After close to 2 years of living with open shelving in our kitchen, I’m officially shouting it from the rooftops: I’m in love, I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it! I’m here to state my case for the kitchen trend that’s sure to outlive us all.
Our Tree House kitchen is small, but it’s packed with function. Despite our decision to remove all but one upper cabinet, we’ve never once felt that we didn’t have enough room for our ‘stuff.’ Instead, we designed the space to accommodate the one thing we knew for sure we wanted to add – open shelving!*
*Psst: Here’s the full video tutorial for DIY-ing our thick, floating open shelves, if you’d like to see!
By eliminating upper cabinets, we purposely opted for extra deep base cabinet drawers. Our everyday dinnerware and glasses are stacked neatly inside, with room to spare. A lazy susan corner cabinet swallows linens, a tea kettle and our coffee necessities. (We couldn’t do it without these organizers!) You can see what we store behind every drawer and door in this walkthrough, but today, I want to talk about what’s out in the open! More than anything, we’re asked if our shelves are a dusty nightmare, and are they actually practical? (Like, really?) Over and over, we hear you question:
Why Have Open Shelving At All?
Simply put, they make our small kitchen feel larger.
When we first walked into our Tree House, we were hit with a wall of cabinetry. And while floor to ceiling cabinetry is making a big comeback right now (and it can surely be done very beautifully), we felt that this L-shaped kitchen needed breathing room. The shiny backsplash and shelving give the illusion of a larger kitchen, which we welcomed with open arms!
There’s a fine line between practical and pretty.
This is the first time we’ve had open shelving in a kitchen, and merging functionality with design was, naturally, a fear of ours from the beginning. Was it possible? (Yes, yes it is.) Can they still be useful without looking cluttered? (Yes, yes they can!) If we were going to make these shelves, they needed to serve a purpose – especially in our 850 sq. ft. home, where every nook, cranny and corner matters. Here’s what we’ve learned on balancing practical + pretty:
- Store the toddler plates and sippy cups behind cabinet doors, and use the shelves for items that you find both useful and beautiful. Think: Your French press, the ceramic mixing bowls you love and the cookie jar you spent too much on but have no regrets. If your style is minimal and neutral, carry this into your shelving display, but keep things interesting with, say, matte ceramics + glossy coffee mugs. If your style is bold, proudly display the Fiestaware!
- Keep the high use items on lower shelves, such as mugs and the coveted dog treat jar. Stash special use and hard-to-store items up top, like big fruit bowls and the special occasion water pitcher.
- Consider keeping small appliances on the shelves, such as your toaster, to keep countertops free for everyday use and food prep. A clean countertop makes my heart sing, ha!
- Play with different heights, textures and finishes to keep visual balance, and allow them to breathe. A little gap of dead space here and there does wonders for the soul.
- Little things – like all the mug handles facing the same way – make a huge impact on the overall look of open shelving!
What would we change?
There is one thing we’d change, and that’s the spacing between the shelves! Before DIY-ing our shelves, we scoured the web for height between shelving, and most sources we found said that 9-10″ was a good middle ground. In hindsight, I wish we would have given this more consideration; we would have been happier in the 12-13″ range, which would have allowed us to store taller items on the lower shelf.
Would We Do It Again?
Yes, but only in cases where it enhances both design and functionality. Here’s what I mean: Our Chicago kitchen is heavy on the cabinetry, but the all white Shaker style panels still feel fresh and classic. We don’t need open shelving. However, we already have plans to incorporate open shelving in The Two Flat, where the pitched ceiling in Unit 2 will make it near impossible to do cabinetry! Had we never utilized open shelving before, we may be nervous about the practicality of this, but now we couldn’t be more excited.
Do you have open shelving in your kitchen? What other tips would you give someone else who is considering the same?