Open shelving: massive mistake?

I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I will be bombarding you with a few more kitchen inspired posts whilst we build up to actually doing our kitchen makeover (need to save some money – eeeek!). One of the major changes I want to make that won’t cost much is to remove one wall’s worth of kitchen cabinets above my sink. My current kitchen would benefit from more character and the wall cupboards feel overbearing and dominant so I think that replacing them with open shelving could be a good solution to both problems.

I have been very busy looking for kitchen ideasΒ and examples of open shelving and I was also really inspired by Katie’s kitchen. But, and it’s a big but, will I be making a massive mistake replacing cupboards with shelves? Will I spend my life having to clean and dust them? Will I drive myself crazy ensuring the shelves are perfectly styled at all times and stuff anything that is actually useful in the other cupboards? Will I end up with less storage than I started with?

But then look how pretty they can be…

Open shelving in kitchen | White kitchen | String shelving

Image via delikatissen

Potentially, I would be getting rid of three wall cupboards in favour of shelves and I currently store all of my crockery, mugs and glasses in them. These are all items that we use on a daily basis so from a practical point of view storing them on shelves would be ideal as they would be easily accessible. We could even add a plate rack and hooks for mugs. Also, glasses stored on shelves look good because they allow the light to travel through them so the shelves won’t feel unbalanced. But I keep coming back to the issue of cleaning and dusting – will it become a dirty nightmare or does everything get used so often that it’s not really a problem?

Open shelving in kitchen | Kitchen window

Image via Interior Junkie

Open shelving in kitchen | Jane Cumberbatch's kitchen

Image via Pure Style

Pop back on Monday as I have created a 3D render of what my kitchen will look like with open shelves and you can give me your honest opinion on whether to go for it.

Katy x


*Written in collaboration with Homify.




  1. 11th September 2015 / 6:31 am

    I once had a kitchen with shelving instead of wall cupboards…two words: never again!!! I couldn’t stand all the cleaning and dusting, and it was an effort to make it look pretty instead of cluttered…

    • Katy
      11th September 2015 / 7:57 am

      Oh god! I thought lots of people would come back with that feedback and having a dirty kitchen is my worst nightmare. What about the fact that it will be juts our crockery, cups and glasses on the shelves, which all get used so regularly? Will that help? Also, the shelves are on the opposite side of the kitchen to the oven so won;t get blasted by grease etc. I’m really trying to talk myself in to this, aren’t I?! xx

      • Margret
        29th January 2016 / 11:16 pm

        It really looks cluttered – sorry to say.

  2. 11th September 2015 / 8:43 am

    We have no wall cupboards and just open shelving – not a problem! I clean them probably once a month which seems to be fine for dust and grease, but then everything on them gets used/washed regularly anyway so it’s just a quick wipe down. Go for it!

    • Katy
      11th September 2015 / 11:22 am

      Very good to know, Kate. I suppose it all depends on what is on the shelves – if you use them for pretty tea sets that never get used or touched then, yes, it will get pretty gross. You may have convinced me! x

  3. 11th September 2015 / 10:00 am

    We have a bit of open shelving in our kitchen, and having to clean them is a bit of a pain, but I love the way they look. I make sure I only use them to display things that either don’t collect much dust, or which we use almost every day so they get frequent washes (nice everyday plates and glasses etc). I’m always rearranging them, but that’s the fun bit! Good luck with the makeover, anyway – I’m sure it will look fantastic whatever you do! x

    • Katy
      11th September 2015 / 11:26 am

      Yes, I do worry that I would constantly be re-arranging them and it might drive me mad (also in danger of buying lots of new things that look nice on shelves rather than hide in cupboards πŸ˜‰ ). I love your kitchen and how open it feels compared to mine because you don;t have wall cupboards (and just had a look back on your IG for shelf pics and saw one that said you were dusting them – haha!) x

  4. 11th September 2015 / 10:28 am

    definitely open shelves! they look amazing, what a difference ! I still have my cabinets, they are beautiful wood with glass on the front, but after 20 years, sometimes I yhink about remodeling.

    • Katy
      11th September 2015 / 11:28 am

      Oooh, I love glass-fronted cabinets as they feel so much less imposing than solid wall cupboards (plus you don’t have the dust and grease issue). x

  5. 11th September 2015 / 12:13 pm

    Hey Katy, I kind of think if you want to do it you should – life’s too short to worry about these things. πŸ™‚ Personally, though, is there a risk you’ll devalue your property? Worth considering if you’re thinking of moving in the coming years as it won’t be to everyones taste. Dusting would really put me off, but then at the same time a nice feeling to know it’s all clean because you’re forced to keep it clean. πŸ™‚ Hope it helps! Leanne xxx

  6. 11th September 2015 / 12:44 pm

    I think it’s completely loopy that you’re even stopping to question it: yes, they may collect more dust, but I think you’ll just love having so many new surfaces to style! I have six (narrow) open shelves and lots of cupboards – the cupboards feel very dull, but the shelves feel completely joyful with possibilities! If I could lose all my cupboards, I would (unfortunately, I can’t as one of them mid-wall is hiding a boiler). I’d ignore the practicalities and go for what will make your heart sing! The only problem I can forsee is that naughty Otto will view them as a potential bed and you’ll find him lounging over your crockery one day! πŸ˜‰

    Florence x
    (Ps. In our last house, we had a plug set on the wall just above a kitchen shelf – I really enjoyed having the toaster on a shelf rather than cluttering the work surfaces). x

  7. Louise
    11th September 2015 / 1:16 pm

    Can you store the cupboards somewhere so that if you change your mind they can go back up? You clearly want it, so I would try it as you can always go back to cupboards if it doesn’t work. Personally I like to have things stashed away. I think it comes from years of London living, where the polluted atmosphere deposits black sticky dust everywhere. Hopefully the daily use will stop that being a problem for you, so go for it!

  8. 11th September 2015 / 1:51 pm

    Totally understand your dilemma, would love open shelving but I know we are too obsessive for cleaning and it would have to look immaculate all the time, which basically means we’d display everything and never want to use it! The only solution is glass doors all the way!

  9. Laura
    11th September 2015 / 2:21 pm

    I have open shelves, and it really depends on you using the items regularly. I have cups and glasses on mine, and I had to put away some fancy wine glasses that I rarely use (they don’t go in the dishwasher) and swap them for less aesthetically pleasing but much more functional pint glasses, and now everything gets used regularly enough that it doesn’t get greasy/dusty. I am the only one to use cups as my partner doesn’t like hot drinks, and even they get used regularly, especially if I have friends over. I don’t have a favourite mug though, so that probably helps rotate them.

    I love the idea of putting a toaster on a shelf, I wish I’d done that! My shelves are slightly too high for that to work for me.

    Someone did warn me that having no upper cupboards would be a problem for resale, but as I was starting from an unsalvagable ancient mess, I thought I could always put some up if I decide to move. My kitchen has flat fronted doors with nothing fancy about them, it’s from Ikea, so I would have no trouble getting complementary cupboards if I wanted later on. And it was a lot cheaper in terms of buying the kitchen which was really handy when we had such a large outlay all at once!

  10. 11th September 2015 / 3:40 pm

    Hi Katy,

    Reading your post made me chuckle as Mr C and I are going through the same debate! Lol only problem is, our kitchen isn’t that old, I’m so cross with myself for not thinking it through at the time.
    Anyhoo… We still can’t decide.
    On the plus side I’d be more organised and it’s a fab excuse to buy really beautiful new china!
    And on the down side… It may send me ocd…

    Can’t wait to see what you decide!

    Emma xx

  11. Toni
    11th September 2015 / 7:43 pm

    In all the places I’ve lived, the kitchen with open shelves is, by far, my favorite! We put our everyday dishes and glassware there and then stored serving dishes, pots, pans, and everything else in the lower cabinets. Just wiped it down as I was putting dishes away. Easy as pie!
    My current kitchen would have required MAJOR remodel to be able to do open shelves. So, I painted the inside of the cupboards and took the doors off! Now if I ever feel like going back to a traditional look, I just have to hang the doors up and makeover complete!

  12. 11th September 2015 / 11:38 pm

    I actually nearly commented on your last kitchen post to ask about your thought in grease and dust etc. on open shelving. We have some open shelving in quite a small kitchen, things on them do get greasy quite quickly and we have some wine glasses on them that are too tall for our cupboards and I always have to wash them before we use them (which is pretty often). I like the look of jars filled with things and we have them on our shelves but realistically they’re not that practical because they don’t get washed often enough.

    I think as long as you make sure you’re careful about what you put on them and you keep enough cupboard storage for everything else then go for it πŸ™‚ I’m sure your style will mean they look beautiful!

  13. 13th September 2015 / 8:09 pm

    I think open shelves look lovely, but yes you do need to clean them. A lot. And it’s not just dust – we hardly fry anything, but our stuff seams to build up all the layers of grease, which is more time consuming to clean than a quick flick round with a feather duster. We have no wall cabinets and I hate it. I personally think having mostly wall cabinets is most practical, with perhaps a couple of shelves to break things up/show pretty things off.

  14. 14th September 2015 / 9:49 am

    We’ve just taken down our cupboards and it’s made such a huge difference – the kitchen feels so much bigger and lighter! What’s the hassle with giving shelves a wipe over every so often?! You say they’re for your most used items so dust etc won’t be given too much of a chance to build up. Go for it! πŸ™‚

  15. 15th September 2015 / 7:16 pm

    Hmm I’m quite untidy so I could imagine I would create clutter but i do LOVE these open shelves and can’t wait to see what you do with your kitchen x

  16. Lizzie
    22nd September 2015 / 8:12 am

    I’m a bit obsessive on the cleanliness front, but I have open shelves, and they’re not a problem plus they are so much more interesting visually and user friendly from an access POV. A quick wipe now and then deals, and I tend to store high use stuff only on the shelves so I don’t worry about the kit getting dusty. I think the key is an extractor fan though…if you don’t have an extractor fan you will get cooking grease build up.

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