Would open shelving work for you?

March 30, 2015

I don’t know if it’s because it’s finally spring or that the sun is out again or that the temps are finally warming up (for good this time), but I’m getting really excited to start working on more kitchen projects. I’m tackling building in the fridge next but what I’m really dreaming about is taking down the microwave and cabinets above the oven:
extending a kitchen island
My plan is to put a microwave in the island, add a hood where that was and then replace the cabinets with open shelving. I know this idea isn’t for everyone but I am SO excited to see it come together. I think it will really lighten that side of the room and will add to the functionality of our kitchen.
I’ve done my research though – if you are thinking of open shelves I suggest you consider some of these aspects (good and bad, depending on what you like) that I have. I’m covering the biggies here, with some pretty pictures for eye candy. :)
First up, yes, the shelves will be near the stovetop:
open shelving around stove
I’ve been warned about greasy messes from cooking, but really the only cooking that would be an issue is pan frying. I don’t fry much – at least nothing intense that causes a big mess. Well, I take that back – about twice a year I make prime rib and I do fry that to get it started, but I’ve figured out how to cover it to minimize the mess.
If you are constantly cleaning grease off of your stove or the wall behind it, the open shelves may not be for you (at lease in that spot).
Also, I’m not adding these throughout the whole kitchen. I think it can be done beautifully but we have too much stuff that isn’t pretty that I need to hide away. I’m just doing the one area as an accent.
I love the idea of having shelves above a sink like this!: stainless shelving kitchen
If you don’t have a window above your sink this is a lovely option:
open shelving above kitchen sink BHG 
(This is a blogger’s kitchen, I can’t remember the name! Let me know if you know.)

My favorite use of open shelving is when they are combined with upper cabinets as well.
Another thing to think about – do you like your dishes? Do you keep them fairly organized?:
wood slab shelving kitchen
If the answer is no and you don’t want to buy new dishes, then I’d say stick with cabinets. I don’t want a perfect look though – our dishes will not be all white, although it’s beautiful:
I need contrast so ours will be a mix of colors that work with the space. (AKA, the dishes we already have.)
Some question how dirty the shelves and plates will get – I don’t think that’s an issue if you’re actually using the items on the shelves, which we plan to do. I hope to keep glasses, bowls and plates on ours. Our kitchen isn’t a big dust magnet in our home anyway, so that doesn’t concern me at all.
If they were just for looks, maybe. But ours will be functional for sure.
One more consideration – do you have enough cabinet space elsewhere? Some say you lose space when you take away cabinets but I don’t think that’s always the case. I’ve planned ours out in my head and we’ll have the same amount of surface area if not more. Right now our cabinets on that wall are different widths and when I’m done it will be more symmetrical (therefore adding a bit more storage).
I’m not sure of the size just yet (it will depend on the hood that we get), but even if they’re smaller I’ll still have plenty of room for stuff: 
farmhouse open shelves kitchen
Overall I think they are going to go a long way to brightening and opening up our kitchen even more. I cannot WAIT to get started on that part!!
There are so many options when it comes to open shelves – floating or brackets, industrial or farmhouse, white or stain. I haven’t figured out all the details just yet. I think I’ve found brackets that I want to use but I love this idea as well!:
white open shelves kitchen
Isn’t that cool? I love this look!
There’s a lot to consider when adding even a few open shelves to a kitchen. I don’t do anything in our house without thinking on it for eternity…it’s a curse and a blessing. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to love them. I can see the finished product in my head and it looks really great. ;)
Do you have any open shelving in your kitchen? Are you considering them for your home?
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  1. I LOVE open shelving. Actually, that's all I have in my kitchen - zero uppers. We have a TON of lower cabinets plus a walk-in pantry so storage isn't an issue. I'm very happy with our choice - it makes the kitchen feel so open. Especially around the window - I think uppers around a window really close in a kitchen. I really like the simple look so it fits in perfectly. I did buy new dishes - all white and we use blue and green ball jars for drinking glasses that add a little pop of color. Can't wait to see your kitchen finished!

  2. I have been considering open shelving for my kitchen. I hesitate to do it because we would have to remove one section of cabinets and I get behind on dusting sometimes, lol...so I worry I'll regret losing storage and having a space I might need to constantly clean. I'm just not sure yet!

  3. I live in downtown Indy in an apartment that has open shelving along with cabinets. I have my everyday dishes on them along with wine glasses. I don't have issues with dust on my dishes, but occasionally have to rinse out my wine glasses before using them. We are in the process of building with Pulte in Brownaburg and am trying to figure out a place for open shelving in that new house. Thanks for all the inspiration I am an avid reader and love reading a blog from my home town.

  4. I just bought the paint to redo my kitchen cabinets- they are white, but have gotten "chippy" over the years. I am tempted to take the doors off some of the upper cabinets to see if I like the open look. The question I would have is whether to save the old doors and get enough of the new handles and hinges to be able to put things back together for resale issues.

    A few weeks back, you had a post on spray painting. I've been going nuts - painting outside tables, old flower pots, birdbath, etc. to brighten up the front garden area. I'm trying dark bronze paint to redo some of the heat registers - much cheaper than buying new items!

    1. We did that with our old house. Took off the cabinet doors and saved them. Put them back on when we went to sell. I think open cabinets to lots of people will just look like the doors are missing :) Really need shelves to make it look permanent.

  5. I love the open shelves in kitchens and would love to do it in ours. However we have no where for the microwave to go. I could modify our island (3 large drawers) and fit the microwave there but don't know if I'd go that far just to get the shelves. Decisions, decisions!

  6. I am obsessed with open shelving. It doesn't make sense in my kitchen so I put up some in our dining room and I love, love, love them. They hold our stemless wineglasses, champagne glasses, good napkins, gravy boat, fancy serving platter and several other things. Dust hasn't been a big issue.

  7. It all depends on the person and the functionality it will serve for them. I personally love the open shelve & cabinet look, so then you can hide some of the ugly and keep all the pretty out to see :)
    I love them for small kitchen especially because it's light and refreshing and keeps the space open and feel larger.

    Lauren | LB Designs

  8. we are building a house next year and i am SO going open shelves all the way.

  9. Open shelving looks so lovely and you have some great options/ideas! I have a friend who just yanked out cabinets and put open shelves and now regrets it because the open shelves became and open invitation for her cats to jump up there and knock stuff off. In a million years I never would have thought of that! She didn't either.

  10. I HATE OPEN SHELVES, would not want them and would NOT buy a home with them. I love your blog but I hate the idea of open shelves, sorry I am a Debbie downer. I think they are way to trendy, way two many issues to have them in an open kitchen like you have. BTW I am a home stager and designer. I am sure whatever you do will look nice just not for me or people I work with.

  11. I think open shelves in your kitchen will be great - you seem to have an ideal space for them. My kitchen is so teensy (luckily it's just me) there's no way I can lose any cabs for open shelves - need the closed storage - but I do like them. I have glass doors on some cabs and that look gives me somewhat the same feeling as open shelves.

  12. I don't have open shelving, but those gorgeous photos sure make a good case for it! Especially the last photo with the gray bottom cabinets and the light and bright open shelves. Can't wait to see what you put together!

  13. I'm excited about this transformation mostly because of your hood! Our above oven microwave broke about a month ago and I'm trying to convince my husband to take out the upper cabinet and put in a hood (and hide our microwave in our pantry). He thinks it will be a pain as our microwave vents outside lower than a hood would. So I'm interested in seeing if you plan on installing your own hood and how you solve that dilemna. :)

    I like open shelves and would like to do them in a future basement kitchen someday since I would not need as much storage downstairs.

  14. I'm excited about this transformation mostly because of your hood! Our above oven microwave broke about a month ago and I'm trying to convince my husband to take out the upper cabinet and put in a hood (and hide our microwave in our pantry). He thinks it will be a pain as our microwave vents outside lower than a hood would. So I'm interested in seeing if you plan on installing your own hood and how you solve that dilemna. :)

    I like open shelves and would like to do them in a future basement kitchen someday since I would not need as much storage downstairs.

  15. I love the effortless look, but I'm not sure it's practical at least for me haha!


  16. Great article, Thanks for your great information, the content is quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

  17. Here's your missing source: http://www.fleamarkettrixie.com/2011/02/kitchen-reveal.html?spref=pi

    I love the look of open shelving! Sorry about posting as Anonymous but I don't remember my Google password!

  18. Nope, not for me at all! My house does get too dusty and pet hair gets everywhere. On top of that, although I don't fry a lot, just cooking daily, somehow grease, steam or something just makes stuff stick everywhere. I don't have a large kitchen and things are crammed in my cabinets as it is. I don't want to have to worry about keeping it so neat all the time. Plus, for me, I don't go with whatever the trend is at the time. I'm usually not so crazy about those looks.

  19. I am a million percent onboard with your plan and all your careful consideration. Can't wait to see it! One small aside: I think the diffrence in space is not just the sq footage but the way open vs closed space is used. We tend to cram the maximum amount of stuff behind closed doors while carefully displaying neat, evenly spaced stacks and elegantly styled features on open shelves! That being said I am very jealous - I dont even have the {housekeeping} discipline to use the tops of my cabinets!!!

  20. I like the look of open shelves but the OCD in me would be concerned about dust, hair and certainly the pet hair that could drift up.

  21. I don't think I could do open shelving - maybe only for decor and probably not on the main kitchen walls. But I like the look! I also have cats who would RUIN anything I had up there with climbing/jumping/playing. Are you concerned about your cats? Esp Colby?!

  22. It always looks very nice in the pictures ... but they are staged. It's just not practical every day life to me. I would be very concerned about dirt and dust (I have 2 cats and a German Shepherd) who sheds his weight in hair every year. Also, I can envision those shelves being a new cat perch to escape and tease the dog!

    But, you always make everything look so nice and never do anything without a ton of thought and consideration. I can't wait to see what you do!

  23. We have open shelving in both the main house and the cottage - it really opened the space up, made both kitchens appear bigger and brighter. Now when I see a bank of wall cabinets in a kitchen, it looks so 'heavy' and sometimes dark. We have had no problems with dust or other floating debris, and cooking on the stove hasn't made the open shelves right next to it any dirtier than any other cabinetry in the kitchen. I don't think I'd ever go back to regular wall cabinets.

  24. I LOVE the look and convenience of open shelving, but it is not an option for my kitchen (although I wish it was). We do have open shelving in other areas of our home and, even with two dogs and a cat, pet hair and feline curiosity have not been an issue for us. I cannot wait to see pics of your finished kitchen. I'm sure it will be delectable!

  25. So glad you wrote about this. Here's how mine turned out: http://www.southerncolonial.blogspot.com/2015/03/kitchen-reveal-phase-ii.html

  26. No open shelving for me. I get dust on my wineglasses in a closed cabinet--I can't imagine what would build up in just a week on an open shelf. Plus I have a nosy, naughty cat--that's the real dealbreaker right there! Closed cabinets with/without glass doors are my preference!

  27. You will be dusting everything on those shelves at least twice a week. Too much goes on in the kitchen and stuff gets blown around. And it lands in glasses, on plates, in mugs. ivagree with the microwave placement change, but not too much lower. Unless you don't use it much. Mine is at face level and I love it, but it isn't over the cooktop. That's why ripping it out and putting it back together with placement you like better is the best solution. Can you put something shiny up top to reflect some light back. I had a friend mirror the walls above her cabinets. It was beautiful.

  28. I love open shelving in other people's kitchen, but I don't think I would do it in mine. A lot of my mugs, dishes, etc are mismatched and sentimental and are happiest behind closed cabinet doors. :)

  29. DON'T DO IT!!! Forget the grease, the worst part is the constant wiping of water droplets off everything from the condensation. Pasta is the main culprit.

  30. Built new and moved in in March 2014. All open shelves in kitchen. I think I've cleaned the open shelves twice, MAYBE, in one year. We only keep out what we use daily....new Fiestaware dishes combined with vintage Pyrex dishes as well as organic spices in glass bottles. Colorful, functional, frankly, who in the heck wants to spend any time cleaning?? Open shelves is the only way to go. Anybody who claims otherwise without having open shelves is speaking from speculation only.

  31. I have had open shelves unintentionally while we have been reprinting cabinets. So I can tell you while it's great in theory, it's not practical. The amount of dust that collects is insane. And This is from someone who is always on top of my housework. Even with that, the dust gets out of control on the shelves and dishes.


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