The downsides of open shelving – why this much-loved kitchen look may not be for you

1. They Can Be Hard To Keep Organized

Unlike living room shelving ideas which can be styled and then left alone, kitchen shelving is constantly in use. Whether storing food, pans, or crockery, it is difficult to avoid moving things around.

2. They Can Be Difficult To Keep Clean

‘When considering adding open shelves to your kitchen ideas, you have to be conscious about where you locate them in the space,’ Cat continues. ‘Placing open shelving near an extractor fan can lead to your shelving becoming too greasy, for example, and they are notoriously a pain to clean. You may also find that items on open shelving need to be cleaned more frequently, even every time you come to use them, making them impractical for grabbing a dish to go.’

3. They Are Not The Best Options For Storage

Given that designing a kitchen is primarily about finding clever kitchen storage ideas, open shelving does not necessarily allow for the most logical organizational layout.

4. Custom Open Shelving Is Not That Much Cheaper Than Cabinets

If you are looking to commission bespoke joinery for your kitchen, or are planning a fully customized kitchen, open shelving is sometimes looked at as a way to save some money. Despite this, bespoke shelving in the place of two or three cabinets does not work out much cheaper – and is not as likely to stand the test of time in comparison to some of the most durable kitchen cabinets.

What To Use Instead Of Open Shelving In A Kitchen

Luckily, there are a few options to consider in place of expansive open shelving that can provide a similar aesthetic without compromising on practicality.

1. Decide On A Decorative French Dresser

Kitchen cabinet ideas need not be limited by what you can fit around your main walls, as Sally and Sarah Wilkie, founders of Home Barn point out. ‘The French dresser is the pièce de résistance of traditional kitchens and makes a wonderful alternative to open shelving. With neat shelves above and deep cupboards below. A glass-fronted piece offers the open shelf aesthetic, and will happily store large pots, pans, or cookware whilst proudly showcasing ornaments and necessities alike.’ When decorating shelves in this way, consider mixing your functional pieces (now protected from dust and grime behind glass) with some decorative items to dress up your more mundane crockery. 'Coordinating different colors on your shelves is another simple and effortless way of making these pieces stand out and decoratively tie a room together,' explains Peter Erlandsson, co-owner of String Furniture. 'Many forget that storage can be part of the interior design scheme and by displaying and styling our objects, we can merge function with decoration.'

2. Consider Glass Front Cabinets

‘A great alternative to open shelving is the quite obvious glass front cabinets,’ Cat points out. ‘Open shelving is often added to a space in an attempt to make a kitchen look bigger as well as show off your dinnerware. For that reason, glass front cupboards make a great alternative. Consider choosing ribbed, frosted, or fluted glass if you think you may struggle to keep your cabinet contents well organized and looking pretty.’

3. Utilize Space Around Your Kitchen Island

When designing a kitchen island consider making use of some of the dead space lost beneath its large footprint. 'Cabinetry built into the back of the seating area can give additional kitchen storage for seldom-used items,' suggests kitchen designer Sophie Hartley of Tom Howley. 'A glazed cabinet next to a wine fridge or cabinet on the back of the kitchen island means guests can help themselves to a drink without coming into the preparation areas of the kitchen.

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