The Top 5 Objections to Open Shelving (and Answers from People Who Love It)

updated Jun 5, 2019
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(Image credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion)

Change is scary and can often leave a person full of excuses. Take open shelving, for example. If you’re used to having doors on your cabinets, the idea of putting everything you own out on display could make you very nervous. But you might actually end up loving it!

I chatted with several folks (including some of my own interior design clients), who have made the switch from closed-door cabinets to open-air shelving, and let’s just say all those excuses are just that — excuses! Hear what these homeowners have to say about open shelving and put those excuses to rest.

Excuse 1: I’ll lose space.

It is true that when the doors come down, you lose any and all opportunities to squeeze in just one more cup or box of instant oatmeal. However, it’s also true that many people with cabinet doors still waste space because they fill cabinets so much that they don’t know what they have — because they can’t see it all. With open shelving, the actual number of square inches stays the same, but you actually use it better. “As I cleared out my cabinets, I found all these things in the very back that I didn’t even know I had,” says Meredith from New York. “Those things certainly didn’t earn a spot on the new shelves!”

Excuse 2: I have too much stuff.

In the age of Marie Kondo, do I even need to say it? Less is best. How many cereal bowls do you and your family actually use? And how many do you have? “Our cup collection was out of control — a hodgepodge of mismatched glasses. We just felt bad getting rid of stuff,” says Kathy from California. After getting open shelving, she pared things down and realized that all the remaining drinking glasses fit easily on one small ledge. Take a deep breath, and enjoy less.

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

Excuse 3: It seems like a lot of work.

I like to say that keeping things organized is like exercise or eating healthy: It’s tough at first, but well worth the effort. If you aren’t used to the practice of upkeep, it can feel like a task at the start, but a little bit of attention every day keeps you out of trouble for bigger chaos down the line. Once you set up your shelves in a way that makes sense and is pleasing to look at, just make sure you put stuff back in the same place. And know this: “My open shelves don’t actually get all that dusty, so that’s never really a concern,” says Jill, a homeowner in North Carolina.

Excuse 4: This is just a trend.

Open shelving in kitchens has gone in and out of fashion since the beginning of time (or kitchens, in any case), so if you are itching to give the shelves a try, don’t worry about how long the trend may be in style, as it may be back before it’s even over. A recent client of mine just told me, “I know this is super trendy right now, but I can’t imagine ever being tired of seeing my beautiful dishes on display.” And she probably won’t be!

(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Excuse 5: My dishes are ugly.

Well, while you’re making up excuses, open shelving is a great excuse to upgrade your dishes! Remember to consider color palette, texture, and theme when selecting pieces to keep the look cohesive. Opt for neutral tones, or even an all-white collection can be stunning in its simplicity. If buying new stuff isn’t in the cards, think beyond dinnerware: “I don’t love my plates, so I hide them in a drawer below the counter and instead I display my colorful Dutch oven, pretty bottles of wine, baking canisters, and plants,” says Erica from Delaware.

Any other reasons you may be against open shelving?