I Hate Open Shelving in the Kitchen, Case Closed

“I have too much kitchen storage,” said no one ever. With all the kitchen gadgets and cookbooks we tend to accumulate over the years, it often feels like there aren’t enough places to stash these items out of sight.

That’s why the popularity of open shelving—a trend that seems like it’s lasted longer than a pack of ramen noodles—is confounding. Having open shelves in your kitchen means you’re letting it all hang out: dinnerware, vases, cookbooks, all of it. In theory (and on Pinterest), it’s a chic look. But when I think about the time it would take to keep the shelves looking neat—and how much space is actually wasted—I roll my eyes.

While some people have chosen to hop on the bandwagon by installing open shelves in a couple of key locations, others have straight-up done away with their kitchen cabinets. Either way, I’m not a fan.

Here are the reasons why I’m keeping my kitchenware behind closed (cabinet) doors.

My mix-and-match dinnerware is not eclectic, it’s an eyesore

You may have admired the airy appeal of open shelving while watching Food Network, but unless you’re Ina Garten and your silver is perfectly polished and your plates match, this trend is not going to look quite as appetizing in your own home.

My everyday dinnerware is a mashup of several different sets. Over the years, our dishes have taken their licks—they have scratches and chipped edges thanks to kids and a powerful dishwasher. Do I need a constant visual reminder that my poor plates have seen better days? Nope. Do I want to splurge on a new set that’s worthy of round-the-clock display? Still no.

You’ll do double the washing

Unless you regularly use your pretty glass pitchers, copper pots, and all those other Pinterest-perfect pieces, they’re going to gather dust. So when it’s time to actually take them down from those open shelves, you’ll have to wash and dry them all over again. And even if you’re not using them, you’ll still want to keep them dust-free so they look their best. Who needs that extra work?

You’re flirting with disaster

Depending on where you place your open shelves, you may be asking for trouble. Hanging them in high-traffic areas (like a kitchen) can result in dangerous collisions.

My sister-in-law has open shelving in her kitchen, and each Thanksgiving I watch as kids and even older relatives back into them to make way for fellow guests, sending cookbooks and tchotchkes crashing to the floor. I can’t even look at the photo above without hearing glass shattering.

They can make a room look cramped

Although open shelves are meant to enhance a space, they can also quickly overwhelm it. Closed cabinets give a neat, minimalist appearance. Once you’ve literally put it all out there on open shelves, the space may feel overcrowded and visually chaotic.

One more place to decorate

I can barely keep up with seasonal decor in other parts of the home, but open shelves are practically begging to be decked out with Halloween pumpkins, wintry pine cones, Easter eggs, and Fourth of July flags. It might look cheery and festive, but I’m drawing the line when it comes to decking out the kitchen. Who has this kind of hustle?

Ensure they’re secure

If you’re going to load up those shelves with breakables, you’ll need to know they’re installed correctly and fastened securely or you’ll have a real mess on your hands—and on the floor. Not only does the hardware need to be strong and reliable, but so do the shelves themselves. Otherwise they may warp and sag, creating a rather sad look.

Junk will collect there

Much like a kitchen island, your open shelves are likely to become a dumping ground for clutter. What once seemed like a great idea has now become another repository for junk mail, your car keys, and that extra phone charger you’ve been looking for. This is not the look you were going for.

This isn’t a grocery store

Unless it’s done tastefully, there’s something about open shelving that makes me feel like I’ve just walked into Oleson’s Mercantile from “Little House on the Prairie.”

When I walk into a kitchen with this type of shelving, I find it hard to concentrate on conversation as I’m too busy checking out the homeowner’s cookbooks and favorite teas. Again, this is why I could never adopt the popular storage style. Do I want guests to know I’m buying generic cinnamon or that I’ve caved and let my kids consume sugar cereals? Not so much.

Bottom line: Cabinets keep your secrets safe in a way that open shelving never will.


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