Open shelving or not so much??

zeitgastFebruary 3, 2013

Hi there... sketched this up to play around while we await our contractor bids.

Been thinking about open shelving in this small 12' x 12' beach house kitchen. Somewhat concerned about storage, dust and grease but we are going to have to trim back the budget somewhere in our bigger than the kitchen project so was considering eliminating the uppers. Would appreciate your form and function thoughts...

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Sophie Wheeler

Open shelving looks great, but do you really want to dust everything constantly in a beach environment?

You're not talking about saving that $ much for 5 uppers. If those are 42" cabinets, then maybe $1500? And the shelving itself will be at least $300-$400 from a cabinet company, so you're not talking huge savings at all. For that dollar amount, it would be better to downgrade the cabinet line and keep the uppers. That would still save a couple of thousand. Do 30" cabinets with a drywall soffit above and save 1K over taller cabinets and molding. And skip the paneled fridge. That's several thousand right there. Put in laminate for a counter. That's several thousands more. Do a plain under cabinet hood instead of the more expensive pro style hood. And a plain consumer grade range. That's a couple of K right there. If you do the vent pipe larger, you can still put in a large BTU range and pro style hood at a later point if you really end up cooking a lot.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:16PM
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Thanks not thinking of full austerity measures hollysprings just trimming where we can. Got a great deal on a panel ready fridge that we love.

Was really more interested in form and function opinions-- sorry for not being clear.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:27PM
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I agree with hollysprings. You need the cabinets. Skip the paneled fridge. Maybe do an Ikea butcher block counter on the island. Definitely look for an alternative hood. The 2 cabinets above the stove are too hard to reach and become collection points.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:28PM
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laura mcleod

We had open shelving in our small kitchen prior to our remodel - we took down the uppers to open up the space and it defininitely worked. We had daily used items on our shelves so there was no dusting of items needed because we used them (and washed) them all the time.

Every few months when most of the items were in the DW I would wipe down all the shelves, but they did not get as dirty as I had expected. I loved the look and guests always knew where to grab a glass or plate, which was nice.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:30PM
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After realizing how little upper cabinets provide for USABLE storage, we decided to eliminate them completely.

If you take notice and upper cabinet is 1/2 the depth of a base cabinet. Combine the width of the upper cabinets you are proposing and 1/2 about to figure what a base cabinet would give you. Couple that with how high up you can reach. Being only 5'3" myself, I had to decrease the reasonably accessible items to the usage of of only 30% of a base cabinet. If you're trying to save cost, I'd say to nix the uppers and enjoy the open space, especially in beach house!

Do you have a pull out for the corner? You may want to check into how much a corner pull out would give you in comparison to cabinets (and price)? I don't have any corners so I have no idea.

Nice layout overall.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:52PM
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Well my first thought is that even with that nice vent, will grease end up landing on your open shelving? Steam from cooking? I vote for cabinets. If the open shelving were elsewhere...But I don't really see a spot for it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 4:59PM
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Regarding form and function, open shelves are great. They definitely lighten up the kitchen in my view, and provide some easy access storage. The dust/grease concern is a complete non-issue in my view, particularly if you use the items frequently. And even if you don't, given that you're not considering dozens of shelves, just dust once in a while.

You would get marginally more storage from upper cabinets, but as aloha notes, upper cabs don't give you a huge amount of additional storage. I think it just comes down to assessing exactly what your storage needs are. Review exactly what you want to store in this kitchen, figure out where it will all go. If you decide that you absolutely need the small amount of additional storage you will get from the uppers, then perhaps you should have them. If not, I much prefer no uppers and think they would work well in your kitchen. I really don't like that corner upper cabinet you have in the second drawing.

I have about 15' of open shelves, haven't had to blow the dust off the plates yet. I do keep the glasses stored there upside down, but I do that with the glasses in my two upper cabs too.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:08PM
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I should add that my shelves flank my hood vent as well. No grease issues at all, but I do have a pretty decent vent.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 5:12PM
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I think the shelves look beautiful. If you can do without the upper cabinet storage, I would choose the shelves, definitely.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 7:23PM
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Noted that your perimeter cabinet and appliance placement is similar to what we have at our lakehouse (the design w/ upper cabinets). One thing different that I noticed is your DW to the left of the sink. Ours is to the right of the it, much easier to rinse and load to the right. Unless, of course, you're left-handed.

Don't know if the beach house is a weekend or summer retreat or how close you are to grocery shopping once you're there. Our place isn't near a supermarket and I really appreciate having space to store non-perishable pantry items.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 9:56PM
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I wouldn't want open shelving at a beach house myself. The way we use our vacation house the door is open a fair bit and we do get flies in the house and sometimes moths and mosquitos. Nothing overwhelming and a flyswatter takes care of it, but the thought of flies and moths stopping for a rest in the bowls and plates gives me the willies. I'd feel like I had to wash every plate and glass before using it.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 11:38PM
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Amck funny you should mention the DW placement. That has been the subject of much debate. It landed there because it would block the isle between the counter and island when open if placed on the right.

We are both right handed and we plan to have a pull out garbage under the left side of the sink. The big debate was about having to reach over the garbage to put dishes into the DW. Really wanting a Silgranite Diamond sink but it only comes with a right side drain so the pull out garbage needs to go to the DW side. We did debate putting in a pull out trash on the right side of the sink but really want the drawer space-- especially if we go with open upper shelves ; )

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 1:27AM
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Aha - Your plans seem so well thought out I doubted you hadn't considered loading the DW, but I thought that it's a detail that might have gotten lost when moving things around on paper.

We have a soapstone apron sink and struggled w/ pull out trash placement. Ended up putting it under the island, which I find really convenient. I do most of my prep at the island and like having the trash right there. I'm guessing you've already considered and nixed that idea, but thought it worth mentioning.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:27AM
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I lived at the beach, on the beach, every day for 12 years, and it isn't the dust, it's the salt. It gets on everything. I love the idea of shelves, but the daily maintenance ain't no day at the beach. Oh...

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:36AM
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I love the look of open shelves. But I have pets, and their fine hair is always floating in the air, unseen, until it gently lands. With open shelves, I am certain I would pull a bowl off the shelf and find a pet hair or two inside it.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 8:43AM
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Love the look but it's really a personal choice. I couldn't do it here. A big coating of pollen all over everything if I open the windows for 10 minutes in the spring. A lovely dark film over everything because we live near a city and an airport. If I were at the beach, the salt would drive me crazy. Yes, love the a magazine. But if you're not finicky like me, then it could be fine ;-)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:01AM
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What do your floors look like if you haven't swiffered in a week? 80% of that will be on your shelves on the stuff that didn't get pulled down and used that week. Open shelving is a great solution to a busy restaurant or a VERY busy kitchen that keeps the objects in question on a fast rotation of being used and cleaned every couple of days. If that isn't you, then think about what your floors look like in the corners before you clean them. That's not dirt tracked in on feet. That's what floats in on the air. All of the salt and fine dust and pet hair. Some locations have less air borne particulates than others, and find it easier than others. You need to figure out that load for your location, as well as your tolerance to that particulate load if you don't use the ice cream bowls for 15 days in a row.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 9:31AM
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Another alternative if you have enough space in drawers/cupboards for plates and glasses is to use the open shelves for decoration. Plants, shells, a ceramic teapot, a pretty vase, etc. Things guests would not be reaching for and that you could easily dust/wash if it were a problem. Also you could try this for a year and if you seriously don't like it then by then you could splurge for the 4 cabinets and use the shelves elsewhere. When you don't spend all the money at once it doesn't seem so expensive!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:07AM
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I love love love open shelving but I wouldn't put it near the cooktop. It's just too dirty/greasy of an area no matter how careful you are or how good your hood is. You could do glass fronts if you want the more open look. Of course you'll have to clean the glass but at least all the dishes will be clean.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:20AM
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No shelves at all are always a good option too, assuming you have sufficient storage space (you really need to do that storage exercise). You're not looking at many shelves, and as several people noted, assuming you have high use (or decorative) items there dust etc., isn't a problem. I can't comment on salt though, but again I imagine usage is a key concern. All the plates and bowls on my shelves are cycled through every 24 to 48 hours, so I've never had a problem with dust/grease/pet hair (I have kids & cats). Just consider carefully your storage needs and the usage of what you want to store on the shelves. Placing glasses upside down addresses the issue for less used glasses.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:25AM
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beachlily z9a

I live on the beach and you couldn't pay me to have open shelves. Open a window with the wind we get--yes, pollen, but also salt air and sand. Unfortunately we don't open our windows because the salt will settle on everything and rust becomes an issue inside as well as out. I'm also a minimalist, and don't like clutter. Open shelves add a cluttered feeling.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 10:28AM
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I like the look of open shelves, but where we live is way too dusty to even consider it. I also like concealed storage for most of my stuff.

I love your big wall of windows. They will make the space feel open even with uppers on the other wall, IMHO. If that was my kitchen, I would use uppers on the range wall, but I would not wrap them around the corner onto the window wall. I would use a chimney hood with uppers on each side of it, and have the uppers on the right side go staight and end at the window wall. I think it is a cleaner look and gives you more usable storage than a corner cabinet.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:49PM
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If you are concerned about grease from cooking, is there any chance you can swap the sink and range? The dishwasher would be between the sink and refrigerator with the range under the windows. Or perhaps windows on each side?

This may not work, but it would move the dishwasher out of your prep area and put the sink between the refrigerator and range. Then the dishes and display would be on shelves on either side of the sink. I guess it would depend on whether you would enjoy the view more from the sink or while cooking at the range.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:25PM
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Here are some pretty photos with open shelves and one with glass cabinets and open shelves in the corner.

Here is a link that might be useful: Photos of open shelves

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 3:38PM
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Used to have open shelving that was in our old butler's pantry. Loved it for the large display opportunity but everything got so dusty and greasy!! In the new kitchen my aim was for lots of display but in closed glass door cabinets.
I would vote for the extra cabinets over the open shelving from experience.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 4:31PM
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Fori is not pleased

It's a vacation kitchen, right? So you put the dishes in drawers and use those shelves for things that aren't staying around when you're gone. The shelves can be a pantry for non-permanent items. I don't see any problems with that.

Sure it's not as pretty to have cornflakes on your shelves instead of Fiestaware, but it's practical.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 6:43PM
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Well I have two open cabinets with shelves in my plan and the cabinet guy is coming to measure today. They go from ceiling to top of counter. I realize I will not be able to reach the upper third shelves, but then I could not in an enclosed cabinet either. I love the look of the open shelves and the convenience of using them. I have one small one now and it holds coffee cups and supplies over the coffee maker. It is so handy. Really, is dusting that hard of a thing! Just use an extended handled Swifter!. For me it is "exercise". Hopefully I will be posting pictures in about 6 weeks!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:41AM
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I'm with you quiltgirl. I dust daily, it takes two nano seconds and Swiffer is your friend. They don't get greasy day to day and they're by the stove. A good cleaning is needed once in a while. It's totally worth it for the sense of space and convenience, and can be very decorative. Btw, mine are 90 degrees to a wall of windows too and it's great.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:04AM
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The whole discussion of open shelving uppers always sort of cracks me up. My parents have had all open shelving uppers in their entire kitchen since they built their house in the mid-1960s (to the point where people used to ask them when they were going to "finish" their kitchen). It has never been an issue. OK, so maybe the stuff that is rarely used up on the top shelf gets a bit of grime, they just take the top couple of plates or whatever it is down and wash them when they want to use them.

I say go with the look you prefer.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 11:40AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Can't address the salt/sand issues, but I love the look of open shelves. I like kaysd's suggestion, with a variation. You could use just the cabinets on each side of the hood, then use open shelves on the window wall, or have the open shelves wrap the corner. That would provide some distance between range and shelves, and if you keep the DW on that side, the open shelves would provide easy storage and access for dishes used daily.

BTW, just checked some painted shelves near my range. They were thoroughly cleaned a couple of weeks ago--no dust or greasy residue on the shelves, or on items stored there. That would not have been the case with my old, recirculating hood.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:01PM
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Thanks all very helpful input. As much as we love open shelving this might not be practical for us. So I liked the suggestions to go with glass uppers and take the cabinets to the wall. Sketchup looks like this...

What do you think about wood doors on the end vs. glass? Better visual balance that way? Considered stacking the cabinets down to the counter top but realized that we need two corners near the outlets (toaster and coffee maker).

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:30PM
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Here is what it looks like stacking the cabs and dropping to the counter...

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 7:58PM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

I really like the glass cabinets--I have some in my kitchen. Your layout is very similar to mine, and while I like the look of the cabinet extending to the counter, I think having it in that area would bother me. Logical prep space is between sink and range; I don't think you have enough counter space to sacrifice.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:33PM
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Thanks mamma goose. There are 52" from he sink to that cabinet. Might suffice for prep work unless that door swing gets in the way. Hmmm??

Wonder if it would it would be difficult to reach that cabinet with the counter in the way

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 10:14PM
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For a beach house, I'm all for open shelves... adds an airy, casual feel, and works well as a display shelf. For a minimalist modern look, you can make it work, but not an ideal fit.

Eclectic Kitchen design

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 3:22AM
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How about an appliance garage (for the toaster and coffee maker) under that last cabinet instead of stacking the cabinets and dropping to the counters. On the picture at 19:58, flip the cabinets you have there so the little one is on the bottom and the tall one is at the top with the other uppers.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 6:42AM
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I love the look of open shelves and if you can make them work I say go for it.

Open shelves are NOT an option for us. We live in a cattle farm, with many chicken farms (think thousands of chickens) nearby and that means FLIES all spring, summer and fall. I'd have to wash each dish we used before using it if we had open shelves.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 7:29AM
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I like the glass cabinets. I would vote against taking that cabinet to the counter in that location. You may want to use that corner to put the mixer or food processor or toaster. And, as you say, you might want electrical outlets there.

Regarding your question about whether that end cabinet should be glass or solid, I think either choice would be good, but it depends what you want to store there. If you think you will need the end upper cabinet to store a jumble of cereal boxes, sippy cups, tupperware, and the like, then make the door solid. If you think that end upper cabinet will be used for things like wine glasses and china, then make it glass.

As an aside, when choosing your glass doors, I recommend not getting glass doors with mullions (aka muntins). My experience was that my 4 glass cabinet doors had mullions, and it drove me crazy when it was impossible to line up the interior shelves and mullions. I ended up switching out the doors for clear glass with no mullions. I did order the clear glass with beveled edges for a little visual interest. At the time, I thought "I am so neurotic", but then read several posts on this forum where people wrote about the same thing, so I am not alone!

This post was edited by akchicago on Wed, Feb 6, 13 at 8:27

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:19AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Wonder if it would it would be difficult to reach that cabinet with the counter in the way

Would depend on your height. I have no trouble reaching the corner (I have a shallow shelf just under the cabinets), and that's with an extra inch of counter depth on the stove wall.

The picture that davidanh posted makes me want to start removing cabinet doors. :)

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 8:25AM
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