Open Shelving

Displaying your dinnerware and glassware on open shelves in the kitchen gives a more casual, homey feel. We asked local design professionals their opinion on open shelving in the kitchen. Here’s what they had to say.

By Melissa Mauzy
Photography by Anne Matheis 



“While open shelving has traditionally been used in kitchens and baths for display purposes, the recent extensive use of open shelving in lieu of wall cabinets is a craze. Including some openness in kitchen cabinetry adds interest and detail to the design, but removing the storage capability that wall cabinets provide must be carefully considered. Are there deep drawers located near the dishwasher for frequently used items like glassware, plates, bowls and cups? Is there storage elsewhere for items that are not display-worthy? It’s wise to assess one’s storage needs and practicality when thinking about a large expanse of open shelving in a kitchen environment.” Debbie Jacobs, Alspaugh Kitchen & Bath.

“I feel that open shelving is a craze. It is great for restaurant kitchens because the items on the shelf must be readily available and rotate constantly, or when space is limited and you just do not have the room to open a door. It is a more casual look. But the reason for doors on cabinets is to keep the dust off of the dishes. It’s not a look I see staying long term.” CJ Knapp, Yours By Design.

“Open shelving is trendy and having a big moment right now, but it is also extremely functional and cost effective.  I think open shelving is put to good use in small spaces with tricky corners or in remodels with a limited budget. Open shelving works well when the items displayed are organized.  Open shelving is a great choice when designing a space for the elderly or someone with limited mobility; it is much easier for them to reach for a glass or bowl without having to open cabinet doors and reach for the small cabinet pulls. Open shelving is a craze but at least it is extremely functional.” Barbara Collins, Barbara Collins Interior Design.

“Like any good designer, you want to present as many creative and appropriate options as you can for any project. Open shelving for a kitchen has been shown so many times online and in periodicals, I feel it must be discussed with my clients. After designing to gain more and smarter storage for busy kitchens, it seems counterintuitive to discuss open shelving for most clients. I will call it a craze and reserve open shelving for the enclosed pantry, where it makes the most sense.” Vicki Lewis, Directions In Design Inc.


“Open shelving has always been considered a classic feature in kitchens, and I believe that a little goes a long way in utilizing this design element. In many instances open shelving has been overused. Highlighting a few items on a few open shelves is a lot better than exposing all of your dishes and glassware to a busy kitchen environment.  The overuse of this design feature can and will also eliminate (necessary) and practical storage needs.” Ken Henry, Alspaugh Kitchen & Bath.

“I love some open shelves in a space — whether it’s a kitchen, bathroom or anywhere to create a sense of depth, dimension and balance. Open shelves have been done in old classic homes forever, so I would call them a classic element. However, they are transitioning with styles, helping to keep them up with the trends. I love seeing the contrast of the shelf to the wall, and the brackets can be like jewelry! Go for it and display anything from dishes, to family photos, or your favorite piece of art.” Anne Marie Boedges, Anne Marie Design Studio, LLC.