The pros and cons of open kitchen shelving

  OK, let’s talk open kitchen shelving – the good and the bad! If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that two years ago I ripped out the upper cabinets in my kitchen and replaced them with open shelving. It was a risky move, for sure – especially considering I live in […]

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A pair of open kitchen shelves styled with plates, a wooden cake stand, books and wavy candlesticks. Beneath is a faux marble worktop with a coffee maker, chopping boards and a bowl of fruit. Mugs are hanging from the lower shelf, and there is a three-tiered storage basket hanging from the ceiling in front of them. The wall behind the shelves is papered in a soft leaf print.

 

OK, let’s talk open kitchen shelving – the good and the bad!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that two years ago I ripped out the upper cabinets in my kitchen and replaced them with open shelving. It was a risky move, for sure – especially considering I live in a rental. But I don’t regret it at all! And yes, before you ask, I did get permission from my landlord. In fact I got permission to do a lot of other things in my kitchen as well, hence why it’s now looking veerrry different from how it did when I first moved here. I just got carried away…

Here’s a little trip down memory lane. In this photo you’ll see the upper cabinets I’m talking about:

Wood-fronted kitchen with upper and lower cabinets and a black worktop.

 

The whole kitchen makeover was completely worth it for me, and cooking in this space is such a joy now, but I have been called all sorts on Instagram for going all out with it. That’s a story for another day, though, so let’s get back to the shelving.

 

A peek into the kitchen through a mustard yellow thick ribbed curtain. Open shelving with plates, glassware, a cake stand and cutting boards sits above a faux marble worktop. There is a coffee maker, a bowl of fruit and a wavy-based lamp on the worktop, and mugs hanging from the lower shelf.

A pair of open kitchen shelves styled with plates, a wooden cake stand, books, glassware and wavy candlesticks. Beneath is a faux marble worktop with a coffee maker, chopping boards and a bowl of fruit. Mugs are hanging from the lower shelf, and there is a three-tiered storage basket hanging from the ceiling in front of them.

 

My kitchen shelves

Let’s start with the shelving I used.

I had originally planned to install IKEA’s LACK shelf – well, two of them connected together – but the measurements just weren’t adding up and I didn’t want to cut them. I had another shelf in my garage and decided to try that for a while, but again it didn’t look right as it wasn’t an exact fit.

So I ended up buying shelving from a custom shelving shop called Shelfbar. It was lot more expensive than the IKEA LACK, but it was definitely a good investment and came with custom brackets, plus a guide to help me install it myself. I started off with one shelf, but a year later I added another to maximise storage even further and balance out the space. You know how sometimes you have to live with something for a while before you know what you REALLY want.

 

Floating shelves waiting to be installed above wooden kitchen units, a faux marble worktop and a tiled splashback.

Medina is installing open shelving above wooden kitchen units, a faux marble worktop and a tiled splashback. Patterned wallpaper covers the wall behind.

Newly installed open shelving above wooden kitchen units, a faux marble worktop and a tiled splashback. The shelving is in the process of being painted white and there is frog tape along the edges.

 

What you need to know before installing open kitchen shelving

As I’ve already mentioned, I’m very pleased with the results. But if you’re considering switching to open kitchen shelving yourself, it’s worth being aware of the pros and cons.

First, the pros:

  • Upper cabinets can sometimes be overbearing in a normal-sized kitchen, especially if it’s narrow or dark. Open shelving can really help to brighten the space and give your kitchen a better flow.
  • Open shelves are really affordable, too – much more so than upper cabinets. You can usually cut costs even further by installing them yourself.
  • There are endless styling possibilities. If you’re like me and get bored pretty quickly, open shelves scratch the itch of constantly needing to redecorate to stimulate that dopamine. Simply by switching a few decor pieces in and out, you can transform the look and feel of the whole room.
  • Open shelves make items easier to access. You don’t have to dig around in your cupboards to find whatever you’re looking for, as it’s already there within reach. It makes cooking all the more enjoyable, particularly if you stack your shelves with things you use a lot. This is also very helpful for someone who might be neurodivergent and can sometimes forget where things are.

 

A pair of open kitchen shelves styled with plates, a cake stand, books, glassware, a wooden pestle and mortar and wavy candlesticks. Beneath is a faux marble worktop with a bread bin, a wood-based lamp and a glass bowl of fruit, and mugs are hanging from the lower shelf.

A stack of white plates sits on a wooden cake stand on an open kitchen shelf. The wall behind is papered in a soft leaf print, and mugs and glassware are just visible above and below.

A peek into the kitchen through a mustard yellow thick ribbed curtain. Open shelving with plates, glassware, a cake stand and cutting boards sits above a faux marble worktop. A painting of a Black woman and the top of a banquette seat are just visible in the foreground.

 

Now for the cons:

  • You lose out on some storage, as most shelves aren’t as deep as cabinets. You might find you need to have regular decluttering sessions and be a bit more intentional about what you bring into your kitchen.
  • The dusting! If you don’t use the things on your shelves regularly, be prepared for a layer of dust to settle. I take everything off my shelves and deep-clean them at least once a month.
  • The need to display cute and pretty things all the time can become a little tedious. Open shelving doesn’t work very well if you don’t keep it looking good.

 

Open kitchen shelving styled with plates, glassware and jars of cereal. Beneath is a faux marble worktop with a coffee maker, a bread bin, books and a teapot. Glass mugs are hanging from the lower shelf, and there is a three-tiered storage basket hanging from the ceiling in front. The wall behind the shelves is papered in a soft leaf print, and a wall-mounted roll of brown paper is just visible to one side.

 

Watch my video here

 

@grillodesigns Apparently open shelving in the kitchen is a design trend that’s out for 2024 👀 Not that we care about those things here but today I thought I’d share some pros and cons of open shelving in case this was something you were considering for your kitchen! Pros: – affordable – easy to DIY and install – endless styling opportunities – ease of access Cons: – regular cleaning only if you don’t use certain things often – can’t display thing that aren’t ‘pretty’ – visual clutter if things get messy Would love to hear your experience? #interiordesign #kitchendecor #kitchentips #openshelving #kitchenshelves #openshelvingkitchen #fyp ♬ Just Give Me One More Day – Alej

 

Final thoughts on open kitchen shelving

Open kitchen shelving works brilliantly for many people, but not so brilliantly for others. It all depends on your kitchen and the way you use it. If you’re happy to commit to keeping your shelves clean, tidy and nicely styled, they make a great alternative to upper cabinets and can really give your space the wow-factor.

 

Open kitchen shelving styled with plates, glassware and jars of cereal. Beneath is a faux marble worktop with a bread bin, books and a teapot. Medina is partially visible, standing to one side and holding a cup of coffee.

 

So, would you install open kitchen shelving in your home? Or maybe you’ve done it already and have some pros and cons of your own to add. Let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

 

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