Open Shelving: To Do or Not to Do

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Open Shelves. People either love 'em or hate 'em. But it doesn't have to be an all or nothing concept. While this display at Infinity shows only open shelves, I can see this idea tucked neatly into the corner of a kitchen with upper cabinets on adjacent walls.  Open shelves give a warmth and intimacy that is difficult to achieve with a cabinet door. It provides display space for objects with personality: your favorite dishes, photos, cookbooks, antiques, artifacts; the possibilities are endless. 

We wanted a casual display that really could go in any room. We are used to seeing open shelving in kitchens. But it's also perfect for a mudroom, butler's pantry, entryway, bathroom, media room or coffee bar. Open shelving can go anywhere!

It's no secret that open shelving pairs beautifully with walls covered in ship lap as seen here. But any interesting backdrop will do: bead board, wallpaper, tile, stone, or even a fabulous paint color. Open shelves give a warmth and intimacy that is difficult to achieve with a cabinet door. Let's discuss some pros and cons about open shelving to see if it's right for your space.

Pro: Open Shelves Provide Display

This can actually be a pro and a con depending on your personality. If you are type "A" and all of your items must stay perfectly arranged, open shelving will drive you crazy. You may prefer, "out of sight, out of mind." But if you are more relaxed and enjoy the artistic beauty in everyday items, open shelving might be for you.

Con: Open Shelves Collect Dust

While it is true that you will have to dust your shelves periodically, if you use the items on the shelves often then dust doesn't have a chance to collect. Most owners choose to dust their shelves monthly. 

Pro: Open Shelves Open Up

Open shelves visually expand the space, allowing your room to appear larger. And don't forget, there is no rule for how many shelves are required. You might want to run a tall back splash and top it with just one shelf. Or run a full wall of shelves from floor to ceiling; keeping some items in baskets along the bottom for the kiddos to reach. No matter how you do it, anywhere you replace cabinets with shelving will open up your room.

Con: Open Shelves Don't Hide Anything

If your dishes consist of paper plates and sippy cups, open shelving won't be your friend. It's true that you want to display items that you actually enjoy seeing. If you love the look but this fact scares you; consider your inventory. Do you have a grouping of items you would like to display? How much open shelving would house those items? Where in your space could those shelves go? The rest of your things can be neatly hidden behind closed doors.

Pro: Personality Plus

In decorating any space, the final touch is the accessories. It's what tells the story of you: where you have been, what you collect, what is important to you. These smaller items give character, color and composition to a design. There is a simple story in the shelves pictured here. The coffee items are to invite you in to stay awhile, the cotton orbs remind you that you are in the South, and the metal truck refers to the owner of this company being a hard-working, truck-loving guy. Closed cabinets would not have told you all that.

So what's your story? Consider using open shelving and start telling us a little bit about you.

Rochelle Grass, Interior Designer

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