6 Key Reasons To NOT Choose Open Shelving In Your Kitchen


*this post may contain affiliate links. They don't cost you a penny, but pay a commission to this site - Learn More

Although open shelving can look amazing, it definitely has a few drawbacks that need to be considered as well. This article will help you understand the downsides, and make sure you’re all in – should you choose them in your own kitchen.

The 6 Hidden Downsides To Using Open Shelving in Your Kitchen

Using open shelving rather than wall cabinets has become a really popular trend in kitchen design.

One look that this works really well in particular in is the industrial trend (a favourite of mine!), with exposed brickwork, lots of wood and metal – and of course, lots of open chunky wood or black iron shelving.

In fact, the open shelf look works specifically well in a kitchen, because there’s a huge need for storage along with having things easily accessible when you’re cooking. For example – ingredients, recipe books and tools.

I must admit I’ve long been tempted to take my kitchen wall cabinets away and introduce some open shelving in ours.

However, I’ve stopped myself more than once, and that’s because although I really do like this aesthetic, when thinking it through a bit more, there are definitely some downsides as well as upsides to this look.

Getting a balanced view of everything is always the right way to go before any decisions are made – because you might decide to avoid something that would become problematic later down the line, or you may decide that you can live with the possible downsides – whatever the choice, you’ll go into it with your eyes wide open.

And so these downsides are what I want to share with you today – in case you’re deciding on whether they’re good for your kitchen too..

Hope it helps you make the right decision for you.

#1 – Open Shelving puts your clutter on show

One of the main reasons people opt for open shelving is to showcase their kitchenware and add more personality to their space by letting people see more of what there is in there.

However, this also means that any clutter or mess will be on full display.

Unlike closed cabinets, where you can easily hide clutter behind closed doors, open shelves do not offer the same level of discretion.

This can be a huge problem for those who are not naturally tidy.

How To Avoid: Make sure to regularly declutter your open shelves. Also consider using baskets or bins to group similar items together and keep things looking tidy while a little more hidden.

6 Key Reasons To NOT Choose Open Shelving In Your Kitchen - 1766 open shelving in alcove in kitchen

Related: 30 Things To Declutter From Your Kitchen & How To Do It

#2 – Can accumulate Dust And Grease

Open shelves are WAY more susceptible to dust and grease accumulation as they’re not protected by closed doors.

This can be a real headache for those who enjoy cooking or have a busy kitchen, as it means constantly having to wipe down the shelves to keep them clean.

To combat this downside: Make sure to regularly clean your open shelves with a damp cloth or microfibre cloth to prevent dust and grease buildup. Another option would be to use wall cabinets that have glass doors. That way you get more of the feel of open shelves, but everything’s protected behind the glass.

Lady arranging a vase on a kitchen island, with glass fronted wall cabinets in background

#3 – more limited storage space

While open shelves may seem like a great way to maximise storage space, they actually have a much more limited storage capacity than to closed cabinets.

This is because you cannot stack items on top of each other or easily use the full height of the shelf without obstructing the view.

Possible Solution: To make the most out of your open shelves, consider using stackable storage solutions or putting shelves closer together to provide more shelving in the space available.

Black floating shelves in a kitchen

#4 – Open Shelves Are Harder To Maintain

Open shelves require regular maintenance to keep them looking clean and tidy – and also to maintain a level of decorative interest.

After all – just as with shelves in any other room, you’ll need to dust, clean, and rearrange with the changing seasons (and your changing taste).

To make maintenance easier, consider using easily removable shelf liners that can be quickly replaced when needed. This will help protect your shelves from spills and stains and make cleaning more manageable.

To make changing decor easier – have just a few items that you can swap out dependant on the time of year that will update things without too much effort. Use a drawer or cupboard to keep these items in so they’re handy to grab when you want to do an update. Everything else should be more neutral and work whatever season. For example – all white items as your backdrop (white crockery, glass canisters etc…) and then add in colour with your seasonal stuff.

White open shelving in a white kitchen with white and wooden accessories on display

#5 – Limited Security

Open shelving definitely doesn’t give you the same level of safety and security as closed cabinets.

This can be an issue for those who have a lot of valuable or fragile items on display, as they are more exposed to potential accidents or damage.

To address this downside, consider using glass-front cabinets for your more valuable or delicate items. This will still provide an open and airy feel while offering some protection and privacy for your items.

#6 – Harder To Store Certain Items

Certain kitchen items, such as small appliances or bulky kitchenware, may not be suitable for open shelving. They can take up too much space and disrupt the overall visual appeal of your shelves.

To solve this problem, consider incorporating a separate storage area in your kitchen design specifically for these items. This could be a hidden pantry or a designated cabinet for larger kitchenware.

The 6 Hidden Downsides To Using Open Shelving in Your Kitchen

So, while open shelving may seem like the perfect addition to your kitchen, it’s important to consider these 7 hidden downsides before you make that decision.

By being aware of these potential challenges and implementing some of the suggested solutions, you can enjoy the benefits of open shelving without the added stress and maintenance.

One tip I will leave you with is exactly what I ended up doing in my own kitchen. I took the doors off my existing cabinets and then used them as if they were open shelves.

This gave me the chance to see how I’d use them, whether I missed the storage or not, and to decide whether taking the cupboards off completely and making good the walls would be worthwhile.

Black painted kitchen wall cabinets with doors taken off so you can see open shelving

We decided that the look was right – but have actually kept them as they are and this works perfectly for us – so a good middle ground (less cost in re-plastering the walls, and the doors are always there should be want to go back…)

Black painted kitchen wall cabinets with doors taken off so you can see open shelving - closeup

Whatever you choose, I hope you will see that knowing the downsides will help you to decide more fully on what works best for you.

And if you want to let me know what you like or dislike about open shelving in kitchens, let’s chat! Leave a comment below…


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

This article was written by Chrissy

Hi - I'm Chrissy... Having run my own business for 12 years as a Professional Organiser and Interior Designer, I know what works (and what doesn't!) when it comes to setting up a home that works both functionally and aesthetically. Now you can mostly find me in a coffee shop or at home, working full time on (which I setup back in 2011) sharing all my tips and ideas. My mission is to help you create a home that you love to live in every day...


9 Inspiring Ideas For Using Baskets As Storage In Your Home
5 Clever Flour Storage Ideas That Will Keep It Fresh, Longer
5 Free Room Layout Planner Options [See It Before Starting]
How To Use The Space Under The Stairs: Amazing Ideas To Unlock Its Potential

Are You Wasting Time Or Energy On The Wrong Things?

Don't Miss A Thing!

Get motivation, tips and exclusive offers straight to your inbox when you subscribe below and become a VIP today. I can't wait to welcome you!

Thanks as always for the website and emails, rather like a weekly Home Life Coach to motivate me.

Jenny R

You probably hear this a lot, but we all feel the same gratitude for your uncanny ability to say the right thing at the right time. Thank You!

Teresa W

This is the longest I've ever stayed subscribed to an email list. I think you have great ideas, and you are surely an encouragement to many.

Elize S