Is Open Shelving Right For Your Kitchen?

Open shelving in kitchens has been a design trend for years, and it’s not slowing down in popularity. But choosing a new feature for your kitchen is not all about style – you should consider function, too. Are open shelves practical? They’re not right for everyone. If you’re planning a kitchen remodel, here are some aspects of open shelving that you should mull over.

Benefits Of Open Shelving

Because of the wide array of building materials available, open shelves are well-suited for any style home, be it Victorian, rustic, or contemporary. They are particularly beneficial in smaller or darker kitchens – replacing top cabinets with shelving can make the room seem larger and more open.

Open shelving lets you see at a glance what is located where, providing you easier access to everyday dishes and glassware, spices, cookbooks, or whatever you choose to store there. Restaurants use open shelving for quicker plating, and while you probably don’t serve dozens of people at a time, open shelves might make life easier on a hectic weekday or provide a good work flow for a culinary aficionado.

As discussed in the section below, with open kitchen shelving there’s no hiding the ugly or mismatched items. However, moving to open shelves could be taken as an opportunity to cull your clutter. Delve into the depths of most kitchen cabinets and you’ll probably come up with some crockery or kitchen tools that never get used. Alton Brown is famous for lamenting the “unitasker,” any kitchen gadget meant for only one job, so this may be the perfect excuse to purge excess stuff.

Solid cabinet doors provide a consistent and clean look to a kitchen, but also a potentially boring one. With open shelves, you can select what gets displayed, from utility objects to plants, fresh herbs, and your personal collections, such as china or antiques. Open shelves mean open design possibilities.

With kitchen remodeling, the bottom line is always important. And the good news is that open shelving is less expensive because, of course, it uses less material than traditional cabinets. Naturally, the choice of material itself will determine overall cost, but in general open shelves are considered most cost-effective.

Drawbacks Of Open Shelving

As mentioned above, open shelving doesn’t let you get away with anything. There’s no hiding. If you have a bunch of mismatched, dated, or chipped tableware, your kitchen shelves may look cluttered and chaotic. Unless you are already planning to invest in new kitchenware (or you don’t care how your shelves look), think carefully about what you’re going to put on the shelves and how that might impact the rest of your storage. You don’t want to end up over-stuffing the remaining cabinets just to keep the open shelving tidy.

Also, the shelves’ open nature makes them susceptible to collecting items that shouldn’t be there, the same way a coffee table seems to be a magnet for everyone’s odds and ends. (However, you can employ baskets or jars to hide some of the items that might detract from the visual appeal.)

While one of the benefits of open kitchen shelving is reduced cost, it can look cheap if the wrong material is used or is not properly matched with the overall style of the room. What you put on the shelves can also diminish the kitchen’s appearance. Try to strike the right chord between functional and decorative.

The biggest concern most people have with open shelving is the cleaning involved. Yes, like shelving in any room, kitchen shelves will need to be dusted. If you use the shelving to store everyday dishes and glassware, presumably they’d get used often enough that they won’t require any excess washing. However, if they sit for a while, you might have to run them through the dishwasher again. As for items that don’t get a lot of use, you may have to clean them once in a while (and especially before they touch food), but that’s not any different from how you’d treat items that linger in the back of cabinets, is it?

Best Of Both Worlds

Converting all of your kitchen cabinets or even just your top cabinets might be too much for you. It’s very common for people to convert just a section of their kitchen to open shelving, strategically placed, either for ease-of-use or for decorative purposes.

If you’re not totally sold on open shelving but you like the visibility they afford, consider installing cabinets doors with glass or semi-transparent inserts. You still have to worry about potential clutter, but the cabinet doors may give you more peace of mind.

Ask the Experts!

On balance, there seem to be more pros than cons when it comes to open shelving in kitchens. However, it comes down to personal taste. If you’re not sure what to do, we recommend that you take a test-run by removing a few of your cabinet doors. You’ll learn pretty quickly whether open shelves are a convenience or a nuisance when it comes to how you use your kitchen. If you have any questions or are ready to get started on a kitchen remodel, contact Scott Hall Remodeling today!