Spring home and garden: Consider open shelving for kitchens

While some prefer to keep the contents of their kitchen tucked safely behind the privacy of cabinet doors, the option of replacing traditional kitchen cabinets with open shelves that display dishes and pantry items has caught on with many.

Open shelving comes with its challenges, but those who embrace it say they see it as a way to open up the space, an excuse to pare down on kitchen supplies, and an opportunity to create a carefully curated display.

Josh Reese of Lawrence has replaced the kitchen cabinets over his sink and dishwasher with a set of three open, floating shelves. Reese, who lives with his wife and two young children, created the shelves using Ikea wall shelving brackets and three, 10-foot pieces of three-quarter-inch cabinet-grade poplar from a home improvement store — a project he estimated cost well under $200.

Reese said that removing the cabinets has made the kitchen seem lighter, and that the family found that they liked being able to see and easily locate the items on the shelves. The lowest of the three floating shelves contains many of the family’s most commonly used dishes, which creates what Reese calls an efficient dishwashing “work triangle.”

Reese also noted that ensuring that the shelving brackets were installed in wall studs and paying attention to the amount of weight they put on the shelves is key.

“The fear of waking up in the middle of the night to the sound all of your dishes crashing to the ground is very real,” he said.

For Lawrence resident Courtney Crouch, the decision to go with open shelving in her kitchen came when she removed her cabinet doors with the intention of painting them a new color. Once the doors were off, she realized that she liked the open look.

“It’s definitely something you have to wrap your brain around,” said Crouch. “It requires reorganizing because you can only put aesthetically pleasing things on them.”

Rather than filling her open shelves with her everyday kitchen items, Crouch has curated a collection of ceramic dishware, vintage items and mason jars. Crouch said that she likes that having open shelving inspires her to buy more food in bulk so that she can put it in jars that look nice on display.

Reese and Crouch agree that the biggest challenge with open shelving is keeping them clean.

“This is the kitchen, which means cooking, and cooking is basically atomizing grease,” said Reese. “You’ll take something down that you haven’t touched in a month or two and there will be a layer of dust on it. It’s just part of it. It forces you to clean more often.”