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Join me here for the great debate! Open shelving – is it still in, or on its way out? Cruise through images of open shelving, hear all the opinions, and see if you can decide for yourself.

Open Shelving: Is it still in, or on its way out? Compelling opinions to help you decide your own.

It was back in 2015 when I noticed a spike in my blog traffic directed at one of my kitchen posts.  I wondered what was causing it so I hunted down the link that was directing folks to my site.  Turns out it was a very popular real estate website, and the first thing I noticed was the title “Home trends that are here to stay” . . . or something to that matter.  Of course, I thought to myself, “surely, they have nothing but good things to say about my home”. (wink)

How disappointed I was when I came to find out they were using my open shelf images to claim that open shelving like mine was going to start disappearing in 2016.  It was a fad, a trend, and on its way out.

Well, friends, open shelving hasn’t gone anywhere.  But the thought sparked some of my curiosity and I started wondering what others thought about open shelving, so I started bringing up the topic on social media from time to time.  I’ll save my opinionated thoughts until the end, but what I found in my asking were some very strong opinions on the matter that caused me to think, “Is open shelving still in, or on its way out”?

Please take a minute to view these 20 lovely open-shelf images I’ve gathered from around the web (all sources below images), as I share some of the opinions I’ve heard on open shelving.  Then feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below, as I welcome further discussion on the topic.

Kitchen Open Shelving

Source:  Our House


The biggest complaint I heard about open shelving was the dust.  For a lot of busy homemakers, the less dusting they have to do, the better.  Many are concerned that by the time they got around to using what was on the shelves, they would be dirty and need to be washed before use, adding more work to the load.  Dust-o-phobia folks would prefer everything to be tucked in safely behind cupboard doors.

Kitchen Open Shelving

Source:  Nicole Davis Interiors


For those who were all for open shelving, the main reason to love it was for the creativity and uniqueness it brings to their homes.  Many love their collections of pretty dishes and treasures and want to display them for all to see.  Others like to use open shelving to add interest, more places to decorate, and the ability to switch things around for the changing seasons.

Open Shelving in kitchen

Source:  Earnest Home Co.


I heard more than once that it would be difficult for homeowners to stay that organized and tidy and make sure everything on the open shelves was “just perfectly so”, otherwise they put themselves at risk of going crazy bonkers every time an item was 1/2 inch off its designated styled spot.  All type A personalities unite!

Open Shelving in kitchen

Source:  Design Sponge


A thoughtful reader pointed out to me that open shelving is a century-old way of life for both the high and lower classes.  Whether it was a bustling kitchen full of service members or a small home in the countryside, open shelving added style, ease, and function to all kitchens and homes for ages.  All that was confirmed while watching Downton Abbey 😉


I giggled every time I heard someone joke that they were going to love displaying their plastic Dora the Explorer dishes and Spiderman cups, for all to admire.  It was evident a lot of the open shelf naysayers understood it wasn’t something feasible for their family lifestyle, even if they admired the pretty pictures.

Open Shelving white kitchen

Source:  Foster House


Looks aside, the idea of open shelving appeals to many for ease and function.  Need to plate up?  It’s just a reach away.  Where did I put that favorite cup?  Oh yes, right in front of my face.  Let’s all take a moment and calculate how much time you could save a day if you didn’t have to “open and shut”, mmkay?  😉

And then many had mentioned how much quicker and easier it is to unload the dishwasher when all you have to do is reach up (or down).

Open Shelving in modern kitchen

Source:  Affordable Kitchen and Baths


For some, open shelving felt too cluttered.  For these folks, a wall of cupboards and clean countertops is their idea of style.  No one needs to know the reality of what’s going on behind doors anyway.  Or the phrase, “out of sight, out of mind” suits this opinion well.

Open Shelving in storage area for kitchen

Source:  Country Living


Most everyone could agree that the images they see online are so so pretty to look at.  Some are inspired to rip down cupboards, others remove cupboard doors just to find some way to incorporate open shelving in their builder-grade homes.  It seems those who love the look would stop at nothing to make sure they have some lovely open shelving in their homes, if just for the sake of a pretty picture.

Open Shelving white modern kitchen

Source:  AKA Designs


One commenter was adamant that her kids be able to help put away all the dishes and tidy up the house.  If the dinnerware is beyond their tiny reach then all the dish doing falls to mama and papa.  This seemed like reason enough for her to keep all dishes down at a child’s level – which like it or not – means zero open shelving.

Open Shelving white kitchen

Source:  Lark & Linen


It’s no secret that farmhouse style is hot hot hot – whether or not you live in a Farmhouse.  Displaying dishes and treasured keepsakes on an open shelf is one of the easiest ways to achieve that farmhouse charm.  But perhaps the question behind this opinion is, will Farmhouse style fade away with all the other current trends???  Hmmm???

Open Shelving kitchen farmhouse

Source:  Farmhouse 5540

So there you have it.  10 Opinions on open shelving in the home.

Now the question remains, “Is open shelving still in, or on its way out?”  Where do your thoughts stand?  Please feel free to share with all of us in the comments below.

Open Shelving farmhouse kitchen

Source:  Kelly Elko

Do you wanna know my thoughts on the matter???  Well of course you do 😉

“Is open shelving still in, or on its way out?”  My answer . . . who cares.

If you love it, gotta have it, dream about it – then do it!  If it’s not for you – then keep those cupboard doors right where they belong, and that’s ok!

You see, when I read that article back in 2015, it didn’t phase me one bit.  It did not sway my opinion or change my preferences because when we are making a home, our home, none of what the world says or dictates should influence you so much that you put aside the things you love.

Open Shelving kitchen

Source:  Jen Loves Kev

Now for the record, I LOOOOOVE open shelving – like, can’t get enough, must-have in just about every room.  For me, it is a bit nostalgic (like grandma’s house), a bit design preference, and everything everyone else already said above for why they love open shelving.

Must. Have. Open. Shelves.

Most of the online images I am inspired by having some sort of open shelf concept, as I just adore the curated character it brings to a home.  I am also confident that I’ll love it for a lifetime, despite the world’s trends.

But I also completely understand all the hesitations to do open shelving in your home, which is why I have a few pointers for those who may like the look but are afraid it won’t work in their home.


Maybe the open shelves in the kitchen aren’t suited to your lifestyle.  Maybe you don’t have a curated look of pretty dishes to display just yet.  How about thinking outside of the kitchen box!  Open shelves can work in bathrooms, living rooms, bedrooms, and just about anywhere in the home.  Kitchens are high-function areas, and it’s very possible to open shelving that won’t work in there for you.

Open Shelving

Source:  Ella Claire

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Ya, dust is inevitable.  And you will need to dust those shelves every 2 or so weeks (I go longer than that if I’m being honest).  But here is a thought – install glass-front cupboards, then you get the look without the dust.

white kitchen

Source:  Lily Pad Cottage

Or, consider both!  A wee bit of open shelf, and a wee bit of glass front cupboards + plenty of solid cupboard doors to hide the unsightly items.

open area kitchen

Source:  So Much Better With Age


Only do open shelving for your everyday dishes.  The items we have on our open shelves in the kitchen are the items getting used frequently, which prevents a lot of dust from accumulating and keeps everything a reach away.  I’m also really bad at shoving clutter in cupboards and open shelving forces me to keep things tidy and only keep what we need.  I embrace that kind of pressure on myself and also embrace a bit of imperfection in the placement of the items.  I don’t need them exactly where I put them the first time to be happy with my shelves.

white kitchen

Which brings me to another tip.


Before I make a purchase, I often think to myself “would this look good on a shelf”, which makes me consider beauty and function in everything I bring into our home.  It’s a goal I constantly aim for.

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But for those wondering, yes, we have plenty of colorful plastic things and chunky electric appliances.  That’s where those cupboard doors come in handy!  Open shelving is most definitely not an all-or-nothing concept.  You can have a little of both and be perfectly content.

Spring Home Tour by TIDBITS. Simple touches of Spring in the Kitchen.


For families, we do need to consider our lifestyle with kids.  I certainly have my kids empty the dishwasher and help with dishes.  For everyone under 11, I instruct them to just stack the breakable items on the countertop, and I quickly put them up when they are done.  But there was a time when I only had melamine white dishes on our open shelves, and no one knew the wiser.  They were kid-friendly and white goes with everything in my book.  This is my soapbox, but you don’t have to ever put aside your design preferences just because you have little kids.  It just takes a bit more creativity which is rewarding in its own right.

Coming home to homemade bread + my favorite 100% Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Thanks for sticking around as we took a deep dive into open shelving.  I hope you’ve come away with some helpful tips and felt inspired by the images.  But now I want to hear from you and how you feel about this concept.  Your comments are always appreciated and I read every single one!

20 Open Shelving Ideas and Inspiration

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  1. We are renovating a condo with a tiny kitchen. The open shelves will lend a more open feel to the area and allow for functionality. Beauty and function. As you say, we also have some shelving that is closed. A little bit of everything.

  2. Hi. Im reading this during the 2020 lockdown in South Africa. I have 5 kids and we recently moved(5th time in 12 years) into a big house. Since we hope to stay here for a long while we’ve decided to try the open shelves. Just 2 on either side of the stove. I’m definitely for it

  3. Thanks for the great info! Perfect article for me as I am DYI with a little help from my friends. I am now leaning towards taking off my 60s wooden 3x painted cabinet doors! Thanks to all also, who commented!

  4. This is one of those things where one must “know thyself.” My friend B would rather clean than read a book, I would rather read a book than clean. It is how we are fundamentally wired and nothing is going to change that. She loves her open shelves and keeps them perfect, whereas I had open shelves forced upon me back when I was renting and hated the dust that collected; would so much have preferred to be reading or watching something interesting than dusting those blasted shelves and everything on them that wasn’t used often yet again! That said, I am planning to install one – just one – open shelf cabinet that will be used ONLY for the white dishes we use everyday, because I do think they can be very pretty. I will have my cake, and eat a tiny piece too! 😉

  5. Slide out shelves for kitchen cabinets custom made to fit. Kitchen cabinet pull out shelves, sliding cabinet shelves, shelves that slide, roll out shelves.

  6. I would like to know how sturdy the open shelf concept is to everyday dishes, bowels, and glasses. Will the shelves show scratched and nicks? We are considering these in our new kitchen but want to know how they will hold up to evryday use?


  7. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I love open shelving for those most used items, and for displaying items of beauty. Mine are here to stay!

  8. Open shelves are nice only if the items that are to display look good and aesthetically blend with the space 🙂 Nice article anyway xoxoxo

  9. I love open shelves, but prefer they’re not cluttered ~ just sparsely decorated with dishes in “shades” of white or a few coordinated colors! Am I picky? Yes!!!
    I don’t have shelves, but would really love to! I have lots of cabinets, and a built-in corner cabinet, so I might just try removing a few doors. This would force me to simplify the “stuff” we have, and by giving some away, we let others enjoy part of our “abundance” … (Actually, I think I just planned a possibly rewarding project!)
    Thanks, Cami, for this conversation, prompting my lightbulb moment!

  10. As someone who lives in an actual farmhouse in the middle of the country in the heart of Midwest surrounded by hardly anything but acres upon acres of fields, I can say that dust accumulates both on shelving and in closed cabinets. Sure, the open shelving will accumulate quicker but dusting is inevitable, open shelving or not. I have a cousin with a beautiful farmhouse and she has to regularly dust the INSIDE of her closed cupboards. To me, I love the open and airy look of open shelving, I think it really helps a space to feel inviting and not feel closed off. I also think it’s an easy way to restore character in a house like ours (and much cheaper than a bunch of cabinets). Trend or not, I love the look.

  11. Sorry i am late, but have been around long enough say whether its out or in just wait awhile and it will be back, and besides i don’t always agree with all their ideas. Have a great week.

  12. I like the open shelf look. It has it’s ups and down. Need to be organized and have color look. But I still think it is nice.

  13. Whatever works for you, sounds simple doesn’t it? Do we all have to be alike, no! Be happy, have it work for you, any way that it is. Make changes if you need to, just be happy to work and be in comfortable in your kitchen. I like ideas, I borrow and share them with others. What works for some doesn’t for others. I have always wanted a walkin pantry like my grandmother had. She could just reach in there and pull out just what she needed. Everything was organized and there was a place to store things not needed for everyday use. Of course her pantry was open shelving, she then could close the door when cooking was done!
    Thanks for your thoughts, good comments from everyone!

  14. I love both. I think you need both all thru your home. Decorate for you, not anyone else. A lot of what is popular now I did in the 70/80’s. People thought I was weird, Strange, different. That IS me. Quit worrying about what others think. You will find freedom.

  15. Personal preference. My Grandmother lived on a farm until she died at the young age of 102. My MIL was also 102 when she passed and also lived on a farm. Neither ever had open shelving. Not practical on a farm. I think it looks lovely but like so many other things, I am also happy it belongs to someone else other than me. It is not a huge burden to open a cupboard door. If it is, it is a wonderful thing you were not born a generation or two earlier. LOL! I do love the glass front cupboards the best. Function and style. Enjoy your open shelving and keeping up with the Joneses or Gaines or whomever. Life is much more than shelving.

  16. Here we go. The real image in country decorating is the farmers wife. She did what was necessary to be efficient. She had little time in the kitchen and every little thing had its place. It was added to the kitchen as needed so everything never matched. The kitchen I saw in my long life of 75 years that was the homyest (if there is such a word) was filled with a sink so low that you and I would have a back ache. There was a bin table that kept the flour and sugar along with baking supplies. It also had a wood top that was used for rolling pastry and sitting at for a quick bite to eat. It was in the middle of the kitchen There were cabinets that held food and cans. There were shelves that held spices and condiments around the stove on shelves to be seen in a hurry. There was a 4 by 4 room off the back on the way to the garden that held mops and cleaning supplies. Pots and pan along with dishes were in the most convienetly placed cabinets. I felt so at hom in that kitchen and some of the best food I ever ate came from that kitchen.
    Needless to say, it is not how it looks , but how it works as it is the most used room in the house . It taks some creativity to make it pretty too. It doesn’t mater what is in or out but what you want, it is your house after all.

  17. In? Out? Who cares? Well, obviously some people DO care….. I just don’t happen to be one of them, lol! What’s trending, what’s hot and what’s not, what’s on it’s way in or out, what’s considered chic and desirable and what’s considered passe….. it’s all good old fashioned capitalism in action! How’s a fashion industry, be it clothing or housewares, supposed to increase their profit margin if they can’t get people to adopt an “out with the old, in with the new” mentality?

    There were open shelves before cabinets were invented! They’ve been around for just about forever. I like open shelves. I like the things that I use most often when cooking and baking right where I can grab what I need without all of the extra movements involved in the opening and shutting of doors and drawers. But I can understand that, for some people, a kitchen with everything hidden away is preferable. Different strokes for different folks…..makes the world a more interesting place, amiright?

  18. I like a combination of open and closed shelving. I don’t like messes and open cupboards in my kitchen would be messy. Just saying.
    I love the blue on your island . I would like to have that same color in my kitchen! Share, please?

  19. I love open shelves in the kitchen.. but living in California it makes me nervous.. even a small earthquake can send things flying!

  20. YES! I agree completely. Go with what you love. Thank you for gathering these beautiful images. This is my favorite post from you this year. (Of course, it’s only January! But thank you!)

  21. I love open shelving and if they are worried about dusting if you have a China cabinet open the doors and look at all the dust in there!!! I have a builtin and the other day went to get some crystal out and oh my the shelves were covered so now I have to clean them But to each person it is your right to have what you like in your home no matter what the trend is

  22. I love a bit of both. I’m not ready to tear down an existing kitchen cabinet and replace it with open shelving. But when I finally (hope, hope) get to the point that I can remodel, I will embrace a little open shelving and I love the idea of it being used only for items we use every day. I have a log home and they are notorious for dust accumulation. Right now, I have upper glass doors, so I am able to display my pretty bowls, dishes, and glassware. It’s my kitchen and I spend a ton of time in there, so I just want it cheerful and well organized. I love open shelving!

  23. I like both styles,I think you need a mix of each. A covered shelf gives items some protection from dust and germs. An open shelf allows you to display and stage a kitchen. I think it may boil down to what you like and the influences. As well as what works best for your kitchen . If you do a lot of cooking, grease flies everywhere. These will be hard choices, but you also have to be realistic, while the open shelves are artistically beautiful, kitchen grease moisture from heat, and kitchen smells might impact your decisions .

  24. I too feel, if you like it, that’s what matters. I like the look of”pretty” open shelves but the issue for me is I’m short, over 70 so don’t want to climb, so bottom cabinets, maybe some open shelfs….but it is about what works for me.

  25. Thanks for sharing my kitchen shelves, Cami. I’ve often wondered if they’ll be around for the long haul too but they’ve been doing it forever in France so I thought it has to stick 😉 And if you love it, just do it, right?
    Hugs, Jamie

  26. We moved just under two years ago, downsizing and the kitchen was downsized too. In my previous kitchen I had mainly cupboards but also shelves to display pretty things on. In the current kitchen, without a pantry, I am always fighting for storage space so I have a mix of cupboards and shelves so that I can use every inch of space. No fancy mouldings on the tops of the wall cupboards, they were fixed a little lower so I could reach the jars, all glass coffee jars with glass air tight lids, full of ingredients now stored there. With ingenuity every bit is used and I can store almost all my lovely kitchen ware and food.

  27. I love my open shelves . We removed our upper kitchen cabinets on one side of our kitchen two years ago and put shelves up. No regrets about that decision at all. We then moved on to our next project which was our master bathroom. We tore the whole bathroom out, and replaced the cabinets with a custom vanity of open shelves. Love, love , love it.

  28. I don’t have them but I love the look. Yes I would hate all that dusting but if you love it it’ll be worth it. As far as fads go, do what you like. You’re the one living with it.

  29. I love open shelving and always will. Having your pretty little dishes out means you will use them and they are not hidden away at the back of a cupboard. It just personalizes your home.. ?

  30. I agree. I think it’s more about personal preference as opposed to trend. If you like them, use them, and if not, than don’t. Simple as that. Personally, I love them! I will be incorporating them into my decor, eventually. I love your thoughts on it and all the pictures. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Loved your thoughts and agree completely. I also love your thought-provoking post. I’m sure it must be difficult as a blogger to come up with posts of some substance on a regular basis. Your post was more than just pretty pictures! I enjoyed reading each and every word and found it very interesting! Thanks for sharing your research and thoughts AND all of the pretty photos.

  32. I love open shelves, in fact when I designed my bathroom, we put in open shelves. And now I’m imagining the kitchen with drawers underneath the counter, open shelves over the counter…, oh the possibilities! Dust is going to happen no matter what so just deal with it and go on! Life’s too short! Oh and I live in the country so I do deal with it! Love your blog and have a great day! ❤

    1. I have also been dreaming of a kitchen with drawers under the counters and a bit of pretty shelves above (but not lots, I mostly just want the pretty things there and maybe some nice art). And I really want ONLY drawers underneath. I detest the option of opening a cabinet drawer and then pulling out a drawer–why not just put a drawer front on it in the first place and save me the extra movement, frustration and that awful worn/scrape inside the cabinet door from the drawer? I’m done with getting on my knees to pull out stuff from a lower cabinet and sorta “crawling” into it to get something wayyyyy in the back cuz there isn’t a more accessible place for it! I’m not super tall (not super short either) but Cami didn’t mention height in her discussion. I love the look of pretty things dispayed on a shelf, but for my everyday items they need to be in reach–anything above the bottom shelf is really out of comfortable reach for me, not just the “helpers” (a.k.a. kids). I don’t want to use a step stool to reach things I use a lot. I detest this in normal upper cabinets as well. It’s such an expensive way to store things I don’t use often–or maybe never, so I end up getting rid of them after taking up kitchen real estate for years, only to put something else rarely used up there and again, it just sits there for a long time. It seems pointless to pay for cabinets (upper and much of the lower ones) that serve as an expensive “graveyard” for kitchen items! Nice cabinets don’t come cheap–when we finally build our home, I’m thinking to skip ALL the upper cabinets and really plan out the rest of the kitchen for maximum function; maybe employing a walk-in “butler’s pantry” of sorts to house those hard to store, but less often used appliances, dishes, etc. (cheaper than lots more cabinets, and it’s hard to store those gadgets and bulky things in cabinets anyway. I could put the square footage to better use). Keep the pretty ones on some open shelves and enjoy the openness of the kitchen. I’ve been thinking on it for 12 years and my thoughts have become pretty rooted, so I figure it’s not a whim and must suit my personality and lifestyle–taking in considerations aging and even future grandkids and large extended family gatherings. Hopefully I can come up with a good design plan my husband can support, and the lack of upper cabinets offsets the added cost of all drawers underneath. 🙂

  33. One reason “they”say something is in or out could be “they” make money when people change their decor. I’m sure white kitchens will be out since everyone has one now!
    You shouldn’t care so much what is in or out, but focus on what you like and what works for you.

    1. You got that right Kim! It’s all about getting us to be dissatisfied with what we have, so we rip it out, throw it away (more trash), and spend more money (more debt) to get what’s “in”, only to repeat the cycle in 5, 10, 15 years. I’m working on embracing what I love, not what the pretty pictures tell me to love. And this goes way beyond open shelving!

  34. I agree with you completely! It is a personal decision and should be made accordingly. I really enjoyed this post and would like to request more like it. We are finally moving to the country and will have a little farmhouse like I’ve wanted, well….pretty much my whole life! My concern is that I seem to be coming in on the tail end of the farmhouse trend and don’t want to be cookie-cutter. I’d like to incorporate my fave style, while still staying up to date. So…is shiplap going out of style? How about subway tile? Barnwood? I’d love a fresh look at all the things!

  35. Cami-Dear! What a crazy question to ask! My first thought was, to whom? Then was, “only kitchens question”. I like your response-who cares? Each personality needs to do what they love, and reap the benefits and consequences of that choice. I agreed with most of the opinions for both sides, and plan to incorporate an open shelving and cupboard combo into my new home! As for my kitchen, keep the pretties behind glass paned doors, but what about books, toys, out of season? There is plenty I want out of sight- out of mind. So, in short, take in to consideration your personality, room, decor, and needs. I say it is here to stay, because of people like you! Stay beautiful, honey!

  36. I loooovvvee open shelves!!We have em in the living room,one in the dining room,one in our laundry room,and one in our bedroom.But,alas,we have zero open shelves in the kitchen,where I want some the most!!In an act of desperation,I removed some doors from an upper cabinet ,(which really doesn’t count in my book),to prove to my husband that it does look amazing.Sad to say,it didn’t work!’What is a gal to do?I mean,really?He has LOTS of open shelves in his shop!!I haven’t given up yet,but I am open for more ideas…

  37. I prefer cabinets with a few well placed glass front ones. I am not a fan of open shelving, though in staging it looks pretty, I don’t feel it’s functional for me.

  38. I lived with open shelves above and cabinets below for over 15 years in my kitchen. It was partly finances and partly a cool open shelf design that I found in a DIY magazine. Looking back I longed to replace about half of them with glass fronted cabinets. Dust! eeeeek!
    I do use open shelves even now in my living room where I have neat stuff to display and have a lovely custom made live wood shelf with cup hangers below it on my dining room wall displaying pretty things.
    I’m a some of each person.

  39. Yes I read the decorating trends for 2018 and they said Open Shelves were going out. I say to that..oh well…In your world they can be. I am in the thought if you love it…it is yr home…you decorate the way you want. So if you have Open Shelves dont take them down…only do it if YOU dont like them anymore.