Don't let those Pinterest-worthy dream kitchens cloud your judgement.
More than any color, style, or even sink shape, open shelving is arguably the biggest trend in kitchen design right now. In a beautifully designed and styled kitchen like the one above, it’s easy to see why. From an appearance perspective, having open shelves allows your kitchen to showcase more personality than wall-to-wall monotone cabinets. Plants, bowls, cookbooks, mugs—you name it—are shown off, adding color and texture to the space. The shelves themselves can also be an accent with material options from raw wood to stainless steel and everything in between. Because of that, open shelving can really fit in with any design style, from minimal and industrial to traditional and eclectic.
When it comes to functionality, the pros and cons of open shelving become a little divisive. On the one hand, floating shelves don’t take up a lot of physical (and therefore visual) space, so in a small or dark kitchen, swapping even three feet of cabinets for shelving can make a kitchen feel larger and brighter. And if you’re a serious cook, keeping your everyday tools, ingredients, and serving dishes within reach (and sight) can be a major plus.
However, there are some potential inconveniences you may run into with open shelving, which should definitely be considered to decide if open shelves will mesh or conflict with your cooking- and life-styles before fully committing.
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Though it may seem obvious, having open shelves means everything you plan to store on them will be out in the open, for all to see. Do all your dishes match? Are your bowls chipped, your pans stained? Do you care? If you think that might bother you, you might feel compelled to invest in a whole new set of dishes ($$$), or display your matching set while you hide the misfits in a lower cabinet, which means you’re using twice as much storage space for one item.
Another major thing to consider is the cleaning and upkeep of what you’re storing on your shelves. If they’re holding your everyday dishes and glasses that get cycled through at least weekly, you shouldn’t have to worry about dust or grime gathering. If you’re displaying items that you use maybe twice a year because they’re pretty and match the rest of your kitchen decor, you’ll likely need to dust regularly and rinse them off before use (as you would even if they were stashed in the back of your cabinets). For those items whose use is somewhere in between, the regular dusting and additional cleaning might become an annoyance.
If you’re still fully committed to the idea of open shelving, more power to you. They’re an affordable take on kitchen storage that feels at once modern and old-school. And they can totally transform the appearance of a room. But if you’re on the fence or not sure swapping your cabinets for shelves will be compatible with your lifestyle, there’s an easy way to test it out: Remove the doors from a couple of your upper cabinets for a few weeks and see if you like the feel and look of it. You may even decide that look on its own is a good fit for you.