If you are familiar with my articles on Tastefully Inspired, you know that I love, love, love trends. In today’s trending kitchen, there has been a very contagious return to the days of open shelving. But I must admit that as an urbanite who doesn’t grow parsley in her backyard and can’t grab a bunch to put it in a pretty white container from IKEA, I’m a bit afraid of jumping on this bandwagon. Yes shocking, I know.
A History Lesson
Open concept shelving dates back to the 1800’s when the modern day kitchen was undergoing constant and drastic changes. With the introduction of more compact wood stove units, people (mainly middle-class families) began teetering with new ways of storing their kitchen goods. And voila, the open concept shelving idea got traction. It wasn’t that simple, but just stay with me.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the tracks, rich people (actually their servants) were utilizing cupboards. One of the very first cupboard-like casegoods was a furniture piece known as the Hoosier, a tall cabinet designed to hold flour, sugar and other things that were needed to put together a decent meal. The Hoosier quickly went the way of the dinosaur as people moved on to bigger and better ideas for storage.
Open Shelving vs. Cabinets
Open shelving is the idea of displaying kitchen items in rows of shelves. If styled correctly, it can feel very homey, personalized and eclectic at the same time. It isn’t fussy and has a very farmhouse, rustic, and barn-like approach to it. It invokes nostalgia and reminds us of times when families looked forward to eating grandma’s homemade biscuits and not ordering from a take-out menu.
Even so, open shelving, especially shelving that is near a stove, is subject to dust and grime. If you’re anything like me and constantly forget to turn on the ventilation system when you’re cooking, you will have to wash those dishes and wipe down the shelves periodically to keep the look you’re going for. On the other hand, if these are dishes that you use on a daily basis, you may be doing that anyway.
Cabinets have a more streamlined look to them. They are closed off by doors so that even the messiest of cooks can look like Martha Stewart in the kitchen. We can jazz them up by adding glass (frosted or clear), using funky hardware and picking different colors for the uppers versus the lowers. For real estate purposes, cabinets are the expectation so employing them could result in better luck at resale. In fact, it is much more expensive to install cabinets than open shelving.
While cabinets are what we generally see in a modern day kitchen, they can come off as sterile and boring without a lot of personality. If you are a collector, they hide your fancy dishes and it makes it harder for guests to find what they are looking for. The exterior of the cabinet also accumulates grime and dust so they have to be maintained, but for busy individuals it does mean that you don’t have to worry about rewashing the dishes on the inside of the cabinet.
The Best of Both Worlds
Don’t get me wrong; I am enamored with the looks of open shelving. I mean, who isn’t? It looks pretty fantastic to display 25 white plates and mugs on charming wood shelves lined with subway tile. But what I love even more is this idea of incorporating both into your kitchen. A few carefully chosen rows of open shelving can feed my trendy desires, without making me too uncomfortable about airing my dirty laundry. In fact, open shelving is really great for those corners that make it difficult to reach things in the back anyway. It also gives a uniqueness and bit of variety to your kitchen.
In the end, whether you go for open shelving, traditional cabinets or a bit of both, you can have the kitchen of your dreams if you stick with what works for you, your family and your life.