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Kitchen Storage – Open or Closed?

November 9, 2012

This just in from a major home design magazine:

“There’s a new movement in kitchen design when it comes to storage and display and that is the replacement of solid upper cabinetry with open shelving, typically in the form of floating shelves or ones supported by brackets.”

Hmmm?! Not really new, although it’s true that everything in design seems to cycle through every few years – often with new ideas or technology. And while this time the idea isn’t coming with any new ways to keep things clean and organized, there are a few things worth noting about the trend.

The pictures of these kitchens are always open, clean, airy, light and bright – and most often white. Who wouldn’t want all that? And white kitchens are definitely coming back, often warmed with new wood countertops. Especially in a smaller house where renovating is limited, opening and brightening the space makes all the difference.

At the right is an example of open shelving in a darker kitchen – not nearly as effective. Even with the baskets to keep smaller things, this looks too busy, too cramped.

Pictures of open-shelving kitchens are also usually in casual, beach or country-style homes. Having your things visible will increase the level of busy-ness. If you have lots of beautiful things or collections and you love to show them off, open shelves can feed your inner designer and allow you to stage your space.

Keep in mind that the pretty pictures never show the whole kitchen – just out of sight there may be cabinets, enclosed pantries and closets where all the not-so-pretty stuff is stored!

Sometimes limiting open shelving to one or two shelves, or substituting clear or translucent glass doors can open the space and still give you all the storage you need.

Some tips on how to make open-shelving work:

Group like things together – in most pictures you see stacks of plates, bowls, cups, glasses and servingware. Note that they are all one or two colors and often interesting shapes. If everything you have is white or blue, it may all work together.

Feature your best – This is not the place for your everyday mishmash of kids’ themed plastic or mix of hand-me-down chipped plates. Old and worn is okay if you love it, and can stand to look at it everyday. Beautiful and functional are always a winning combination.

Stage it – Create the look. Make sure things are not too crowded. Group and repeat shapes. In the top picture, note the cart has groups of three: three bowls, three canisters, three galvanized buckets. Designers often use groups of odd numbers – three or five or seven. Also note the windows are staged almost exactly symmetrical and even the soap is in the right shade of green.

Use the display – Most people who love this look and live with it say they use the items on the shelves everyday. It cuts down on any dust and grease build up (This is a kitchen afterall – you might also love bacon.) and makes taking things down and putting them away later easier.

Above is a kitchen cupboard fit for a real baker – everything easily accessible and grouped and beautiful. And still behind a cabinet door!

A kitchen designer will take into consideration how open the space needs to feel, your personal collections and your need for overall storage and make sure that everything is where you need it and things that you want to show off can be seen.