Tips for Balancing Open Shelving and Cabinets in Kitchens?

Open shelving has been a significant trend in kitchen design for the past few years. It gives the room a breezy, open vibe and a chance to display your elegant dishes and kitchen items. However, open shelves can also be a challenge when it comes to maintaining an organized look, especially when compared with the ever-trusted kitchen cabinet. How do you strike a balance between these two design styles for an efficient, stylish kitchen? Here are some expert tips to help you fuse open shelving and cabinets in your kitchen space.

1. Assess Your Kitchen Items

Before embarking on a major kitchen redesign involving open shelves and cabinets, it’s crucial to take stock of your kitchen items. What do you have, and how often do you use it?

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It will help you decide what should go on open shelves and what should be tucked away in cabinets. Frequently used items like dishes, cups, and glasses may be more convenient on open shelves. Rarely used items or objects that may not add aesthetic value to your kitchen, such as cleaning supplies and appliances, can find a home in cabinets.

By doing a kitchen inventory, you give every item a designated place. This action reduces clutter and helps maintain a clean and organized kitchen. It also minimizes the time spent searching for items when you need them.

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2. Play with Heights and Depths

One way to balance open shelves and cabinets in your kitchen is by playing with their heights and depths. This strategy adds visual interest to the room and breaks the monotony of uniform cabinetry.

For instance, having staggered open shelves on one wall adds a dynamic element to your kitchen design. You can also experiment with deep cabinets and shallow open shelves. This configuration gives you ample storage space while still keeping your much-loved items on display.

The key is to find what works for your space and your style. Remember, your kitchen is a personal space that should reflect your preferences and lifestyle.

3. Mix and Match Styles

Mixing and matching styles can add a unique flair to your kitchen. This design choice allows you to incorporate both open shelves and cabinets without leaning too heavily in one direction.

For instance, you could opt for traditional wooden cabinets on one wall and a modern, industrial-style open shelving unit on another. This balance creates a distinctive design that is eclectic yet cohesive.

Another idea is to incorporate glass-front cabinets. These give the illusion of open shelving while still providing the enclosed storage you might still need. It’s a great compromise if you love the look of open shelves but aren’t ready to commit fully.

4. Add Storage Elsewhere

Open shelves offer less storage than cabinets, which can be a problem, especially in a small kitchen. To overcome this, consider adding storage elsewhere in the room. Hooks on the wall, a pot rack, or a mobile island with storage underneath can help.

In a larger kitchen, a walk-in pantry can take on much of the storage burden, leaving your open shelves free for displaying your favorite items. Even in a smaller kitchen, a well-organized pantry cabinet can free up a lot of space.

Consider your kitchen as a whole rather than focusing on individual components like shelves or cabinets. This holistic approach can help you devise creative storage solutions that enhance the functionality and aesthetic appeal of your space.

5. Don’t Forget the Bathroom

While we’re focusing on kitchens, it’s worth mentioning that these tips can also apply to your bathroom. Both rooms require smart storage solutions and benefit from an appealing design.

Open shelving can work wonders in a bathroom, especially for displaying beautifully packaged beauty products or plush, colorful towels. At the same time, cabinets are essential for storing toiletries, cleaning supplies, and other necessities. As in the kitchen, strive for a balance that meets your storage needs and suits your style.

Playing with heights and depths, mixing styles, and adding storage elsewhere can help you achieve a functional, engaging bathroom design. Remember, every room in your home should be a reflection of your personal style and need, and your bathroom is no exception.

In conclusion, balancing open shelving and cabinets in your kitchen (or bathroom) doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By assessing your items, playing with heights and depths, mixing and matching styles and adding storage elsewhere, you can create a unique space that is both functional and beautiful. Remember, it’s all about creating a style that you will love and a space that meets your needs. So go ahead and experiment until you find the perfect balance.

6. Prioritize Functionality

The primary purpose of your kitchen is to serve as a functional space where you can prepare and cook food. Therefore, while your design choices are significant, you should never sacrifice functionality for aesthetics.

When planning your kitchen, think about your cooking habits. If you often use a particular set of dishes or utensils, you might want them within easy reach on an open shelf. On the other hand, if you have items that you only use occasionally, consider storing them behind cabinet doors.

Be mindful of the workflow within your kitchen – the "work triangle" concept, which is the imaginary line between your sink, stove, and refrigerator, is a tried and true principle in kitchen design. Your open shelves and cabinets should facilitate this flow, not hinder it.

For example, you could place your most frequently used items on open shelves situated near your dishwasher for easy unloading. Similarly, spices and cooking utensils can be stored on open shelves next to the stove.

Remember, your kitchen needs to work for you. Prioritizing functionality in your design will ensure that your kitchen is not only beautiful but also practical and efficient.

7. Consider Maintenance

Open shelves may offer a chic and modern look, but they come with a caveat – they can be high maintenance. Without the protection of cabinet doors, your dishes, glasses, cookbooks, and other items are more prone to dust and grease build-up, especially if located near the stove.

If you’re okay with the extra upkeep, then open shelves can be a fantastic addition to your kitchen. However, if you lead a busy lifestyle and don’t have ample time for frequent dusting and cleaning, you might want to consider using more cabinets or glass-front cabinets, which can give the illusion of openness without the extra maintenance.

Cabinets with doors can also protect your items from damage. For instance, if you have small children or pets in the house, closed cabinets can keep your breakables and valuable items safe from accidental breakage.


Finding the perfect balance between open shelving and cabinets in your kitchen may require a bit of trial and error. However, by assessing your needs, considering your lifestyle, and prioritizing functionality and maintenance, you can create a kitchen space that is both stylish and functional.

Remember, your kitchen should reflect your personal style and accommodate your cooking habits and storage needs. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different layouts, styles, and storage solutions – after all, it’s your kitchen, and you’re the one who will be using it the most. So go ahead and design a kitchen that not only looks good but also makes cooking and cleaning a breeze.