5 Annoying Things About Open Shelving Nobody Talks About

open shelving in large kitchen

Ashley Montgomery Design

Considering adding some open shelving to your kitchen? Before you plow ahead, you may want to think about the pros and the cons of this type of storage setup. It turns out that there are plenty annoyances associated with open shelving, and you'll have to decide whether these quirks will or won't bother you on a daily basis. Read on to learn more about challenges open shelving brings about, according to experts who have experienced these issues firsthand.

1. They Require More Upkeep

There's a price to pay to maintain your shelves' beauty. "Inevitably, when you leave items out in the open, they will collect dust and whatever else life decides to throw your way—dog hair is a consummate favorite in our home," says designer Monique Wright of Monique Wright Interior Design. "This means more dusting, cleaning and general upkeep." So if you're a resistant cleaner, aren't home often, or simply can't imagine adding one more chore to your to-do list, you may wish to hold off on open shelving for the time being. Home Instagrammer Chelsea Coulston of Making Home Base puts it this way: "I think open shelving is only a good idea when you're using the items regularly enough that they aren't collecting dust on the shelves. There's nothing worse than pulling down the pretty wine glasses only to have to rinse the dust off first."

open shelving with accessories

@houseofchais / Instagram

2. A Stylish Arrangement Is Key

Sure, you could simply throw all of your kitchen items up on an open shelf and call it a day, but would you really want to stare at a hodgepodge of bowls and plates? "Styling open shelving is a delicate balance of colors, textures, and patterns," Wright says. "Because everything is out in the open, aesthetics do matter." So if you're going to install open shelving in your home, you may want to spring for that nicer set of wine glasses to keep on display. As Wright notes, "Even for everyday items, like plates or bowls, having elevated styles will really help your shelves to pop."

If styling doesn't come naturally to you, getting your shelves in tip top shape may prove a bit challenging. "There's definitely a fine line between too much and too little when it comes to the styling on your open shelving," says design blogger Carrie Waller of Dream Green DIY. "Those dreamy photos you see on Instagram often make it look effortless, but finding the perfect balance of items takes time."

Either way, you'll want to display something, meaning that open shelves aren't necessarily in line with a minimalist lifestyle. As home Instagrammer Reem Hassabella says, "If your aesthetic is a clean, uncluttered look, this look might not be for you."

Last but not least, putting items back onto the shelves just so may be a bit of a frustration. "While styling can be a lot of fun, you don't always feel like being a stylist at 8 pm when you unload the dishwasher," says Ines Mazzotta of Kelly Hopter Interiors.


open shelving with wine glasses and plant

Imani Keal

3. You Lose a Bit of Storage

Open shelving isn't known for being ultra storage friendly. "With open shelving, you’re typically losing some storage, and you can’t just do the 'shove and close really fast' method that I’m so fond of," Wright says. "Especially with smaller kitchens, there needs to be a serious consideration between form and function."

plates and bowls on open shelving

@dommdotcom / Instagram

4. Installation May Be Complicated

By no means do you want to just wing it when you're installing your open shelving, and there are a few things that you'll have to consider during this process. "In general, to avoid an open shelf looking too flimsy, you want something solid enough to hold the bowls you had to have that you found on the Anthropologie sale rack," Wright says. "What that means is that you have to have a more heavy-duty shelf, that requires a more expert installation," she adds, noting that if you're installing shelves over tile, even more precision is needed.

Waller agrees. "You can absolutely get by with a couple of simple plastic wall anchors if all you plan to display on your shelves is a miniature potted succulent and a small set of vintage drinking glasses, but if you want to show off your extensive book collection, stacks of handmade ceramic dishes, or wine bottles, then you need to go the extra mile when hanging your shelf." This means making a thorough trip to the hardware store," she says. "You'll need to look into the right brackets based on the weight of your display items, and also plan on hunting down some studs to ensure proper installation," Waller adds. "It's not hard at all to go this extra mile, but you definitely need to think things through thoroughly before jumping right in."

It Can Be Hard to Hide Cords

Last but not least, figuring out a way to hide cords on an open shelf can be challenging. "I like to incorporate a little lamp on my shelves and a visible electrical cord is sure to kill the vibe," comments home Instagrammer Kayla Nelson. She's figured out a way around this issue, though, it just required a little creativity. Nelson says, "I tend to hide the cord with a plant, a transparent extension cord, or some strategic styling!"