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. 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.

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