Is open shelving in a kitchen a good idea? Experts decide whether it's a practical choice or just form over function

Open shelving is everywhere right now. The latest interior design trend is all about curating a display of ornaments and artifacts on your shelves as part of your overall decor, adding personality and character to your space. Now, having been embraced in virtually every other room of the home, the trend has found its way into the kitchen. Praised as a way to show off items you'd typically store out of sight, open shelving has become a popular choice for displaying luxury cookware in the modern kitchen. Others also hail its functional qualities; in such a fast-paced environment, they argue that the act of essentially removing your cabinet doors makes for a far more convenient kitchen. Clearly open shelving has its advantages, but it doesn't come without its downsides, either. From grease splatters to crockery smashes, there are various drawbacks you ought to be aware of before committing to this stylish approach to storage. To help decide whether you should have open shelving in your kitchen, we asked some designers when they think this trend pairs style and functionality or if it merely puts form over function.


From a design perspective, there's clearly a lot to love about open shelving. Be it a carefully curated selection of complimentary items or an eclectic mix of heritage pieces, the shelving idea is essentially an extension of your personal style. Besides your typical furnishings, it encourages the curation of smaller detailed items, tailored to your taste. But why the sudden appreciation for the finer minutiae of our homes?


When it comes to the kitchen, it's the practical benefits of open shelving, as well as the aesthetic appeal, that people are often drawn to. We've all understood the inconvenience of cabinet doors at some point in our lives: opening and closing them with messy hands while we multitask at cooking can be a hassle.


If your spacious kitchen permits greater design freedom, an open shelving feature combined with regularly cabinetry (to hide the less aesthetic items) could be a nice touch. Although it might be tempting to give everything its own pride of place, Bo is keen to emphasize that less is sometimes more.

Rather than using your shelves for larger dinner sets, reserve them for a select few items that contribute to your overall design, such as cast iron cookware or wooden chopping boards. 'Experiment with your style but don’t overwhelm the shelves,' says Bo. 'When it comes to styling my own, I've found that selecting just a few beautiful pieces to display can make the most decorative impact and be the most sentimental.' Jennifer Bell, kitchen designer at Summit Remodeling Inc, also agrees open shelving works better for items you don't plan to use often. 'I typically recommend them for more decorative items rather than dinnerware,' she says, 'otherwise, your dinnerware is out in the open it typically needs to be cleaned off before using'.

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