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Patrick Landrum, Interior Designer,
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Open Kitchen Shelving...Light and Lovely or Neatness Nightmare



One of the hottest trends in kitchen design of the past few years has been the elimination of upper wall cabinets in kitchens. These are usually replaced by by simple open shelves for visually stunning results.

I have designed about 6 of these to varying degrees of success. I should rephrase that...all visually successful...but not practically so.

This is not a look for your average person who actually uses the kitchen. My clients who ended up loving the new arrangement do not cook.. If they entertain, it is catered. They have live in housekeepers or daily help.

On the other hand the others were so in awe of the look, they resisted my efforts to dissuade them, (which were based on observations and previous work I had done for them) and insisted we move ahead.

This look is quite beautiful, and it does what is promised. The bulky upper wall cabinets weigh the kitchen down, and their removal creates a very open and airy space once replaced by open shelves. Then...they have to be filled, styled, or heaven forbid actually used.

I personally could not have a kitchen with open shelves. As much as I LOVE the design, it wouldn't work for me. Even the above mentioned clients called me in within 45 days to add new uppers...except the clients who don't cook, or have housekeepers. You might think that my clients are inherently messy, lazy, or not up with the times, but I highly advise you to consider the implications of open shelves.

As careful as we were to placement, planning what would go where, what the client would keep or need to buy new for the shelves...they just didn't work in practice.

We were lucky enough (or I made certain to have options) to have a basic design in these instances that allowed for simply adding appropriate uppers, without having to redesign or change anything else. A client of a designer friend was not so lucky...their plan was so specific to the open concept the entire wall of base cabinets had to be removed as well!

I definitely am not trying to tell you they are not beautiful, appropriate, and effective as a design element...and ABSOLUTELY not to say I don't love designing them...just get you to think about more than just the look. And luckily for both you and I, I  ran across this fabulous houzz.com post about how to style your open shelves. I think this is the best I have seen on this topic.

Check out the "Do's and Don'ts" below and you don't let yourself get carried away without serious consideration.

TIP: If you are serious about removing your uppers and installing open shelves, I recommend you remove your cabinet doors for a week or two, and see how they work for you functionally. Will it drive you crazy to have everything in the exact place...always, or can you adapt?

I would appreciate any comments on the success of your open shelves!

Enjoy!


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