Image: Monkey Business Images /

Pros & Cons of Open Shelves in Kitchens

by Andra Hopulele
4 min. read

Thinking about giving your kitchen a facelift? Kitchen renovations are common among homeowners who want to personalize the room they spend much of their time in or who want to increase the resale value of their home.  

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, you might have considered opting for open shelves rather than traditional cabinets. But, while there’s no doubt that they can look stunning, just how practical are they in real life? To find out, check out the pros and cons of open shelves from an everyday perspective.

Pro: More Space

Many of us will agree that closed cabinets can take up valuable space in the kitchen, making it feel almost oppressive. Open shelves fix this issue as they take up far less space. Moreover, open shelves are typically set back further to the wall and don’t stick out as much, making it easier to get around in smaller kitchens, in particular.

Con: Dirt & Grime

The major issue with open shelves in the kitchen is the accumulation of dirt and grime. Specifically, the heat from cooking can circulate the air in the room and move around dust, which inevitably settles on your shelves and anything on them. As well as dust, oil and grease vapors will also float around and latch onto anything that’s on display. As a result, you’ll find yourself having to fairly regularly clean not only the shelves but also the items on them.

Pro: Affordability

One of the biggest advantages of open shelves is that they’re extremely affordable. While even mid-range cabinets can cost thousands of dollars to install, simple shelves will be much cheaper. Confident DIYers can normally fit them by themselves, as well, further reducing the cost.

Con: Constant Attention

Once you’ve finally finished displaying your best dishware and your most colorful jars of ingredients, you can take a step back and enjoy the wonderful display you’ve created. But, now you need to maintain this display and, with everyday use, you might find that it becomes a chore to put everything back nicely. Keep in mind that when these shelves look messy, they become an eyesore, so it’s important to keep them tidy.

Pro: Go Half & Half

There’s no rule saying you have to have one or the other; you can always opt for cabinets and open shelves. Perhaps you want to use the open shelves only to display your finest pieces of kitchenware, while everything else can be thrown in the cabinets. The choice is yours! Another great halfway approach is to use cabinets with glass doors.

Con: They Can Look Cheap

When done right, open shelves look fantastic. But, if you try to cut corners, they’ll look tacky and cheap. To avoid this, choose a strong wood that isn’t prone to warping or twisting, as well as strong, attractive anchors, which are essential for safety and longevity. Also, ensure the shelves are properly secured to the wall to prevent sagging. Additionally, what you keep on them can also make them look cheap, and even the nicest shelves will look bad with chipped, mismatched dishware or plastic kids’ cups and plates.

Pro: Easy Access

You’ll never have a problem finding anything when you use open shelves. And, with proper planning, it can be extremely convenient to grab what you need when you need it.

Con: Not Always Practical

Making open shelves work seamlessly can be tricky. Either everything on them is something you use regularly and won’t get greasy and dusty, or you only store things there that you rarely use, knowing you’ll have to clean them before use. With a mix of objects, you might find you’re putting clean stuff on top of dirty things.

Pro: Minimizing

Finally, if everything you have is on display, it can encourage you to strip away some of your possessions and keep only those things that you actually use. This is never a bad thing, and you can donate to charity those dishes, pots and pans that don’t fit in with your style.

When considering open shelves, think about how you work in the kitchen. Are you the kind of person who is organized and will always put things back where they belong? Or, will your hectic lifestyle lead to things piling up and becoming messy? Also consider whether you want all of your dishware on display, or if some things would be better hidden away.

You may also like