It’s been over a year since I’ve had an open shelving pantry, and three months since I yanked off some of my cabinet doors. Before I started all this openness, I scoured the internet and read all about everything I could possibly find.
I found tons of how-tos, tutorials, tips, and advice, but I also found a lot of differing opinions. In the end, I decided to go with it. If I hated it, I could always change it back. Luckily, I love it. And I won’t be changing it back.
But open shelving in the kitchen isn’t for everyone, so today I’m going to share the answers to all the questions you may be wondering about. I’ll keep it as unbiased as possible, so hopefully the info will help you decide if it’s right for your own kitchen.
**More recently, I wrote a post about my thoughts and opinions on the open shelving cabinets after living with them for one full year. Click here to read my most recent review.**
Question 1. Doesn’t it get dusty and dirty?
Yep, sure does. But not as much as you’d think.
If you have a full open shelving kitchen with no closed space at all, then yes, you’re going to deal with a war zone of dust, grease, and pet hair. That’s not always a deal breaker, but you do need to be prepared to do monthly deep cleaning of the shelves and lesser-used dishes. I knew this coming in, so I opted for only an open pantry and three shelving sections.
The pantry houses food, which I cook with on a daily basis, and the three wall shelves with the doors removed only hold items we use very often, including plates, glasses, bowls, and serving dishes. By keeping only your daily go-to’s on the open shelves, you really don’t have to deal with dust that often, other than wiping down the shelves once a month with a cloth while the dishes are in the dishwasher after dinner. I like this cloth for cleaning shelves because it grabs up every bit of dust and hangs onto it so much better than a regular duster.
Question 2. What if all my stuff isn’t pretty enough to be on display?
Valid question. The honest answer is “Do you care?”
It’s really a personal preference. Sure, you can go out and buy all new stuff, make them match perfectly, and throw out your old stuff if you’re focused on looks. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. But keep in mind that the idea of open shelving is to make things easier, more accessible, and less cluttered in the kitchen.
If you want open shelving only for looks, you should definitely take into consideration your current belongings and budget to purchase new items if necessary. But if your goal in going open is to make cooking, coffee preparation, and organization easier, then don’t worry about the mismatched dishes.
You can see above that the cat food container isn’t so cute and all our favorite coffee mugs are not exactly Instagram-worthy, but having them at arm’s reach overshadows the fact that they aren’t fit for a magazine. Plus, having mismatched stuff is cool and eclectic. Just think of it that way. However, if new dishes are on your shopping list, I love this affordable crisp white set from Chef Gordon Ramsey.
Question 3. Is it expensive to convert to open shelving?
Here’s the truth, it can range anywhere from free to double the cost of actual cabinets. I know that’s a ridiculously wide range, but like I said, I’m being honest.
For my kitchen shelving, I went with the free route. I removed some cabinet doors, painted the inside with leftover paint from my interior doors, and filled the holes from the brackets. (You can see my full tutorial here) For my pantry, I took the cheap-ish route. I bought some plain Ikea Ivar shelving units, painted them myself (because the painted shelves were way more expensive), and arranged them the way the best suited my storage needs.
But if you’re more interested in the style of open shelving that Joanna Gaines is shelling out, you better be prepared to put in the money, time, and work. Real genuine open shelving requires first removing your current cabinets, patching the walls, repainting the walls, purchasing high quality heavy-duty shelving, installing the brackets on studs, painting the shelves if they aren’t already, and replacing them if they bow later on. This style of shelving is absolutely gorgeous, and definitely the way to go to get a great looking kitchen, but the investment of time and money is a lot higher.
Question 4. What are the pros and cons of an open shelving pantry?
This is the biggie. Sure, putting your pretty dishes on display is one thing, but your pantry items are on a whole different level.
* Less likely to have food expire or be forgotten about
* Easier to find ingredients when preparing snacks and meals
* Reduces the amount of needless groceries you buy
* Prevents you from letting your pantry get cluttered and messy
* Food packages aren’t always visually appealing
* Storage solutions (containers, bins, baskets, and jars) can get costly
* Putting food items in pretty containers (and throwing away their original packaging) means you lose cooking instructions and expiration dates
* Dust and pet hair will settle on the shelves, requiring you to clear them off and wipe them down every few months (However, if you have a money-hungry kiddo like mine, you can pawn off this job to them in exchange for a few bucks. In that case, this is more of a pro than a con.)
Question 5. What if I’m not sure I’ll like it?
That’s the most valid question of all. In photos and TV shows, open shelving looks amazing. But you’re just seeing how it looks, not how it feels to own them.
Here’s my best advice, so if you don’t take anything else from this post, at least hang onto this one.
I suggest to every single one of my kitchen remodel clients to give it a thirty day trial run.
Whether you are absolutely positively sold on open shelving, or maybe just a little conflicted, this is something you can try before you buy. I think you should remove your cabinet doors (it’s super fast and easy) and store them in the garage for a full month. During that month, see if it’s possible for you to keep the shelves clean and uncluttered. See if it makes meal prep easier. See if you don’t mind having your stuff on display all the time. At the end of the month, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge of how open shelving will work for you and your family specifically.
I said I’d keep it unbiased, so I’ll share the honest truth that open shelving isn’t for everyone. For me, partial open shelving works best, because I don’t mind having some things uncovered, but other things I’d prefer be hidden behind doors. But I can safely say that over the last year, I’ve become more organized, more mindful when shopping, saved money on groceries, and overall happier with my kitchen’s functionality.
**And to see how I’m feeling about it one year later, check out my new updated post to see if my opinions have changed**
Still on the fence about open shelving? I’d love it if you commented below with your own questions and opinions on open shelving in the kitchen.
Cristen Coombs says
Lela, I love this blog post! You covered everything and brought up every question that should be asked. As you know I have all my cabinet doors off and I’ll never go back. They really don’t get dirty and dusty like you would think, look pretty and the best part? It had made me so intentional when shopping. If there isn’t space for it or a place for it to go I don’t get it! I just don’t have the luxury of shoving stuff behind closed doors anymore!! Again, great post!
Lela Burris says
Exactly Cristen! I’ve seen your kitchen on Instagram and every single shelf is perfectly organized. You’re so right about being intentional while shopping. I love that you use baskets on some shelves to corral the little things, too. Your kitchen is the perfect example of open shelving done right!
I don’t think open shelving is a fad. I think it’s a classic that is trendy these days, but when it stops being a trend, I don’t think it will look dated. I love the look of open shelving, but I’m not brave enough. The dust. The potential cooking grease. I don’t know if I have the energy for it.
Naomie Moore, Castaic, CA says
Absolutely love the look, but not practical for my lifestyle unfortunately. I live in a hot dusty climate with 6 dogs, 6 cats a canary and a dragon. And have every window and door open if it is not blazing hot or freezing cold. The bakers rack is always dusty . . . .always, even with daily dusting. Admire those that have it as it is so pretty and can really be a lovely feature. ?
Lela Burris says
So happy you shared this Naomie! You’re so right, open shelving is not for everyone, and I’m so glad you mentioned your climate and use of open windows. Great call-out!