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22 Kitchens That Will Persuade You To Embrace Open Shelving

Empty your cabinets and never look back.

By Sienna Livermore and Kelly Allen
marble white kitchen with same color open shelvespinterest icon
Trevor Tondro

The idea of exposing your clutter to the world is downright terrifying. Yes, chaos exists, but it feels way less real when it's concealed behind closed cabinet doors. If you've been resisting an open shelving kitchen, we understand. But hear us out: Open shelving can be a good idea and look extremely inviting when it's done right. That doesn't mean you have to maintain perfectly stacked dishes on floating shelves. You can have a maximalist display that's full of personality thanks to imperfect piles of tableware mixed with art and decor. If you're looking to make your kitchen feel more cohesive, you can match painted open shelves to lower cabinetry or use them to draw focus to another standout feature in your space. Or you can incorporate a single row of open shelving dedicated to your favorite mugs or a collection of spices among your cabinets to start small. When they're the ideal height at eye level, open shelving can make living in your kitchen so much more comfortable.

Whatever your stance is on open shelving, at least one of these designer-approved ideas is sure to spark your interest—and perhaps make you want to ditch upper cabinetry and never look back. If you love the idea of mixing open shelving with cabinetry, you'll find plenty of kitchen cabinet ideas here to inspire you too. And if you're planning a renovation, you may also want to take a look at this kitchen layout guide and these before and after makeovers—they're full of creative ideas.

Love looking at designer spaces for inspo? Us too. Let’s obsess over them together.


Go for a Modular Look

modular open shelving
Haris Kenjar

For a playful feel, mix open shelving and closed cabinetry in a modular fashion. For this kitchen, designer Andy Beers mixed open cubbies with splashes of red to allow the homeowner's blue midcentury tableware collection to anchor the space.


Use Shelves to Draw Focus

wood open shelves near stone range hood
Helen Norman

Employ columns of open shelving to highlight a standout feature in your kitchen and display beloved ceramics. In this Florida kitchen, designer Lauren Liess used symmetrical open shelving and repetitive light fixtures to put the focus on the Jerusalem stone–clad chimney-style range hood.


Match Painted Cabinetry

green painted open shelf
Jonathan Bond Photography

In an English cottage designed by Elizabeth Hay, a single open shelf puts a collection of potted flowers on display. It's painted in Edward Bulmer Invisible Green to match the cabinets and nearby wall hutch, making the vibrant color pop in the airy kitchen.

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Stick With a Single Level

marble white kitchen with same color open shelves
Trevor Tondro

Designer Mallory Kaye modernized this ranch house kitchen with a single level of white marble open shelving to match the backsplash and countertops. The look is kept clean with clear glasses and perfectly stacked dinnerware on top.


Lean Into Maximalism

stacked shelves
Eric Ray Davidson

Embrace a lived-in look with a kitchen full of open shelving that hosts everything from dinnerware and cookware to art and decorative objects. Take inspiration from celebrity decorator Kathryn M. Ireland's own kitchen, which features plain white shelves infused with personality.


Coordinate With Lighting

Lisa Romerein

Create a cohesive look by installing open shelves and pendant lighting made of the same material. In the kitchen of this Napa Valley home, designers Marshall Watson and Mercedes Ganes opted for light wood shelving that flanks the range hood and imitates the custom pendant over the island. Not only does the combo warm up the space, but it creates a sense of intimacy.

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Integrate a Ledge

open and closed cabinetry in warm wood
Tim Williams

If you want to display small treasures or favorite mugs in your kitchen, install an open shelf underneath closed cabinetry as the interior design firm BHDM did in this home. This way, you can still hide clutter while seeing your favorite pieces.


Make It a Spice Rack

spice rack shelving
Kevin Scott

If you're not totally sold on open shelving, simply use a single row above your cooktop as a spice rack. For an extra-appealing display, pour all of your spices into matching containers like the ones in this kitchen designed by Studio DIAA.


Carve a Niche

open niche shelving
Lisa Romerein

Soften your kitchen while also adding character by carving out a niche with open shelves. In this kitchen by designer Steve Pallrand, the arched niche displays potted herbs and treasured decor—all of which liven up and add touches of warmth to the bright space.

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Try Rustic Meets Glam

countertop, room, white, property, furniture, kitchen, cabinetry, interior design, tile, building,
Courtesy of Tessa Neustadt

A black-and-gold range like this one is all kinds of flash, so tone it down with rustic wood open shelves. They're minimal, so they don't detract from the obvious focal point of the kitchen.

See more at Amber Interiors.


Dedicate a Section

White, Room, Countertop, Kitchen, Cabinetry, Kitchen stove, Tile, Property, Furniture, Interior design,
Courtesy of Lark & Linen

If the exposed feel of open shelving freaks you out, limit yourself to one section of the walls in your kitchen. You can keep the rest of your items in the lower cabinets, so you aren't doing away with concealed storage for good, but you can experiment a little with going open.

See more at Lark & Linen.


Incorporate Books

Shelf, Room, Countertop, Kitchen, Furniture, Turquoise, Cabinetry, Tile, Interior design, Shelving,
Courtesy of Studio Muir

Don't limit open shelves to stacks of kitchen essentials like bowls and cups. Dedicate a portion to cookbooks so you can easily see what's in your library and reach for the one you need when cooking.

See more at Nicole Franzen.

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Give It an Industrial Feel

Countertop, Kitchen, Room, Cabinetry, Furniture, Ceiling, Property, Interior design, Floor, Building,
James Baigrie

To dream up a kitchen fit for a chef, give it a utilitarian feel with steel accents, wood open shelving with distinct hardware, and unique pendant lights.


Embrace a Traditional Style

Countertop, Furniture, White, Kitchen, Room, Bar stool, Stool, Interior design, Yellow, Property,
Ngoc Minh Ngo

Opt for a sophisticated look with open shelving that features crown molding, like in this kitchen by designer Kelie Grosso. If you want an airy but soft feel, select a taupe color for the shelves, cabinetry, and island to tie the space together.


Paint a Backdrop

Furniture, White, Kitchen, Countertop, Room, Interior design, Green, Table, Property, Tile,
Matthew Hranek

With open cabinetry you can create a playful contrast by painting the exterior and interior different colors, like the white and teal combination in this kitchen. It'll highlight your collection and help the items stand out from the wall.

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Take Over a Wall

Furniture, Room, White, Dining room, Interior design, Table, Property, Home, Ceiling, Building,
Gridley + Graves

If you have a small breakfast nook, don't cram it with heavy furniture. Instead, let open shelving function like a bureau to hold all of your serveware. Here, items in the same color or pattern are grouped together.


Keep It Simple

White, Room, Furniture, Countertop, Kitchen, Property, Cabinetry, Floor, Interior design, Tile,
Annie Schlechter

Anyone who wants to create the bright, airy kitchen of their dreams can easily play it up with simple open shelving. Cabinetry can make a kitchen feel heavy and dense, so consider forgoing upper cabinetry altogether.


Maintain the Room's Existing Style

White, Room, Furniture, Kitchen, Shelf, Cabinetry, Interior design, Countertop, Home, Material property,
Amy Neunsinger

This small kitchen has a slightly industrial feel with its exposed pipes and vented cabinets. If your kitchen boasts a similar look, try open shelves to maintain the exposed yet polished aesthetic.

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Pair Shelves With Subway Tiles

Countertop, White, Cabinetry, Room, Furniture, Kitchen, Property, Tile, Shelf, Interior design,
Gridley + Graves

Show off subway tiles that run up to the ceiling with open shelving. The horizontal lines pair together nicely. Bonus points if you go for a monochrome look, whether it's white, pink, or green.


Consider a Metal Display

Furniture, Shelf, Room, Cabinetry, Wall, Display case, Interior design, Tile, Shelving, Drawer,
Francesco Lagnese

Install a metal shelving unit for a sleek alternative to wood or painted open shelving. Whether you pick silver, brass, or gold, the storage solution will boost the overall glam in your kitchen.

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