Kitchen Design: Open Shelving – A Visual Guide

Designers love open shelving, but will it work in your kitchen? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of open storage.

First off, why do designers love open shelving so much? The esthetics: open storage adds interest; it creates a focal point. It looks different, and we love different!

Here are some great examples of where, how, and why to use open shelves:

Open storage breaks up a monotonous run of cabinets:



Shelving creates a focal point where otherwise you might not have one:



The look of open storage can help transition from one living space to another, or delineate one area from another:




Open shelves can make a section of cabinets look more like a furniture unit:



Shelving is a great way to emphasize the style of the space, from contemporary to traditional:



Don’t want to give up your prime storage space? Incorporate some open storage into your island.



After all those awesome pictures, you can see why open shelving is used in so many kitchen designs!

Now back to: Pros and Cons

Let me review the Pros: It makes a space look more open. It creates a focal point, and adds visual interest. It is easy to access the items stored. And finally, open shelving may cost less than buying a cabinet.

So what’s the catch?

The Cons: The biggest issue I have with any open storage comes from this whole “storage” label. A better name might be ‘open display’. This is not where you will store all your most used tools or essential food stuffs. It will be objects that you have chosen to display. This leads right to my last point: Just like any display area in your home, you will need to keep everything dusted. And since we are in the kitchen, this cleaning will need to happen pretty often.

Still not inspired? I will end with one last picture – just look at the variety of open storage!


*Thank you to for all the great images

 Posted by Sue LeVee

All Rights Reserved


  1. Excellent article. Very helpful.

  2. The open shelf design in the kitchen has gotten really popular lately. I think it is because we are finally realizing how nice they actually look. My mother didn’t have open shelves when we were younger because she thought they would break because we were very adventurous and crazy children. I think they offer more space than a cupboard.

  3. Open shelving can be problematic if you are placing breakables on these shelves, if you have pets or small children. I reserve them mostly for books.

  4. You addressed issues that others had not considered in this article. Your reasons for using shelving were based on clarity of design, not fashion. That should end the debate. Thanks for a great article illustrated with wonderful photos.

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