Open shelving in the butler's pantry in Project Powhatan
I recently gave open shelving a test drive at the Airbnb we stayed in in Bermuda. I've never had it in any of our homes, so I was excited to see what it was like to live with it on a daily basis for a week. The kitchen itself was beautiful too (take a look at it below!) with its navy cabinets, brass details, and white subway tile up the walls. All of the upper kitchen storage was made up of wood floating shelves and our hosts stored all of the everyday dishes and serving ware on them. It was so great to be able to find what we quickly find what we needed and easily unload the dishwasher. There were six of us staying in the house and we used nearly all of the dishes every day, so we never had any issues with dust. In this situation, I was a big fan of open shelving. I'm still on the fence about whether I would want it in my own home, but it got me thinking about for sure!
via The Ledgelets
The idea of installing open shelving in kitchens is one of those design choices that people tend to either love or hate - they usually elicit some pretty strong opinions! They're super popular right now (just search "kitchens" on Pinterest and notice how many of them have open shelves in some form or fashion!), but a lot of folks are hesitant to use them in their homes because they worry about their practicality.
Will they get dusty? Will you find yourself rinsing a plate off every time you want to use it? What if you don't have a whole set of pretty dishes and objects to display?
These are all totally legit questions and concerns, and I want to chat about some of the pros and cons of putting open shelves in your kitchen. If you're remodeling or designing a kitchen for a new build and this is something you're considering, you're definitely in the right place!
As with any design decision, it's important to consider both form and function, and decide what your priorities are. It ultimately comes down to personal preference, but you definitely want to make that decision after looking at it from all angles. This is especially true for "fixed" elements in your home like kitchen cabinets that you can't change easily after the fact.
The Pros of Open Shelving
First of all, from a design perspective, floating shelves are great for a few reasons. If you have a lot of traditional upper cabinets, including some floating shelves is a great way to break them up and add some visual interest. I personally like to mix uppers with floating shelves and not do all floating shelves for the upper half of your kitchen. Most people like to have a few spots where they can stash their less pretty or mismatched items away and upper cabinets with doors give you that option!
Just take a look at the kitchen from Jaclyn Peters above or the Project Powhatan kitchen below to see what just a touch of open shelving in a kitchen might look like.
Another thing I like about them from a design point of view is that they give you an opportunity to do some styling - you can display pretty serving pieces or a fun collection, or simply bring in a few interesting objects to mix in with your dishes. Floating shelves also often make a kitchen feel a little less formal and buttoned up, which is great if that's what you're going for.
Functionally, open shelving is awesome for easy access. There's no messing with doors and you know exactly where everything is. If you choose to put your everyday dishes, bowls, and glasses up there, putting away them becomes a breeze.
From a cost perspective, they're much more affordable than upper cabinets, so you can either keep that extra money in your pocket or put it toward something else in your project like slightly nicer appliances or a more expensive backsplash tile.
Open shelving in the kitchen in Project Powhatan
The Cons of Open Shelving
I actually don't think there are a lot of downsides to incorporating some open shelving into your kitchen - it's more about your personal tolerance for dust and whether you like having dishes or serving pieces out on display for the world to see.
For those of you concerned about dust, let's be real, it's going to accumulate on any open surface, but if you use your dishes daily it won't really be a problem. You'll need to dust the shelves themselves on a regular basis, so you may need to add a little extra time to your cleaning routine. If you live by yourself or don't find yourself going through dishes very quickly, you may find you need to give that dish a quick rinse before you use it.
As for having items on display all the time, I think the key is to make sure what you put on there is cohesive. If you have a matching set of dishes, you should be in good shape. The same goes for having a nice collection that looks good all together. Don't have anything cohesive? Maybe this is the time to upgrade! 😉
The only other con that comes to mind is that there is a risk of it looking cluttered if you're not careful. This is especially true if you have a lot of open shelving. Just be sure to not overcrowd your shelves - give everything some breathing room.
So, should you go for it?
At the end of the day, it comes down to whether you love the look and if you're up for dealing with a little bit of dust. Remember, you can install a little or a lot of open shelving - it doesn't have to be an all or nothing decision! If you love it, I say go for it. It's a beautiful look, and even though it's currently "trendy" I don't think open shelves will ever truly go out of style.