Why You Should Consider Open Shelving for Your Kitchen

Pros in the know share their favorite reasons why you should consider an open shelving kitchen.

A glimpse at kitchens on Instagram reveals a huge recent trend: Open shelving instead of cabinets. But is this style right for you? Experts weigh in on the reasons why open shelving kitchens can be a great choice.

Open Shelving Fits in Awkward Spaces

If you don’t have room for standard-size cabinets, or you’ve got an angled wall or corner, open shelving in the kitchen offers a simple solution to a complex problem.

Nick Yahoodain, CEO of Advanced Builders & Contractors, says open shelving deceives the eye and creates continuity in spaces where there might be none. And, he says, the shelving doesn’t have to be perfectly symmetrical. He says he successfully installed staggered open shelving to bridge gaps and spaces in walls.

Open Shelving Lets in Light

Yahoodain says wall-to-wall cabinets don’t work if you have windows. But open shelving between cabinet banks can help bridge the gap and allow for unimpeded natural light from windows.

Open Shelving Can Save Money

According to Yahoodain, clients request base cabinets on the floor and open shelving for the uppers. It adds a modern look and it’s cheaper than full cabinets.

Melanie Thomas, an interior stylist at Melanie Thomas Design, agrees. “No hardware, no expensive doors or hinges, no carpenters,” she says. “After spending a fortune on everything else, it’s nice to have a little break.”

Open Shelving Is Accessible

Open shelving allows homeowners to find kitchen appliances and tools quickly. No more forgetting about that juicer stashed behind the blender.

“Sometimes people forget to make healthy food because they don’t see their kitchen appliances,” says Robert Johnson of Coast Appliances. With open shelving, you can see what tools you have to work with and get inspired, making fruit shakes or healthy sandwiches.

“You can easily clean, dry, and store appliances after every use,” he says. “Displaying them on open shelves also helps prevent mold, pests and wear and tear.”

Open Shelving Makes Spaces Feel Bigger

“Open shelves provide vertical storage, which helps to maximize limited space.” says Julio Arco, an architect and interior designer. Plus, lack of cabinet fronts creates the illusion of more wall space, making the room feel airier.

Open Shelving Compliments Open Concepts

“If your kitchen is open to the dining or living room, nothing is more abrupt or more kitchen-y than upper cabinets that break up the space,” says Thomas. “Open shelving at the entry point of the kitchen allows for the eye and the brain to integrate the kitchen as a part of the larger space.”

Open Shelving Reduces Noise

Evan Nelson of Nelson Cabinetry says open shelving eliminates the jarring sound of slamming cabinet doors. And because open shelving requires more organization, things shouldn’t topple over or rattle around.

Open Shelving Is Easy to DIY

Nelson says if you’re handy, it’s easy to install open shelving as a DIY project.

“Simply measure the space where you want the shelves to go, cut the shelving to size, and secure it to the wall,” he says. “You can use brackets, L-braces, or even reinforced bookends to keep the shelves in place.”

To add stability, Nelson advises DIYers to screw the shelving into wall studs.

Open Shelving Is Customizable

Make your kitchen space suit your exact needs. Nelson says you can add lighting, paint or stain, and arrange open shelves in whatever way you like. And, he says, it’s easy to change things up in the future if your style or needs change.

Open Shelving Lets You Show Off

Adam Graham, a construction industry analyst at Fixr, says open shelving allows you to showcase your personality. If you have beautiful dishes or pottery, he says open shelving lets you show them off. Arrange your dishes to let patterns and colors show so they’re appreciated at all times, instead of staying hidden behind a door.

Lauren Byington of Warren and Lauren adds you don’t need to “save” those beautiful, special items. “Sometimes we tuck dishes into cabinets just to get them out on the holidays,” she says. “Wouldn’t you love to see and use those expensive or sentimental sets every day? Open shelving can let you appreciate special items.”

Open Shelving Lets You See Your Walls

“Open shelves are a great way to extend your wallpaper into the kitchen,” says Thomas. “Nothing is worse than an abrupt break from your lovely living room wallpaper that you spent a month choosing than a row of upper cabinets and tile. The good news is that you can keep your white dinner plates and bowls, and they will look stellar against the wallpaper backdrop.”

Your shelving material finish choice can also add punch, whether it’s wood, glass or metal.

“You can carry up gorgeous tile, use a full marble, granite or porcelain slab or a concrete finish,” Byington says. “It’s a fun way to get to extend your decorative touch and add a wow factor.”

Open Shelving is Great for Entertaining

Stacy Lewis, owner and interior designer at Eternity Modern, says open shelving helps guests feel welcome at parties and gatherings. “All kitchen items will be visible and easier to grab, and guests can conveniently find whatever they need,” says Lewis.

Open Shelving Is Lower Maintenance

Graham says moving parts on cabinets eventually need maintenance.

“The knobs and pulls can come loose over time, the hinges can begin to sag, the doors can get chipped,” Graham says. “And because many shelves inside of cabinets are made of low-grade materials, these can begin to sag as well. Open shelves are thicker and with no moving parts, so they’re less maintenance and don’t need as many repairs.”

Open Shelving Can Help You Stay Organized

Because everything is out in the open, it’s easy to see what you have and where everything is stored. Arco says this cuts down on kitchen clutter.

Open Shelving is Great for Plant Life

Byington says open shelving can be a great place for houseplants to thrive, appealing to gardeners, gourmets and the eco-conscious. “Plants and herbs in a kitchen add a decorative touch and can cultivate the right health-focused mindset for at-home cooking,” she says.

Open Shelving Is a Timeless Trend

While it’s become really popular lately, Arco says open shelving has been around for centuries. “This makes it a classic storage solution that will always look chic in your kitchen,” he says.

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Katie Dohman
Katie Dohman is an award-winning freelance writer who has written about home, design, and lifestyle topics for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured in Artful Living, Midwest Home, Star Tribune, and Teen Vogue, among many others. She is currently living her own how-to story as she and her husband work through a complete gut remodel on their 1921 home—while parenting three tiny tots and dodging their dog and cat, who always seem to be underfoot.