Open for Display

The kitchen is the hub of activity in most homes. But this family also needed space for an accidental collection, serious art, and a bunch of koozies.
Amy Bickers Mercer

Retailers know how to reel us in. They don’t hide their wares. They position them prettily on shelves and tables. But too often, we bring home our fav¬orite finds only to hide them behind cabinet doors. Former shop owner Mary Brooks Jamison shows us her Virginia kitchen where practicality pairs perfectly with presentation.

Wide Open Spaces
The thought of open shelves in a kitchen can send a chill down the spine of even the most organized homeowner. But here’s the dish: The secret lies in the mix.

“It is easy to handle open display when you have enough closed space to hide the not-so-pretty items,” Mary Brooks says. “The key is to know how much openness you can handle before it gets messy!”

And you don’t have to be type A to get this A-plus look. “I would not call myself that organized, but I achieved the look I wanted and I haven’t changed it since,” says Mary Brooks. “That is a big difference from the retail world where I constantly had to rearrange things to appeal to customers.”

Unexpected Collections
As part of any renovation project, take the time up front to evaluate what you want to store and what you’d like to display. It also helps to put some professionals on the case. Mary Brooks worked with designer Tyler Fonville McNeely and Scott Ukrop, president and CEO of Grace Street Home Additions.

Don’t be afraid to make a wish list that matches the way you really live. “The team at Grace Street laughed at one of the drawings Tyler and I gave them that included a drawer for kitchen towels and koozies,” Mary Brooks says.

The open cabinets flanking the cooktop and the glass cabinets were planned for Mary Brooks’s white serving pieces, a combination of things from eBay and family. “I didn’t realize I had a collection until it was time to pull it together for these shelves. It just kind of evolved,” she says.

Try This at Home
We’re not sure if plastic red-and-blue glasses were needed―okay, they weren’t―but 3-D conceptual drawings by Grace Street helped Mary Brooks and her husband, Jay, decide against cabinets on every wall. To avoid making the room feel tight, they opted for simple ledges on one wall. Paintings rest on the ledges for both aesthetic and sentimental reasons.

“The still life [on the left] was painted by my mother’s cousin, and I remember it in my kitchen growing up,” Mary Brooks says. “The other painting was a gift from my sister. Both are very special to me. I love the final result!”