Closed Cabinets v. Open Shelving, Revisited

By Kate Riley June 12, 2017

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.


images 1 / 2

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?


Weekend Reading

By Kate Riley June 9, 2017

Hello friends, whatcha up to this weekend? Tomorrow morning, I’m driving a group of my fitness buddies to the Tough Mudder in Sacramento. I’m just a spectator for the event but perhaps they’ll inspire me to give it a go next year! :)

Sunday I’m flying to Vegas for a few days, I’m overseeing the kitchen cabinet installation and appliance delivery on the flip house and narrowing down my backsplash tile options. Gotta finish that house!

Favorite links below:


The Spanish tile in this kitchen is so pretty!

I love the mix of modern and traditional in this mostly white home tour.

You’ve seen Faith Hill and Tim McGraw’s island home right? Wow.

This is a lovely outdoor scene and a fab DIY stenciled cement patio.

Selling your house? Make more money by painting your bathroom this color.

Don’t miss the new cheerful blue kitchen cabinets in this remodel.

Another favorite black + white remodel of a kitchen and dining room.

These DIY fabric pool floats are so fun!

Ireland is at the top of my travel list, and now so is this cottage.

15 words to eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter.

13 women who made travel history (love the illustrations).

7 lessons to teach daughters.


Have a fantastic weekend friends!