The Pros and Cons of Open Shelves

I’ve been in the design and renovation industry for almost two decades, and in all these years no topic has caused as much controversy as open shelves in the kitchen.  All I have to say is “open sh…” and people get riled up. Some people absolutely despise them while others will defend them all day long.

As far as I’m concerned, open shelves can be great IF they’re installed in the right space and for the right household. Here are a few pros and cons to consider.

Open Shelves – Pros

Price – One of the main reasons I use open shelving in some of my kitchen renovations is because it’s far less expensive than traditional cabinetry. The shelves themselves are less expensive, and so is the installation. If you’re on a tight budget open shelving can be a great way to save on your kitchen renovation.

Easy access – All you have to do is glance at them and you’ll know exactly where everything is. No more opening every cabinet door to find that rarely used dish.

Opens up the space – For people who like open and airy spaces, these shelves can be a great design choice. Cabinet doors can sometimes feel oppressive in small spaces, especially when they’re dark in colour.

Show off your stuff – If you have dishes and other items you want to display, open shelves might be the right choice for you.

Open Shelves – Cons

Dust & Grease – Everyone is always very quick to tell me that the dishes will get dusty and greasy. Sure, but is it really that big a deal? If they’re dishes you use regularly there won’t be time for dust to collect, and if you don’t use them regularly is it really a big deal to wipe them down on occasion before using?

Forced Organization – This could be a pro or a con depending on your attitude, but some people find it difficult to have to keep things organized and looking nice all the time.  When you have open shelves you can’t just shove something in there and quickly close the door.

They can look cheap – You have to make sure you’re getting shelves that can handle the weight of your dishes over time. Saggy shelves that are visible at all times will look terrible.

When it comes down to it, like most things, they will work for some people and not for others. So the moral of this story is, do open shelves work in every kitchen? No. Are they a fantastic solution in others? Absolutely.

Bottom photo courtesy of DIY Network

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