Design Dilemma: Open Shelving in the Kitchen | Home Design Find

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Design Dilemma: Open Shelving in the Kitchen

openshelfkitchen how to tips advice

In the last few years, open shelving in kitchens has become a trendy way to distinguish your cooking digs from the same old boring kitchens (with cabinets) that most of us have. Open shelves are stylish, distinctive and confidently casual.  But wait. Open shelving in kitchens, while uber-cool, also provides special challenges that you might consider before ripping off your cabinet doors. Is open shelving right for you? Here are the things you need to keep in mind:

Open shelving can look good if:

1.) You’re organized. For this look to work well, your kitchen shelves need to be treated almost like a display case. Creating an eye-pleasing arrangement of glasses, dishes  and pots and pans is mandatory.

2.) You have a nice set of matching dishes. If you have a chic set of white dishes, or a fun set of Fiestaware, open shelving is the perfect way to show it all off.

3.) You cook enough so that your dishes are constantly getting washed rather than collecting dust. If you rarely cook, having dishes out collecting dust is probably not very practical, unless you are prepared to wash all your dishes next time you finally do decide to cook.

4.) Your kitchen is a restful neutral color as a backdrop. If you look around, you’ll notice that kitchens that feature open shelves are often all white. Why? Because the busyness of open shelving can be balanced by a serene neutral interior done up all in one color. if you’ve got a lot going on in terms of color — in tile, countertops, appliances, etc., you might stick with cabinets to help pull everything together.

openshelfkitchen3 how to tips advice

5.) You don’t pan-fry a whole lot. If you like to cook big stovetop dishes that involve hot oil, open shelving may not be for you. Grease splatter from everyday cooking can become quite a challenge when it’s time to use a rarely-used pot set out above the stove.

6.) You live informally. Open kitchen shelving is definitely an informal look. If the rest of the feeling of your home is very formal, open shelves in the kitchen may feel a little off-kilter.

7.) You are in the habit of storing many of your dry foodstuffs in glass or ceramic canisters. Glass canisters filled with pasta, rice, sugar and flour can look elegantly homespun. But boxes of pasta, bags of rice and sacks of flour look less uniform and decidedly less cool. Actually, it looks pretty junky.

8.) You do it in moderation. Having a few open shelves doesn’t mean everything has to be open. The key to making this look work is to pick and choose what sits out visible to the world. You may want to display a pretty set of pitchers but you probably don’t want all your ketchup bottles, canned goods and cooking oils set out for everyone to see. In most cases, you’ll retain a separate pantry or bottom cabinets to stow away foodstuffs and boxes.

Does this sound like you? If so, you may be a good candidate for open shelving. If not, consider other options to gussy up your kitchen digs, including painting your cabinets an interesting color or investing in glass cabinet doors.

Images: LivingEtc; Daniel Farmer.

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4 Comments so far to “Design Dilemma: Open Shelving in the Kitchen”
  1. Sally@DivineDistractions Says:

    Great post. Open is not for everyone, and I've had more clients who want to cover up than expose! I''m saving your advice to pass on to others as I think it covers the most salient issues. Kitchens have to function FIRST, and it's the good designer who is able to make them beautiful as well !

  2. Frank Hanlan Says:

    I would rather have cupboards with adjustable shelves than open ones.

  3. Beth Says:

    I'm usually not a big fan of open shelf storage, but since it works well in the space we're planning on using it in our new kitchen. I'm just hoping to avoid them getting overly cluttered.

  4. Connie Says:

    I love some open storage, my kitchen has some white shelves and that´s where I lay my beautiful dishes and some glass canisters. I bought new glasses a few weeks ago and it was really simple: I just chose the ones that would look great on the shelf 😉

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