Kitchens With Open Shelving Pictures and Advice

White kitchen oven and range hood flanked with open wooden shelving

The Spruce / Christopher Lee Foto

Standard kitchen wall cabinets have solid doors, for the primary reason of hiding the contents inside. Some cabinets skirt convention and have opaque glass doors, permitting a fuzzy view of stored contents. Open shelves are in another category entirely: no doors, no smoked glass, no barriers whatsoever. And this openness is both the benefit and drawback of kitchen shelving. 

Kitchen shelves are not intended for bags of flour, boxes of cookies, and all your other everyday food items, simply because they aren't so nice to look at. What you do find in great numbers are pretty things, things you want people to see. Flowers, fine china, even ordinary tableware, provided it's made up of well-coordinated sets. That's why, in most kitchens, open shelves are pure luxury. They're show-offs.

  • 01 of 08

    Farmhouse Kitchen

    Farmhouse kitchen with open shelves
    Mint Images Helen Norman / Getty Images

    A prime example of how only the best and most beautiful items are stored on open kitchen shelves.

    This simple farmhouse kitchen's open shelves display plain white plates, mixing bowls, and a few canisters of sugar and flour. The shelf corbels—those triangular buttresses at the ends—both provide extra support and contribute to the country feeling in this space.

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  • 02 of 08

    European Kitchen

    Kitchen shelving with pottery
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Even small kitchens can have open shelves—if you're okay with devoting space to openly showing off your pottery rather than more essential items.

    Shelves can be an art-form. In this example, two standard brown cantilever shelves blend into a brown background​ but are set off with the brilliant display of daisies, earthenware, and little glass bottles.

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  • 03 of 08

    Open Shelves in a Contemporary Kitchen

    Kitchen with beautiful wood open shelves
    Spaces Images / Getty Images

    Kitchens that use a lot of wood are a needless luxury. In this world of plastic, melamine, laminate, solid surface, you don't need a single square inch of wood in your kitchen. This is what makes it so great.

    These shelves provide tons of space for your nice things. If you want one wood item in your kitchen, try making that item the open shelves.

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  • 04 of 08

    Unique Open Shelves

    Kitchen with long open shelves
    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Shipping pallets are a trend in homes now, and here you find them built into the kitchen cabinets. Contrasting with this extremely rough, rustic look are open shelves that span the entire width of the kitchen.

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  • 05 of 08

    Natural Wood in a Simple Kitchen

    Kitchen with simple opening shelving
    Eric Audras / Getty Images

    Simple and simple. The kitchen is just your ordinary, workaday kitchen, nothing spectacular. It's even got the fridge magnets and dish drainer.

    So, you can't exactly overload the kitchen with a massive, spectacular array of shelves, as in other kitchens. Just three tiers of natural wood cantilevered shelves for some everyday (but attractive) plates and glasses, and you're good to go.

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  • 06 of 08

    Extensive Open Shelving

    Large contemporary kitchen with open shelves
    YinYang / Getty Images

    This is where open shelves slide from being "pure luxury" to "pure necessity." The corbel-supported shelves on the right side, along with the large open pantry on the left, comprise the majority of shelving in this vaulted-ceiling, light-filled kitchen.

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  • 07 of 08

    Rustic, Historic-Like Kitchen

    Rustic country kitchen with open shelves
    Fotosearch / Getty Images

    This room is not an authentically historic kitchen, but a clever replica. From the wood beams running across the ceiling to the oil lamp to the bare and battered kitchen table—this is true country rusticity.

    Why are foodstuffs are not displayed in open shelves today? Partially, as already noted, you don't want to show off your cereal boxes. But also because back in the "olden days," cabinets with doors were used to keep out vermin. Doors were there for a very good and practical reason, not just for show.

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  • 08 of 08

    Modern Rustic Kitchen

    White country kitchen with open shelves
    Charlie Dean / Getty Images

    This is a modern kitchen with lots of old-time touches, such as the Edison bulbs, old stove, and a white-painted brick wall. And of course, the open shelves over the stove. Shelves over stoves tend to be more for looks than for any practical use because it's inconvenient and even dangerous to be reaching over flames to grab that container of basil. Better to put the pretty copper pitcher up there instead.