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Open shelving in kitchens: Pros and cons of showing off your dishes

Open shelving allows you to display pretty crockery

Open shelving allows you to display pretty crockery or easily reach items you use frequently, such as plates. Photo Credit: Dreamstime

One of the strongest trends to come along in a great while is open shelving in the kitchen. Often modeling professional kitchens, open shelves have a restaurant-style appeal. They also make for a stylish way to showcase your dishes. On the other hand, if you have a mismatched style and find it hard to edit down your dishware, open shelving might not be for you. But there are pros and cons of both to consider.


Proponents of open shelving will say that your kitchen feels more open and inviting. Guests can help themselves to dishes, and the style is less formal and can be adapted many ways (such as for a professional kitchen or farmhouse style). If you’re doing a remodel, open shelving is cheaper and generally much easier to install than cabinets. Open shelving puts all your dishes and glassware in easy reach and lets you showcase pretty plates and earthenware.


To pull off open shelving, it’s important that your belongings that go on them are edited. A jumble of plates, cups and dishes will look like a jumble, whereas the continuity of matching dishes will look smart and pulled together. Space also needs to be figured into open shelving.

Items should all have some spacing between them so items are visually appealing versus cluttered and messy.

A collection of mismatched cereal bowls isn’t detractive inside a cabinet, and more items can be stored in cabinets than on open shelving. If you have a variety of dishes for various needs, having closed shelving might be a better option.


Dust is another concern with open shelves, especially on dishes you don’t use as often and on the shelves themselves, so there will be some maintenance involved with open shelves. Unlike open shelving, dust is rarely a problem inside kitchen cabinets.


When it comes to kitchen storage, cabinets reign supreme. But if you’d like to introduce a new style to your kitchen, cabinets might seem passe or too traditional. Open shelving proponents say that kitchen cabinets, especially the upper cabinets, seem visually heavy and oppressive versus the light and airy look of open shelving. Lastly, if you are considering replacing kitchen cabinets, the cost relative to open shelving is substantially higher.


So, which is the right choice for your kitchen? If you’ve been thinking about changing over to open shelving, try taking the doors off your upper cabinets before tearing them out or replacing them. This way, you can give open shelving a test run. The other option is to do a mix of both cabinets and open shelving to give you the best of both worlds. Try adding an open shelf mixed in with your regular cabinets. This would be a good spot to display pretty crockery or to use for items you reach for frequently, such as plates. In the end, if you have doubts, a combination might be the best choice.

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