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. 






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

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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!

  4. 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! :-)


  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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. :)

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. Marcie says:

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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. 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.

  19. 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!

  20. 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! :-)

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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.

  24. 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!

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

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

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. Mari says:

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

  37. 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. :-)

  38. Jan says:

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

  39. 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!

  40. 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!

  41. Hannah says:

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

  42. 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.

  43. 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!!

  44. 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:


  45. 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.

  46. 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.

  47. 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.

  48. 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.

  49. 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!!!!

  50. 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. :)

  51. 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.

  52. 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.

  53. 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! : )

  54. 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.

  55. 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!

  56. 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.

  57. 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.

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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!

  61. 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.

  62. kmeemsie says:

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

  63. 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!

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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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