Kitchens are more interesting as rooms when they are move away from fortress cabinets to open kitchen shelves.
Think of it this way: no other room in the house has furniture lining every inch of every wall, floor to ceiling, so why should the kitchen? I think it’s time to let go of the “gotta hide it” urge and allow serve ware, cookware and other accessories to be displayed as well as stored on open kitchen shelves.
These ten kitchens offer a variety of ways to approach open storage. And while many of the accessories displayed in these kitchens look carefully arranged (because they are styled for photography) a more casual approach is equally valid and practical.
One end of a classic white kitchen [top] has three thick white shelves that run the length of the wall. They are cantilevered, rather than attached to the sides, which makes them appear to float. Using shelves in this way eliminates the need for a corner cabinet on the right and allows for a small amount of open space between the shelves and the sink. It’s pretty, and highlights the gleamingly clean look of the counter-to-ceiling backsplash.
A similar classic white kitchen — these two look enough alike to be the same space but I raised the lack of individuality some time ago in my All-White Kitchens — Trend Over post — does something different with open shelves. In this corner, stainless steel shelves are lodged between the window wall and the cabinet adjacent to the range since that space isn’t deep enough for a cabinet. The shelves match the range and hood and a accessibility is preserved.
The Atlanta architect William B. Litchfield specializes in country style white kitchens with a good deal of planking and other features we’ve noted in Allison’s Dine in Kitchens post and mine on Kitchen Island Variations. On this end of a sink wall, charming white-painted shelves supported by ogee brackets are used for glassware and dish storage. The lowest shelf is shorter than the two above to make space for the slender table lamp. Table lamps on kitchen counters are trending but it’s especially notable, since the shelving has been adjusted for that purpose.
A pair of short natural wood bracket shelves with simple triangular supports are a good fit in a rustic kitchen where fresh herbs are kept directly above a prep area adjacent to the range. This is a statement about the way a kitchen is used, about ingredients, and about what’s important to the cook — a subtle and individual design, display and color choice.
Vintage storage cabinets like this one add ineffable character to any kitchen. I’m not crazy about having it over a range since it’s obviously flammable. But the open space between the bracketed bottom is a handy spot for hanging utensils, no doubt. On the other hand, such a shelf add so much character to the kitchen it’s a treat to hang it anywhere.
Whether the open upper cabinets are new, or just cleverly altered after the doors were removed, the point is made. Painting the backs of the interiors a pale blue-green, which is opposite the orange hue in the backsplash, makes them wave at you and upstage the patterned tile. There’s a lesson in this look, which could easily be applied to a budget renovation.
Okay, it’s a contraption in a display showroom. But I’ve been holding on to this photo of this open corner cabinet and shelving for two reasons. First, the open corner base cabinet allows access from two sides, and it’s raised slightly above the adjacent cabinet, which provides an unusual opportunity to gain a few more inches below. Second, the single fixed upper shelf anchors the pole and the wedge-shaped shelves swivel out of the way. I’m not sure how this stripper pole shelving would function in an actual kitchen — something moving way up there could take flight — but it presents a thoughtful approach to kitchen use.
Open shelving on kitchen base cabinets is rarely seen in the U.S. I’m not sure why but Americans want closed drawers there. This arrangement seems logical between the Aga and the pantry cupboard and it’s inexpensive. It does require some significant bending to use.
Fitted English cabinets from Kit Stone feature shallow base cabinet storage flanking the range niche which is very handy for many things apart from coffee mugs. What I truly love and covet though, is the slim cabinet with built in vertical slots for cutting boards and trays. Mine are stored vertically but behind a door that’s constantly being opened and closed. These seem so much easier to grab.
This certainly must be the mother of all open shelving ideas and, trust me, it’s bigger than it appears. The centerpiece is a Traulsen commercial refrigerator made to look built in. Instead of putting upper and lower narrow doors on the sides, the owner chose elegant end-grain shelves sturdy enough to stow a Kitchen Aid mixer and microwave. The space above the fridge is an odd place to tuck in a flat screen but why ever not?
(Source: House Beautiful 1, 6, 10, decorpad, William B. Litchfield, alleideen.com, welke.nl, design extra studio, living etc., kit stone kitchens)
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Regality (aka The Quing) says
Open kitchen shelves are fine as long as items that are used regularly are stored on them. If infrequently used items are stored there, then there is a gruesome amount of kitchen crud that collects on them–grease, dust, etc.