budget looks when we get to that point!
    I’m leaning toward butcher block counter tops on at least some of my counters. Hard surface (soapstone?) on others.
    The good thing about being a DIYer is that you can try different things and/or change them, at a lower cost than having someone do the work for you.

  110. I do love the look of open shelves, but I live on 13 acres in El Dorado County. If I had open shelves, I’d be washing dishes forever – before and after using them! No thanks. I did, however, once paint a regular ol’ cabinet door to look like an open shelf – tuscan style – which was fun for me and the client. Nice trompe l’oeil and the best of both worlds :D

    Speaking of murals. . . that’s my one comment on DesignStar. The guy who painted the tree “mural” won the challenge. C’mon Kate. The idea was nice but some tape on the wall? Yes, it added verticality. But what about the staircase/nook area that Kellie treated? I thought that was waaay harder to deal with and she added style and warmth. Other than that, I was in total agreement with Julia.

    Oh, wait . . . tea light thingies on the wall? And she was the one who was so concerned with who was certified?!? oopsie daisie.

  111. Laura says:

    I move into a fairly large apartment 8+ years ago and it was so fab that I ignored the fact that it had a serious lack of kitchen/cupboard space. I have two narrow cabinets on either side of the stove…neither are suitable for dishes. The sink side of the kitchen has a pantry cupboard (very cool) floor to almost ceiling on one side and the requisite under-sink cupboard.

    My solution was to create a wall-to-wall open shelf system combined with a coffee prep and microwave area in the large dining room area. I used an antique vanity that is desk/table height flanked by two tall bookshelves. The system has worked for me for the entire time I’ve lived here. It holds all my dishes, coffee mugs, bakeware, cookbooks and my collection of Cooking Light magazines from 1995 to now.

    Yes, things get dusty but I do keep up with that trying to use my bakeware on a regular basis. For purely practical reasons, I managed to create a system that works every day and is esthetically pleasing…without breaking my budget.

  112. lizziebeth says:

    I think open shelving, which I love, is currently *hot* – but it has been around a long time so it’s also classic. I can use both my grandparents’ homes as an example. My dad’s parents lived in a home in a major city in the deep south. There was some open shelving in the kitchen on either side of the sink. But she also cabinets with solid doors (no glass). The pretty every day colorful dishes and platters were on the open shelves and all the things she didn’t want to be seen, as well as her formal china, were behind the closed cabinet doors. My mom’s parents lived in an old farmhouse in central Florida. It was also built in the 30s. My grandmother had more extensive open shelving on either side of the sink at her farm home. It was loaded with dishes, etc. and always looked fantastic to me. That old farmhouse is still lived-in by a family member and the shelving is going strong and still looks great. So it has been around at least since the 30s.

  113. Marcie says:

    I think you should do a segment about chalkboard. It’s everywhere lately!

  114. Leslie says:

    I felt like I was missing an option:) (indecisive much?) I SOMETIMES love the look if it is the right arrangement in the right style. The staged photos are almost always pleasant to look at but I can’t help but wonder about dust. So few things in my kitchen cabinets are truly used every day. I also think I would get overwhelmed by seeing so many items day in and day out also. I like the simplicity of a cabinet vs. stacks of dishes/cups for the most part.

  115. Nicole says:

    For the average family, this wouldn’t work. Most people don’t have the type of dishes that could be displayed like these pictures (which are beautifully staged, but staged nonetheless). We all have clutter. That odd collection of mugs, the leftover dishes from sets long ago retired. The plastic cups we use more than the glassware because the kids and pets knock them over on a regular basis. These are the real life instances when cabinetry is necessary. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good glass door every now and then to display the dishes that DO match. Or the the wine glasses and mugs that add that classic feel. But floating shelves are a definite no-go for me. They look great in pictures, but just don’t make sense for my style – eclectic clutter.

  116. Janice says:

    I just built a small kitchen for my apartment on the bottom floor of my daughter’s house. I LOVE it! All my dishes and serving items are white so it all looks nice. The shelves are above the sink and I especially like the convenience of everything being so accessible. Yes there is a bit if dust on the front part of the white shelves but i dust that easily with a micofiber wand. Except for the items on the top shelf, I’m not finding much dust on the dishes. And I LOVE the look – makes the space seem larger and more open and inviting. Everyone who has seen this little kitchen thinks it is sooo charming!

  117. Chelsea says:

    I took all the cabinet doors off in my apartment. They don’t look very attractive, but they *are* very practical for me. I have difficulty visualizing what is in which cabinet, so I end up opening every door, looking for what I need!

    The photos are not realistic at all, IMO. There are dishes, sure, but what about everything else? Cereal? Spices? Pasta? I don’t know many kitchens with enough storage to waste all the space on what is basically little more than decor. The idea could be very practical, OR it could be purely aesthetic. I’m doubtful it could be both.

  118. Amy says:

    We have open shelving and I love it! I only put things on the shelves that we actually use so everything gets used often enough that dust is not a problem. And I don’t just have it all shoved in haphazardly. It’s organized and coordinated and lovely, but easy to put everything back in it’s place so that it stays that way. If I could afford glass doors instead, I may do that. But for now, taking the cabinet doors off was a free way to revamp my kitchen. And even with glass doors, it still has to stay looking nice!

  119. Toni says:

    I have never been a big fan of open shelving in the kitchen. Even when items are attractively displayed, it’s too much visual clutter for me. I like things behind closed doors. Also, having to make sure everything always looked nicely arranged all the time would drive me crazy! :-)

  120. stacy says:

    we live in a small house with a small galley kitchen. one of the first thing i did was remove the cabinets on the sink side of the kitchen and put up simple white shelves. i love them. i way simplified when we downsized so what is on the shelves gets used. and because they are constantly in use with our family of five and regular visitors cleaning is not a problem at all. it made a huge difference in the feel of our kitchen as well. i do have two small upper cabinets opposite those on either side of the stove/microwave that house spices and mixing bowls. i’ve found it’s all i need. this from someone who used to think i needed every inch of space in the 38 cabinets in our previous kitchen.

  121. Laurel says:

    My biggest concern with open shelving in kitchens is DUST! If you decorate it with your seldom used pretty entertaining dishes, then they collect dust while not in use then you have to rinse them off when you do use them. I think it’s really pretty though!

  122. Lil says:

    I love the look but there is no way I’d have open shelving in my kitchen. It would be just too much hassle because everything has to be just so in order for open shelves to look good. Plus, the idea of keeping all those dishes clean, and the amount of dish washing I’d have to do pretty much drives the nail into the open shelving coffin for me.

  123. It’s cute, for sure, but really? My wine glasses get dusty and they live IN the cabinets. And you know that fine mist of grease that can get on anything near the stove area that requires constant cleaning…imagine that on everything. I think it’s so pretty to have open shelving, but it could not possibly be more impractical. I think the compromise is some cabinets with GLASS DOORS and interior lighting for areas that house the pretty dishes. That way you can see them and enjoy them without having to dust and wash them every week! Just sayin’!!

    Oh. You rule!

  124. I love the look, but I think it will be a trendy thing. Though I do get how practical they can be for your everyday dishes & cups and if you have collections that belong in the kitchen, it’s a great idea. It wouldn’t work for my kitchen. I don’t feel that I have a big enough kitchen or an airy enough kitchen to pull this off. Plus in my kitchen the only thing I would put on open shelving would be my everyday all white dishes and clear everyday glasses. Otherwise I want everything else behind solid cabinet doors.

    I love this kind of post. I would love to see more of these.

  125. Jonel says:

    I like open shelving and am considering them for the top cabinets my kitchen. My kitchen is really small and the cabinets are very tall 4 shelf making it hard to reach at 5’2.5″. I would best describe it as a hallway with my cabinets to your left and right and at then end is the stove (like a I-shape cause there is one cabinet on the opposite end of the stove). It’s actually seperated on addition to the house, next to the back porch. Since my stove is seperate from where the cabinets are I don’t anticipate as much grime being a factor if the where a lot closer (the tile near the stove, is a different story…). Also, dust really doesn’t bother me that much. For one, I always rinse my dishes/glasses/cups off before I use them and currently we have closed cabinets. I am odd like that I guess. I am honestly not OCD (quite far from it actually) but I find it odd that people would just use the plates/cups/utensils without rinsining them.

  126. Jackie B says:

    I love my glass doors on my cabinets. Not everywhere. Just a sprinkling. And no white-out on the glass. I love the look of mottled glass with a few bubbles here and there. And as for your end table, bring on that turquoise-ish blue!!!! Did I guess correctly? BTW, Carmel by the Sea was to die for. As was Big Sur. I do not think I can cross them off my bucket list just yet because I must see them again. And again. Even though they are across the country. Thanks for the suggestions.

  127. Brandi says:

    I think my stuff would get too dusty and greasy, like the items I keep on top of my shelves…with 5 kids, I just don’t have time to do that much cleaning! But, I LOVE the look of open shelving…especially in rustic and country styles.

  128. I totally LOVE open shelves and they are so handy to use on a day to day basis…

  129. ann says:

    I tried doing this in my last home , taking off the doors on several caninets and painiing the insides to create open shelves. Not for me. It just ended up looking cluttery and messy…maybe because behind closed doors I am cluttery and messy! Real life, for me, is not an open shelf look. That being said, I admire the look in magazines.

  130. Skooks says:

    My last home was a rental and the landlord had already removed all the cabinets on top before we moved in so we were forced to live with open shelving. I organized it and it looked pretty ok, but not everything I own is all matchy matchy nor is it all coordinated, so it felt a bit cluttery for my liking. Also – – kids dishes totally wreck the look (oy – the sippy cups). There was the dust thing too, but for us that wasn’t the biggest issue. It did make the small kitchen feel larger which was nice. I guess you just need to decide what’s more important for you. And if it won’t bug you to see the knicks and chips in your dishes every time you look at the shelves.

  131. Teresa says:

    I had an open shelf cabinet built in my kitchen with the intent of using it for display space. I actually use it for my everyday white dishes & love the fact they are out in the open. Since we use the dishes on top of each stack almost daily they do not get dusty. The only piece that I rinse before using is the gravy boat … because I don’t serve gravy very often.

  132. Allison says:

    If you have a kitchen that you don’t actually cook in, the open shelves are lovely and charming. However, if you actually prepare food to cook and use your cooktop, they’re not very practical. Food is messy. You find it where you least expect it. Kitchens can get messy very quickly and open shelving would just be too much to maintain.

  133. Lisa says:

    I can see using open shelving for something like a vacation home, or office, etc. But for everyday use at an everyday home? I think it’s impractical. Of course for staging and magazine shots it looks fantastic! But I for one have too many dishes, etc I use everyday and for entertaining to not have my trusty upper cabinetry. But to have a few open shelves, for displaying knick knacks, vases etc, it makes sense.

  134. I have one open shelf for my everyday dishes and I love it (you can see it here: http://jenniferleighdesign.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/dreaming-of-a-white-kitchen/ ) Other than that, I personally wouldn’t like another dust collector.

  135. Mari says:

    Timeless or Trendy: Floor-to-ceiling curtains/drapes vs. standard a few inches above the window curtains/drapes

  136. Layla says:

    I have a t-shirt that says, “I love my open cabinets”.

    The end.



    PS- You know I’m joking, but for realz, you know what I’m sayin. :-)

  137. Jan says:

    I love the look of open shelving but all I can think about is the extra dusting I would have to do.

  138. I think it comes down to lifestyle. If you have dishes that you love and want to display and use all the time, then they are getting washed and won’t have time to collect dust. I took cabinets down on one wall in my tiny galley kitchen because the kitchen isn’t cute, it’s old and I think shelves will look better, plus open it up. Notice I said “will look better”. I get inspired and start projects that don’t get finished quickly!

  139. Katharine says:

    I had my kitchen painted by my sister and her bf (he’s a contractor and helped with the floors and counters). I asked if I should get open shelves and she looked at me like I was nuts. The inside of my cabinets are always crazy and she knows I’m not the neatest person. I think to keep that looking good you have to be a minimalist and tall. I have my dishes in the pass through cabinet. It’s a pain when I’m unloading the dishwasher, but I’m too short for me to reach the shelves. Cabinet is 25 inches high instead of the normal 18 inches. If the cabinets were dropped they would have been normal height. If I had the money I’d have cabinets that went from the ceiling to 18 inches over the counter. As it is I have more cabinets than most but I can never reach anything with out a step-stool. I can’t believe how many comments you got and here I’m writing a novel. oops!

  140. Hannah says:

    Seems to me like you woul dhave to dust your dishes before actually eating off of them!!

  141. Nikki says:

    I feel like we could be best friends lol. I have been looking at the open shelf kitchens lately because mine are so horrid. I defiantly think its timeless. that’s the way it was waaay back in the day. plus it gives you an excuse to have cool dishes and to change them often. what women doesn’t love that.

  142. April says:

    THANK YOU!!! for posting this today! I have always loved open shelving and had forgotten about it for a long time since I had young kids. Well. Now that I no longer have young kids I am SO doing this!!! I emailed my mom as soon as I saw this and said let’s get going on this next! LOL
    I love this!!

  143. Kim says:

    One day I decided to take the cabinet doors off and display my collection of white dishes and serving pieces. I LOVED it. Hubby HATED it. I ended up putting the doors back on, but man, do I still love how it looked. You can see it here:


  144. Heather says:

    I love the look… and I recently just switched over to some open cabinets. Only the ones for my pretty dishes that do get used every day. I made sure I didn’t open too many where I felt like I lost space due to having to keep to many open spaces clean an pretty. I made sure I wasn’t lacking in the storage space. Kitchen renovations are still under way but I’m having a blast painting my cabinets, painting my floor and opening up some cabinets so it’s not one big wall of doors.

  145. Libby says:

    We have open shelving in our kitchen…I’m of two minds regarding hating it or liking it. I think it only looks nice when everything on the shelves is the same color or style. So, for now I store only white dishes on the shelves, and everything else goes into cabinets under the counters.

  146. Joanna May says:

    We’ve removed the doors off our [slanted] cupboards and we love them. We painted the back of the cupboards a contrasting color [navy]. It helps that all our dishes, plates, bowls and mugs are white, and our glasses match. I have two baskets for that tupperware stuff – lids in one, containers in the other. I also display my cookbooks, and have an elaborate spice shelf. I use another basket for “mix” packages, you know, gravy mix, spices packages, cheese sauce, what have you.

  147. Gloria says:

    We have open shelves in the corners of our kitchen. I have dishes I enjoy seeing as well as Pyrex mixing bowls on another shelf. I don’t mind when some are in use, because my kitchen is a work place. Just like in a restaurant kitchen, I want to grab what I need quickly.

    I’ve added a couple of links to mine and my daughter’s blogs so you can see them in action.

  148. Allison says:

    I honestly get both sides of this debate but feel as if having open shelving would push me to simplify my life! I look forward to the day when we can build or buy a home and choose open shelving :) Time saved opening and shutting doors, no danger in hitting your head when someone leaves a door open, all white dishes, no obvious questions being asked about where do you keep your glasses, and imagine how much cheaper it would be to save on all that cabinetry!!!!

  149. Amanda says:

    I love the idea, but I think it would be best suited for retail, a coffee shop, or a B&B. Somewhere where you’re advertising what you’ve got, but using it too. Like an old school apothecary shop. :)

  150. cinde says:

    I love my restaurant style open shelving- nearly everyone who’s posted is right- it can be dusty and it needs to be organized to work but that doesn’t mean it can’t be functional. Proper planning can make it practical- namely downsizing and some hidden storage.
    Most people have too much in general but especially in the kitchen. I only kept what we really need and the mismatchy stuff (cereal bowls or sippy cups) store under the island- bakeware & foodstuff in lower cabinets.
    When we reno’d the kitchen we wanted it to have an open look- removing the upper cabinets made it look brighter and spacey and it is not visually cluttered at all. But it does lends itself more to certain styles like modern or rustic- a traditional kitchen may not rock the look as well. Nor does it work for those who love to gadgets or can’t give up a lot of stuff even if they don’t use it regularly.
    In my case the wine glasses do get dusty because they aren’t used enough. But I found that they got dusty in my cabinet too and I still had to wash them before using. Now I will run them thru the dishwasher every couple of wks b\c they’re on display. But it’s only 8 glasses and 3 decorative items that I need to wipe down- everything else is used frequently or in closed storage.

  151. secret agent girl says:

    Too busy-looking for me; I’ve got a headache just looking at the pictures. And any “design” idea that causes more work is so not a winner in my book.

  152. i have 3 open shelves in my kitchen- we’ve been here almost 2 years, and i still love them. i keep them pretty well filled unless we have a large group for dinner. then i just prop a platter or large bowl in the empty space to look pretty! the only items that get dusty are the casserole dish, less used pitcher and stack of pretty vintage snack plates that i only use on occasion. they just rinse before use & i’m ready to go! i love the shelves, but it’s like any other design feature… i like it & others don’t & that’s fine! : )

  153. notemily says:

    My problem is – I foster kittens! They’d make short work of this “open” shelving concept and turn it into “everything on the floor” shelving. I imagine those with kids might feel similarly.

  154. Annalea says:

    I’m planning on open shelving in my kitchen . . . but it’s a very small space, and I will only put things on those shelves that I use often enough for them to not get dusty. ;o) No staging necessary. The dishes will always be done b/c there won’t be a dishwasher, and there isn’t room on the counter for dirty ones hanging around.

    I could never have open shelving for long-term (i.e. pretty-only, or occasional-use) storage. Hello, extra work. I need spaces that conform themselves to the way I live so my time isn’t consumed with serving objects instead of objects serving me!

  155. Jackie says:

    I had open shelves in a kitchen a few years ago and hated them. I had to get glass jars for all of my dry foods..flour, pasta, etc, and keep all the cans and things under the counter where I had cabinets with doors. Everything had to be dusted at least weekly and washed every other week. That meant climbing up to the highest shelves and taking my stemware down. It was a hassle and a half.

  156. keira says:

    My home was built in the 1950’s and I love it but my kitchen cabinets were plain wood and went to the ceiling. Hated how closed off it made my tiny galley kitchen look so I removed the doors, filled the holes from the screws and painted the insides, outsides and backsplash (beadboard) all the same creamy off white color. All of my plates/dishes are white with clear glasses. I have a few pewter pieces (pitcher and cake stand etc) showing as well… but I love the look. Making my kids put dishes away neatly is not the easiest but it’s worth the 2 minutes to rearrange as it makes my kitchen look 100 times larger now. Would deff recommend it to anyone with a small kitchen.

  157. amyp says:

    In my current kitchen, I have a mix of open shelving, closed cabinets, and glass front cabinets. While it works for this room, I would much prefer having a large pantry for all of my dry goods, occasional use items (for me baking dishes/pans would be in that category), and most better china. I would definitely keep the open shelving for often used items. I prefer a clean, spare kitchen and expanses of upper cabinet boxes are just too visually bulky for me, making the kitchen seem too closed-in and cluttered. I also really enjoy the area of the kitchen that needs upper cabinet essentially being turned into a large piece of furniture where the upper cabinets are connected to the counter as a hutch. Massing storage seems more practical for the way I use my kitchen. I really do think that we’re about to see a revolution in kitchen design that will make our kitchens much more practical and attractive. Whatever works best for each of us in our own kitchens will be more important that having the traditional suburban American kitchen.

  158. Amy says:

    Uggggh open shelves! Years ago, when I was about 13, I wanted a summer job (so industrious!), so my aunt hired me to be her mother’s helper/light housekeeping person. She had a modern house with lots and lots of open shelving, and one of my jobs was to clean — err, SCRUB — the open shelves.

    It. Was. Disgusting.

    My aunt and uncle cooked a lot, but didn’t have great ventiliation in the kitchen (this was also about 1985). Every bit of kitchen grease, dust, and general filth landed on the items on the open shelving. It took me 2 days, with rubber gloves and Mr. Clean, to clean the shelves and every item on them. Did I mention that they had 2 full walls of open shelving?

    Now, every time I see open shelving…. shudder.

  159. Allison says:

    Honestly, the Martha pic is the most ridiculous in my opinion. I literally laughed out loud when I saw it. I’m sure this isn’t really her kitchen otherwise she has a real caffeine addiction going on. Because, honestly, who in their right mind would need 4 espresso makers, and there must be like 30 espresso cups there. Is she running coffee shop out of her home? Sorry for the tangent just had to point out the ridiculousness of it!

  160. spiceylg says:

    While agree the looks can be nice, making it look bigger and more open, my first thought was another spot to collect dust and/or grease. No thanx. If anything, I’d have it for cookbooks and a few decorative items only in a very small area.

  161. kmeemsie says:

    Please, oh please, oh please, could you tell me about the backsplash tile in the Alice Lane picture?

  162. karenr says:

    i’m an American living in Sweden. Courtesy of the fact that EVERYONE has an IKEA kitchen-this look is soooooo prevalent over here as to be dominant- expected and rather dull- looking for new interpretations, frankly. Over here- on some level this has always been the look in an older home. None of that wall-to-wall walnut cabinets like we are more used to in the States….
    I DO have to say, NOT having big old heavy cabinets on walls is soooooo REFRESHING! a combo of both is nice- mixes the textural appearance of the wall and provides visual variation. Keep the open shelving AWAY from places that might get grease accumulation- and it’s not nearly as difficult or challenging as you might think!

  163. Cleo B says:

    I hate the open shelving concept. To much of a dust collector and quite frankly, I don’t want to spend my time cleaning. I have better things to do.

  164. kAY says:

    Love the look of open shelving but what if a fly slips in the door as you are going out the door. A single fly drives me up the wall and I’ll lurk for as long as it takes flyswatter in hand until I nail it.

  165. Fabulous post and interesting poll results! I’ve got this linked to my open shelving post as well today, for inspiration.

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