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Kitchen Open Shelving Pros and Cons

My kitchen update is in full swing over here with the demolition of cabinets and countertops! Last week, I shared my overall vision for this outdated kitchen and am excited with the progress. While this little kitchen has served me well for the few months since I purchased this house, it desperately needs some freshening up. Plus, I’m excited to give it my spin with neutral colors and natural elements such as wood shelves. I know that kitchen open shelving can be intimidating so I’m sharing my pros and cons here if you’re debating about whether to make the switch!

kitchen update before
kitchen before…

In addition to replacing the counter tops (getting rid of these horrendous 12 x12 tiles), I decided to remove the awkward corner cabinet unit to add some pretty wood shelves.

You might remember the oak shelves from my last home – I miss them so much and since I have some of the wood remaining, wanted to replicate them here!

kitchen open shelving
white oak kitchen open shelving from my last home

Creating open shelves was one of my favorite aspects in my last house. I kept it going with shelves in the bathroom, bedroom, and office too!). Because the kitchens can be overwhelming, starting out with smaller shelf projects can be a good place to start.

Kitchen Open Shelving Pros and Cons

While I’m definitely pro-shelving, there are a few things to consider so here’s my list of pros and cons for kitchen open shelves:

Open Shelves Pros

  • Functional Solution for Awkward Areas – while open shelving are often the superstar of a kitchen, they can also solve issues related to weird areas such as making better use of my corner cabinet
  • Add a Mix Elements – kitchens (especially overly matchy ones of the 2000’s) can be a whole lot of cabinets, tile, and counters while shelving adds warm wood, matte metals, and different shapes
  • Minimize Cabinets – while some folks might say this is a con, I think using less cabinets is a definite advantage! My kitchen is a smaller, older space so there aren’t a ton of cabinets anyway but visually I think any kitchen benefits from spaces that are broken up (as opposed to so.many.cabinets.)
kitchen cabinet demo

Open Shelving Cons

  • Requires (Some) Planning – Depending on the scope of the project, open shelving can require some planning like identifying the necessary hardware, locating wall studs, and factoring in other things like tile, backsplash height, cabinet depth, etc. (I have a Guide to Making Shelves to walk you through it!)
  • Finding Materials – As part of the planning, it can be difficult to source some of the materials – especially if you have something specific in mind like a particular type of wood (though I have some suggestions below!)
  • Nowhere to Hide the Junk! – Personally, I see this as a welcome challenge, but it’s true – open shelving makes it impossible to shove things behind a cabinet door before company arrives. However, after switching to all white dishes and donated seldom used items, it is easy (and fun to style!)
kitchen open shelving pros and cons