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Open Shelving Pros and Cons (Why I’m Giving Up Open Shelving)

Today I wanted to chat about why I’m giving up open shelving in the kitchen – and share some open shelving pros and cons, as well as inspiration for small kitchens with open shelving.  If you’re watching my kitchen renovation unfold in real time, you caught a peek at the new kitchen cabinetry.  We widened the kitchen, adding more lower cabinets, a ton of upper cabinets, and a glorious floor to ceiling pantry.  While planning this kitchen, I toggled between adding open shelving and sticking to closed cabinetry.  In the end, I chose all closed cabinets – which surprised many people!

Open Shelving Pros and Cons (Why I'm Giving Up Open Shelving)

Having shared my kitchen with completely open shelving for eight years, why was I giving up open shelving and the chance to display my pretty vintage kitchen ware?  Hopefully this answer helps clarify my decision – and can help you decide if open shelves are for you!

Open Shelving Pros and Cons

Are Open Shelves Still in Style 2022?

When planning my kitchen renovation, I spent a lot of time wondering, “are open shelves still in style 2022?”  Interestingly, there are some sources that suggest no, open shelves are not in style for 2022.  I read that pandemic shopping habits had something to do with the decreased popularity of open shelving – and I actually relate to this!  Many of us stock piled a little more than normal in the last couple of years, and now need more storage options to store our grocery surplus!  It seems like a silly reason for kitchen trends to change, but I know that I keep a little more food on hand now than I used, and that was partly why I decided to forgo open shelving in my new kitchen.  So is open shelving a fad?  Well, open shelving has been popular for many years – no matter how many times it’s been denounced as “out”.  If you scroll through Pinterest or Instagram, you will see a LOT of kitchens with open shelving – sometimes a little open shelving or sometimes an entire wall.  But if you look at the comments on many of these images, there are a lot of people who absolutely hate open shelving.  My prediction?  Open shelving will always have a following of people who love it and try it – and those who loudly despise it!  I truly think open shelving has shifted from being a trend, to a timeless design element that really depends more on personal taste than trends.

Are Open Shelves Still in Style 2022?

Why I Chose Open Shelving in My DIY Kitchen:

When we moved here, I HATED the original kitchen.  The cabinets were so impractical and yet, every day, in comments across all social media platforms, people who have never seen my house claim that the old version had sooooo much more storage.  Nope!  It did not.  First of all, the cabinets to the right of the window could not be accessed unless I climbed up on the counter.  They should have been hinged in the center, for better accessibility – although the one on the right was still impossible to access.  Above the stove was a fake cabinet to hide the fan.  Then the microwave took up a lot of cabinet real estate, leaving only the corner cabinets, which were too narrow for plates, and the cabinets above the fridge and microwave.  On top of the inefficiency of these upper cabinets, I hated the arched cabinet door profile – so it all had to go!

My budget-friendly solution was to remove the old upper cabinets and tile, install inexpensive and easy panelled sheets for a “backsplash,” and then install some open shelving.  To be totally honest, I had previously thought open shelving was the most ridiculous thing to have in a kitchen.  Doesn’t open shelving get dirtyWon’t everything on open shelving get greasy?  But faced with a kitchen I hated, and a very small budget to make it work for us, all of a sudden open shelving seemed like a fabulous idea!  Despite what the naysayers claimed, having these open shelves provided way more storage than the previous configuration ever did.

Why I Chose Open Shelving in My DIY Kitchen:

Plus I already had pretty, display worthy vintage goodies hiding behind the cabinet doors of our former townhouse kitchen:

Turquoise Vintage Pyrex Collectiom

DIY Kitchen Open Shelving Alternative: Cubbies!

Years later, having grown tired of my plain open shelving – and the placement of the brackets (which I immediately regretted) – I took the existing shelf material, along with a little extra plywood, and made a new version of open shelving: DIY kitchen storage cubbies!  It was a weird idea that suddenly popped into my head, but I HAD to see my vision come to life.  I’m so glad I did it, because those kitchen storage cubbies landed my house in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens and Good Housekeeping!

DIY Kitchen Open Shelving Alternative: Cubbies!

Why I’m Giving Up Open Shelving:

Given how much I loved both versions of my DIY kitchen open shelving, it surprised my readers that, when we decided to finally renovate the kitchen, I gave up open shelving!  I had originally thought to put open shelving to the right of the window.  Then I thought maybe some little cubbies underneath the cabinets.  I also considered glass front cabinets, to still keep the option to display some vintage things.  Ultimately, these were the main reasons that I decided to give up open shelving:

  • Novelty – I wanted something new and different
  • Resale – my realtor said NO to open shelving (not that I listened about anything else, lol)
  • Simplicity – I was honestly tired of keeping my shelves looking pretty, I wanted to relax
  • Flexibility – I wanted the flexibility of storing whatever, wherever
  • Aesthetic – I wanted my new kitchen to feel very minimal and clean

Why I'm Giving Up Open Shelving

While the open shelving added more storage than the previous configuration, lately I’d been craving even more storage.  And more flexible storage!  For years, I had stored ugly stuff (pots, pans, canned goods) in the lower cabinets and reserved the upper cabinets for my prettier things.  I decided that in the newly renovated space, I didn’t want to be limited.  Having all closed storage afforded me the flexibility that had been missing.  I also wanted a visual break.  I had looked at my pretty vintage finds for 8 years and while I LOVED it, I just craved a change.  I’m excited for more simplicity in the new kitchen design.  It will be an exciting change for me!

Kitchen Open Shelving Pros and Cons

Having said that, in another kitchen I would definitely consider open shelving again!  Open shelving was a lot of fun – especially for a vintage collector like me.  But I am excited to have a kitchen that’s much cleaner and less cluttered – my brain is looking forward to a little rest:

Modern Kitchen Design

Is Open Shelving Practical?

I’m asked, “is open shelving practical?” a lot!  The answer depends on what you need from your kitchen!  If you need to hide messy clutter and plastic cups, then no, open shelving is not practical.  But if you have a small space and nice looking dishes, then open shelving is very practical!  There are many pros and cons for open shelving and choosing them depends a lot on your lifestyle, storage needs, and tolerance for clutter.

Why I'm Over Open Shelving in the Kitchen

Do Open Kitchen Shelves Get Dusty?

Yes, open kitchen shelves get a little dusty – especially if you do not use items frequently.  You can see how much in this post.  But if you use items regularly, open shelving is not difficult to keep clean.  Having said that, some people have VERY greasy kitchens.  The former townhouse kitchen was so gross, a professional cleaner I hired left “for more supplies” and never came back because the kitchen, especially the oven, was too awful.  The cabinet doors in that kitchen were CAKED with grease when we moved in.  No judgement, but those homeowners were not suited to open shelving – maybe they deep fried a lot?  Although a cook a lot, the way I cook and clean – plus the air circulation in my home has made open shelving a fairly tidy experience for me.

Honest Thoughts on Kitchen Open Shelving

Open Shelving Pros and Cons:

After living with kitchen open shelving for 8 years, I can tell you that there are many pros and cons of open shelving!  Personally, I loved having my favorite vintage kitchenware on display.  I love collecting everything from vintage Pyrex to vintage pottery and having it on display allowed me to enjoy it, even when it was not in use.  But I also loved the functionality of kitchen open shelving.  Not only did we easily and cheaply add more storage, it was also nice in this small kitchen not to worry about doors!  When Hubby and I were both bustling around, the kitchen could feel very small, but having open shelving – with no doors to contend with – made it feel larger and made it easier for one of us to reach over and grab a plate or bowl while the other was cooking or cleaning.  The biggest con for me has been that, lately, I’m starting to get tired of styling and, frankly, looking at everything!  Because I use everything on my shelf, and it’s not for display-only, there’s always something missing (in the wash, in use) and it ruins the aesthetic a little.  I’ve also been finding I just feel a little overwhelmed with always seeing everything I own on display – I’m excited to have the kitchen looking more minimalist and quiet.

Open Shelving Pros and Cons

Kitchen Open Shelving Pros:

  • Inexpensive to build or even buy
  • Easy to install
  • Easy access for guests and family members
  • Convenient in a small kitchen where open cabinet doors cause annoyance
  • Beautiful way to enjoy pretty serving ware

Kitchen Open Shelving Cons:

  • Unused dishes can get dusty
  • Some items are always in use/in the dishwasher – ruining the aesthetic
  • Things need to look good to be fully enjoyed (by me, anyway)
  • Too much clutter can make a kitchen feels cramped and small
  • Open shelving in kitchens looks extra messy during meal prep and cooking

How Do You Make Open Shelving Look Less Cluttered?

If you like the idea of open shelving, but are wondering, “how do you make open shelving look less cluttered?” here are my tips:

  • Choose beautiful items you want to look at!
  • Store pots, pans, and cans in lower cabinets (turn them into drawers for ease of use)
  • Use the opportunity to display a collection for maximum cohesiveness
  • Keep items in the same color palette or style
  • Choose items (style, color, era) that complement the surrounding decor and rooms
  • Go for a few, larger items as opposed to many small-scale pieces
  • Leave some negative space – empty areas that allow the eye to rest

Kitchen Open Shelving Ideas

I’ve loved kitchen open shelving so much these past eight years, but I’m so excited to share this next version of my kitchen with tons of closed storage and beautiful new cabinetry.  Hopefully you found these open shelving pros and cons helpful!

Do you have open shelving?  Do you love it or hate it?  Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Don’t Forget to Pin For Later!

Kitchen Open Shelving Pros and Cons



  1. Erika
    April 25, 2022 / 1:34 pm

    I have a combination- closed cabinets with an open shelf underneath. We had standard kitchen cabinets with the empty space above them (common when the ceiling is full height and the cabinets are not extra tall). I had to utilize every inch, but I hated seeing the line of rarely used appliances sitting on top of the kitchen cabinets. We moved the cabinets up the wall by about 10 inches and added an open shelf where the bottom of the cabinets had been. Now, my rarely used, not-so-pretty stuff still goes up high where I can’t reach it, but it’s hidden inside a cabinet. The open shelf below is perfect for quick access of the pretty stuff— plates, glasses, and serving bowls.

  2. Heather
    April 26, 2022 / 2:14 pm

    OMG those doors about the stove in the original kitchen!!!!

    I am excited to see the completed kitchen renovation.

  3. Carol
    May 5, 2022 / 3:35 pm

    I love that light turquoise color in your kitchen! I don’t know if that color is a recent thing, but it is very pretty anyway. I like the first and last colors for your backsplash.

    • May 6, 2022 / 12:27 pm

      Thank you! The soft aqua cabinet color was pretty new – I did it Fall 2019. Thanks so much for weighing in on the backsplash colors! I’m having such a difficult time choosing because they’re all so pretty.

  4. Linda
    November 7, 2022 / 3:27 pm

    One thing no one seems to mention is how high much of open shelving is. How do you reach frequently used things way up there? I saw one kitchen where the glasses were on the top shelf near the ceiling. Open shelves are not for me. My kitchen is arranged so that I can reach everything, and it’s all behind beautiful hickory doors.

    • November 7, 2022 / 8:51 pm

      I can only speak for myself, but I didn’t really struggle with reaching anything on my open shelves. When we built the open cubbies, they were actually closer at hand than cabinets because cabinets are usually 18-22″ up from the counter and mine were MUCH lower than that. I have closed cabinets now and the ones where my open shelves were function pretty much the same. But you raise a good point to anyone thinking about installing them!

  5. Jen
    February 25, 2023 / 12:47 am

    LOVE THIS! I am probably doing some open shelving in my kitchen remodel. And my kitchen is already teal so this is inspo city! Thank you! I hope I can make mine look half as pretty as yours. I def have some reservations as my kitchen does feel extra greasy 😩 but I’m hoping with the bigger space and better circulation in the new house it won’t be so bad.

    • March 1, 2023 / 1:03 pm

      I think you will love them! And styling them is fun: I thrift a lot and collect vintage pieces so my every day stuff is nice to look at too 🙂 Happy renovating!!

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