Open Shelving Pros and Cons

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Dear Drury Design,

What are the pros and cons of open shelving in a kitchen? 


Cookie from Naperville

This week’s answer is provided by Designer Samantha Schoell, CKBD, who has been with Drury Design for almost 7 years.


Hi Cookie, 

We’ve designed and installed a variety of kitchens that have incorporated open shelving. Here are some of the criteria that can help you decide if open shelving is right for you.


More spacious – Without the visual volume of cabinetry, open shelving can make a small kitchen feel larger and more open. 

The look – This gives you the opportunity to display items such as glassware, dishware, antiques and art. You can even switch out your décor to match the seasons and holidays.

Specific styles – Open shelving contributes particularly well to some specific design styles – think of a kitchen going for that industrial back-of-house restaurant vibe, rustic cottage kitchens and extremely minimalistic modern kitchens. 

Efficiency – Imagine grabbing a dish or glass in a single motion and using it immediately – as opposed to opening a door, grabbing the item, closing the door, and then using it. 

Mixed Finishes– The shelves can be in a different material such as a metal or wood stain that is different from the cabinets. This allows you to use the shelves as a focal point in the space.


More cleaning – Airborne dust will settle on the items on your shelves. Also – items on lower shelves can get spotty from food prep activity and sink splatters. 

Less storage – An emphasis on orderly open shelves means fewer places to put stuff. 

Practicality vs. aesthetics – Your most-used kitchen items might not be right for open shelving. Think kid cups, handy bowls, daily-use dishes, etc. If the items you use the most aren’t worthy of being seen constantly on open shelves, you’ll end stashing them in locations that are less convenient.

Resell hazard – Consider that residential kitchens with a heavy emphasis on open shelving aren’t as common as kitchens with ample cabinet space. What if you sell your home one day? Potential buyers who expect kitchen cabinetry may balk at the added cost and process of putting in cabinets. 

Keep in mind that open-shelving doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing consideration. Some of our clients have incorporated open or “see-through” shelving in a particular section of their kitchens.

Also – some clients prefer open shelving for their beverage station/bar areas. 

Coffee bar and beverage station

I hope this helps! Please, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have further questions about open shelving or any particular ideas you have for incorporating open shelving in a kitchen remodeling project. 


Samantha Schoell, CKBD


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