Kitchen Design Dilemma: Open Shelving vs. Upper Cabinets

Check out the pros and cons of open shelving versus upper cabinets to help you make an informed decision about your kitchen design.

When designing a kitchen cabinet, choosing open shelves or upper cabinets is one of the most important decisions you will have to make. Although upper cabinets have long been the preferred storage option in kitchens, open shelving has gained increasing popularity. Both options have advantages and disadvantages, and the decision ultimately comes down to personal preference. In this design dilemma, we'll explore the pros and cons of open shelving versus upper cabinets to help you make an informed decision about your kitchen design. Let's get started!

1.  They are different in visual appeal


First of all, we will talk about the visual difference. Open shelves provide an airy and cool look for the kitchen space by taking less material and are usually crafted as supporting panels. In contrast, closed floating cabinets can give the impression that a room is cluttered and closed off. There is no clear definition of a better choice between these two solutions that both can be designed into an attractive and functional kitchen.

2.  Open shelves provide a clear display


Unlike upper cabinets, which can create a barrier between you and your items, kitchen shelves or open kitchen cabinets allow you to showcase your favorite dishes, glasses, and decorative pieces while keeping everything within your sight. Overall, open shelving provides a modern and practical storage solution for any kitchen design.

3. Open shelves are easier to reach


One of the most significant benefits of kitchen shelves is their ease of access. Open shelves provide a convenient and straightforward storage alternative that is within easy reach, unlike upper cabinets, which may require stretching to reach. By choosing open shelves, you can locate and grab items quickly in the kitchen, saving you time and energy.

As we mentioned before, open shelving also allows you to scan your items to locate what you need without digging through cluttered cabinets. This will simplify the cooking and meal preparation process. In a small kitchen, open shelving is particularly practical since it maximizes every inch of space.

4. Upper cabinets require less maintenance


As open kitchen shelving is directly exposed to the air, it is a much easier place to accumulate dirt and dust. So you may have to clean the open shelves several times a day or week. While for closed cabinets, the inner part is less likely to get dirt as door panels block most of the dust. Thus, the upper kitchen cabinets may only require a clean-up once or twice a month.

5. Upper cabinets provide more storage solutions


Compared to open shelving, upper cabinets provide more storage options because they are deeper and taller, allowing you to store large items like pots and pans upright. It is possible to customize upper cabinets based on your specific requirements. Installing pull-out shelves and adjustable racks can enhance storage capacity and organization.

These floating cabinets provide a practical and customizable storage solution for kitchens of any size. Many homeowners choose them because of their added storage capacity and protective features, even though they may not offer the same visibility and access as open shelving.

6. Upper cabinets keep every storage under protection


By storing your items behind closed doors, upper cabinets prevent dust, debris, and spills from coming into contact with them. Delicate items, like fine china, crystal glassware, and kitchen gadgets, should be protected at all costs.

Upper cabinets provide excellent protection for internal storage and safe storage options for families with children and pets. Ensure that potentially dangerous items, such as sharp knives or toxic cleaning products, are out of reach and out of sight.

7. Open shelves cost less than upper cabinets


The cost of open shelving is usually lower than that of upper cabinets, as it requires less material and labor. Using brackets and boards, which are available at most hardware stores, you can install a set of open shelves on your own.

Besides saving you money initially, open shelving can also save you money in the long run. By displaying your items out in the open, you'll be able to see what you already have and prevent purchasing duplicate items. Furthermore, open shelving reduces food waste since you can easily see which items are expiring and use them up before they spoil.

8. Open shelves are more sustainable


By using less material, open shelving has less environmental impact. Open shelving reduces installation materials by eliminating the need for cabinet doors and hardware. Open shelving can also be made from sustainable materials, such as bamboo or reclaimed wood, which are more eco-friendly than traditional cabinetry materials.

Further, open shelving can be easily maintained and repaired, extending its lifespan and reducing the need for frequent replacement. This will save you money in the long run and reduce the amount of waste generated from broken cabinets.

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