Closed Cabinets v. Open Shelving, Revisited

In a recent article on controversial kitchen choices at Apartment Therapy, a reader quiz revealed a 2/3 to 1/3 split on open shelving, most readers preferring closed cabinet doors to open shelving in kitchens.

What are the pros and cons? With closed upper cabinets, the kitchen can look visually cleaner and more cohesive. Closed cabinets conceal disorganization, a benefit to those who don’t want to be styling their kitchen shelves every day. However upper cabinets can make a kitchen feel more cramped.

Open shelves can make a kitchen feel more airy and open. Yet it takes effort to maintain the open shelf look, not only cleaning and dusting the shelves but constantly organizing the items that live there.


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Personally, I love a mixture of glass and closed upper cabinets, especially when designing a kitchen for resale (see this kitchen) but I also love to add a little bit of open shelving for display (see this kitchen).

Today I’m in Vegas overseeing my current kitchen remodel and the installation of the kitchen cabinets at the flip house. When designing the new kitchen cabinet plan, I opted for a mixture of cabinets and open shelves for storage and display. This kitchen design plan was for resale purposes so I took a more traditional route using upper cabinets on either side of the hood but also added two open shelves next to the sink window to give the space modern appeal as well.




Another option that looks very fresh is the medley of shorter closed upper cabinets and an open shelf below. This is a really happy compromise giving you both closed storage to hide all the things and open storage to display all the pretty items. I like how Brit did this in her kitchen, adding a DIY shelf below her upper cabinetry.


house updated


Chris and Julia did the same thing in this recent kitchen remodel, adding a display shelf below closed upper cabinetry.


chris loves julia

This look requires more distance than the traditional 18” spacing between a countertop and lower cabinet. More examples:



elizabeth roberts x 2


terra cotta design build

I dug into the archives and six years ago I asked you all in this article what you thought of open shelving. There were 166 comments weighing in on whether open shelving was “trendy”, some of you loving it some of you questioning the practicality. I thought it interesting to revisit the topic after all this time, especially since having open shelves has become a really popular kitchen feature.

I’d love to hear from all of you again six years later, what have you chosen for your own kitchen? Closed cabinetry, open shelving, or a medley of both? Why did you make that choice?



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