Open Shelving in the Kitchen- the great debate

28 Jul 2012
Wow.  Our house is officially for sale today!!!  I'm feeling really great about it.  But putting your house on the market makes you take another look at it, from a buyer's point of view and makes you analyze every little thing.  I used to do real estate staging & a large part of it is de-personalizing the home vs. making it unique & personal (which is what I do now.)  One of the things I think that's more personal & taste-specific in our home is the open shelving in our kitchen. (In our kitchen we have a mix of open shelving and upper cabinets but the main wall is all open shelving.)

{our kitchen}

People seem to have very strong opinions about doing open shelving in the kitchen instead of upper cabinets.  They either seem to love it or hate it.



I thought I'd share my experience with them since I've had them for three years now.



I orginally opted for open shelving because I wanted to give my kitchen an open & airier feeling. It's a great way to make a kitchen feel larger.  My kitchen felt a bit confined & heavy to me so I wanted to visually lighten it up.  The assymetrical angle of my kitchen ceiling looked too awkward with a row of dark upper cabinets calling attention to it. 

{my kitchen "before" with the awkward angles}

SO.. I thought I'd give it a go, more for form over function but I ended up loving the "function" side of it too!

{my kitchen "after" with open shelving}


One of my favorite things about open shelving is that I can see everything at a glance.  Guests too can grab what they need easily or put things back without searching through every cabinet. 


One of the biggest "cons" I've heard brought up about open shelving is that your things "get dusty" and dirty with cooking grime.  Dusty & grimey things have never been an issue for us in our kitchen.  We use almost everything on our shelving daily or weekly and it comes off of the shelf perfectly clean because it's constantly getting use.  I store a few barely-used items on my upper shelf and when I take them down once or twice a year, there is some dust on them and I simply rinse them off before using them.  (Just as I have to rinse off the rarely-used items in my dining room sideboard before use.)  Friends of mine who have open shelving have said the same thing.  I find it's people who've never actually had it (or who don't frequently use the things on their shelves) who seem to worry the most about this "dust" issue.


I also love the look of functional beauty in open shelving.  A kitchen is for cooking and eating & so I love seeing my "tools" displayed around me. 



I have collected my platters and bowls and pitchers over time and love being able to enjoy them even when they're not in use.  I think they're beautiful and I didn't want to hide them in cabinets.


Working in our kitchen is so easy because everything is within reach and I can get to it quickly.  (In our house, we move like crazy people.  It seems we're almost always rushing -gotta change that- and I can grab things off the shelves like  a speed demon.)  Putting away the dishes now seems like so much less of a chore than it did when I was putting everything into cabinets. 

{Sally Wheat}

Another "con" I've heard about open shelving is that it looks cluttered.  I think this is more a matter of personal taste.  For me, I think the key to our open shelving looking good is that we've limited what types of items we put on our shelves.  (In our kitchen I have white ware, glass ware and stainless steel for the most part and I sometimes mix in other colors/ materials seasonally.)  I do have some patterned and colorful dishes on my open shelving but from standing in the kitchen, they are viewed from the side and from below, so they look white.  However, there are some open-shelved kitchens look great because the homeowners are less rigid with what they put on their shelves and they come across as charming and homey: 


I reserve closed drawers and cabinets for food items and kitchen appliances and my open shelves for the things we use all the time.

As with many things in design, I don't think think there's a general wrong or right in uppers vs shelving, just wrong or right for certain people. 


Personally, I won't ever be without my open shelving in the kitchen (and plan to do it again in our new house because it's perfect for our busy, casual lifestyle- once you go open, you never go back ;) ;)  but it's all in the eye of the beholder.

xoxo, Lauren

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