Choosing Between Upper Shelves and Open Shelves

One of the most important decisions when remodeling a kitchen is whether to swap out upper cabinets for sleek open shelves. This storage option has become a popular trend and can offer a fresh look to a room. But before you commit to a change, consider the pros and cons of this style.

Decorative Elements

A major advantage of upper shelving is that it allows for more wall space to decorate and accessorize. Display framed art, wood cutting boards, or vases in a variety of shapes and sizes for an eclectic but balanced effect. Or, keep it simple with a uniform arrangement of smaller, similarly colored items to maintain a clean appearance. Either way, the more you fill and organize your shelving, the more interesting the display will be.

While open shelving offers more flexibility with decorative¬†Learn more about the Upper Shelves here elements, it can also be a challenge to keep organized. Stacking and over-organizing can lead to a cluttered presentation that’s difficult to keep looking neat and tidy. Some designers suggest a “less is more” approach to ornamentation on floating shelves, and the use of coordinating jars or vases to create a cohesive aesthetic.

Another drawback to open shelving is the lack of protection for food and utensils. Cabinets offer a secure and safe storage option, especially for families with children or pets. Plus, they offer the option to customize the interior with specialized storage solutions like pull-out pantry shelves and door-mount spice racks that can’t be installed on the wall.


Choosing between upper cabinets and open shelving can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a kitchen remodel. Typically, cabinets are more expensive than floating shelves because they require additional construction and materials. But if you don’t have the budget for new cabinets, open shelves are an affordable option that can make a dramatic visual impact.


Many homeowners are turned off by the idea of maintaining floating shelves because it’s difficult to keep a presentation that looks clean and presentable. Closed-door cabinets, on the other hand, are considered a breeze when it comes to maintenance, as only a quick wipe with a cloth is necessary.

If you’re not sure you can commit to open shelving, try removing the doors from a few of your upper cabinets and see how it works in your home. Some designers say this can be a great compromise that gives you the best of both worlds, offering you closed storage for food and dishes while providing an opportunity to display beautiful decorative elements.