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Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Posted by pipdog (My Page) on
Mon, Feb 3, 14 at 1:55

We're considering open shelves for our new (to us) kitchen. They seem to be everywhere on design sites and I've seen a handful of GW kitchens with them, but I'd like to hear from others who have installed them. Would you do it again? What are the drawbacks, if any?

From a space planning/storage perspective, we've inventoried everything we have and we have enough storage for our stuff we don't want on display. The open shelves would simply be for wine glasses, cups, coffee mugs, every day plates/dishes and decorative items. The things that are giving me pause about open shelves: we've got 17 foot high sloped ceilings, two kids and a large shedding dog, and I'm wondering about the shelves/plates/glasses and how dusty they'd get with open shelves. We're also in an earthquake zone and we have minor shakers once in a while (hello, falling plates on my kid's heads). Lastly, our kitchen is not a large space, so we will only have three other upper cabinets in the space.

Some shelves in my inspiration file:



This post was edited by pipdog on Mon, Feb 3, 14 at 1:58


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I love them in the right places. We were going to do them but backed out at the last moment. After a LOT of research I've decided when we buy a new vacation house we will put in shelves and cabinets like these from henrybuilt. The open shelving has best of both shelving and cabinetry. The top protects from dust and no doors provide accessibility. Perhaps a compromise like this would be better for your family?


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I love the idea of open shelves and had them for a few years in an old farmhouse with a cobbled together kitchen. It was convenient and fit the theme of the kitchen, kwim. And we considered them for our kitchen remodel, but decided against it because of my dog. She sheds like crazy, a wonderful, soft, downy undercoat that is absolutely everywhere. Hair from my sweet Stella has traveled all over the world with my daughter, she delights in sending me pictures of Stella hair that shows up in the strangest places! So no open shelves for me, but I do love the look!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Pipdog - it sounds to me as if you already *know* that open shelves may not be the best option for your situation (earthquakes, kids, animal fur, and dust...and I'm assuming no outside houskeeping help), but would like us to say, "Yeah, go ahead, it'll be fine." ;-)

Just because you CAN (in terms of having the storage capability), doesn't mean you should. The reasons you listed that it might be a challenge are enough reasons to decide against it, IMO.

I do like what iheartgiantschnauzer posted if you have a long area to place shelves like that. Although I think that if it's shorter areas, due to overall size of room, broken up by windows, vent hoods, etc, the look wouldn't be nearly as effective.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Personally, I don't like the look of open shelves.
Personally, I strongly suspect I wouldn't like the function of open shelves.

I also suspect they're going to be a flash in the pan, something that'll date your kitchen as a mid-teens build (or remodel).

If you think you'd like the look, I suggest you do it in moderation; by that, I mean don't go entirely upper-free. Use a more traditional choice for the majority of your kitchen, and use just one or two open shelves in a spot where they'll make the most impact.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I don't like them from a practical standpoint and agree with Mrs. Pete that they will date your kitchen. I also think you can't have enough storage and 3 uppers is not enough.

One idea would be to get uppers with finished interiors and have the doors but don't install the doors. Then if you get sick of the open look or sell your house, you have the option for regular uppers.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I have open shelves in my soon-to-be-former kitchen and I do like them. So easy to grab what you need and also display space. However, it's probably just me but I find it too easy to set whatever in any open-ish spot and it can get cluttered quickly. I don't think I'd do open shelves if I lived in an earthquake zone, though. Kinda asking for trouble there.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I disagree about open shelving becoming dated. They have been common in European kitchens forever.

That said, given the conditions you have mentioned, it doesn't seem like open shelving is a great option for you.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

sas95 - I wonder if that has to do with kitchens often not staying with the house in Europe? My knowledge on that is limited to House Hunters International and my time studying abroad. It makes sense to me that if I were taking my kitchen with me, it would be harder to take uppers but I don't know!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

My 1963 kitchen has a few open shelves, and while they are handy they are also dust catchers. And I feel like, when I put something back, I have to line it up just so, so it looks nice, or when I take something down, be careful not to push something else out of line, but wait, now there's a gap in the layout. Fortunately, mine are not next to the cooking area. Looking at them as I consider this post, I think I'm going to go wipe them down, again.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I don't have any uppers. Only open shelves and plate racks. They are easy and efficient and unless you're in an earthquake zone I don't see any reason not to have them.

I'm one of the original anti-upperitis people -- there was an entire thread on that a couple of years ago. I never liked upper cabinets and after this kitchen without them I'd never get them again. The offset is having sufficient pantry storage IMO.

My shelves stay very clean and only require a wipe off with a microfiber cloth ocassionally.

As for dating a kitchen, I feel that cabinets and appliances do that far more quickly than open shelving.

But there will be pros and cons and a variety of opinions on any feature.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I have a combination of uppers and a few open shelves. No question, whatever is on the open shelves get greasy and need cleaning far more often than the closed uppers.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

One must know how one lives.

I have 5 cats and 3 dogs. Can you say FUR FUR FUR?
I'm under perpetual construction. DUST DUST DUST.
Do I DUST? um. well. no.
Am I neat to begin with? Well, um. no. Doors are my friend, no matter how pretty the shelves are. And the shelves are only pretty if the things on them are pretty.

I don't think, judging by how you talk about them, that they're right for you, either. Unless you put plate rails on the edges of your kitchen, which definitely gives you a country vibe. Doesn't look like that's your thing, either.

Speaking of dust (oh, were we?) here's something to throw into the mix. I have overlay and inset cabinets. Working towards all inset. The cabinets where the dust can't just slide down behind the overlay doors are much cleaner. Dust goes down, but it seldom goes sideways. The inset cabinets would require the dust go sideways!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

That point is exactly what I discuss with myself and my friend every time I think of adding another or a couple more open shelves in my kitchen - will they be functional? or will l just end up cluttering them with knic-knacs that have to be dusted and wiped down often? As for dishes, mine are in cupboards and already within easy reach. If I cold configure one large shelf for my microwave to clear up more counter space, that would be ideal; but so far I can't visualize how to work that out.

Don't get me wrong I really do like the look and I could use another element in the room to draw it together but I'd probably go with a vintage upper before open shelves.


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We have a mix of uppers and open shelves. And 2 cats. We have not had a dust and/or fur problem, but we put things on the shelves that get heavy rotation. I would do the shelves again. I'm another one who is not thrilled with the look of tons of uppers.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I like the look of open shelves, in a limited amount, such as the first photo of this thread. Whatever you put there, and you could switch it out as your mood desired, wouldn't amount to a whole lot of extra cleaning. There's too much in the other photos to appeal to me.

I have a couple of tchotchkes sitting on top of my stove's back riser. In time (weeks) they can get a little greasy. I'm not a huge fry cook. They go into the DW when the stove gets cleaned. It's not a major thing.

I do have things that reside out on my counter on the stove run. They do not feel greasy or dusty. Is it because they are lower than shelves? Dunno. The keyboard of the laptop I'm currently typing on has much more cat hair on it than the stuff sitting on my counter. And that's a very good thing. :)


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I live in an earthquake zone and the only time I had a problem with things falling in the kitchen was during the 1989 quake when my kitchen cabinet doors opened up and everything fell out. So having doors is not going to solve that problem.

I also have 2 Australian Shepherds and open shelves in the kitchen. Yes the shelves get dusty from time to time but I don't find dog hair up there. The dishes and glasses I store there don't get dusty because we use them too frequently. They are not next to the stove so things don't get greasy.

But I am totally not a person who is concerned about what my kitchen looks like....much more concerned about how it functions. I store empty jars (used to store sauces and salad dressing) and measuring cups next to my Fiestaware on my shelves. I have bowls hand painted by my kids when they were in Kindergarten on the shelves which we use everyday. Certainly not beautiful kitchen magazine picture quality.

It's kind of like the soapstone patina v.s. pristine granite question...you either are one or the other.


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We have open shelves in part of our kitchen and have been very pleased with them after three years. I would say the major con to them is that they do get dusty--though I dust them maybe once a year (probably should do that a bit more! ;) and that's when it gets to the point that if I touch the shelf it is noticeably dusty--in between it is much more subtle. When we did our kitchen the plan was to store plates there, but we made an eleventh hour decision to move those into a drawer and have been happy with that. Instead, we store mugs (upside down, no issues with dust on those), coffee/tea and accessories (have to rinse out open carafes that are only used once or twice a year, but honestly I rinsed those when they were stored in upper cabinets too; no issues with regularly used items getting dusty), and a few larger cooking tools (rinse the ones that are used once a year; haven't had problems with anything used monthly or more frequently). Because our coffee/tea prep area is also immediately below the shelf, I love having everything very accessible there with no need to open and close the cabinet to get to the kettle (which was how it was set up pre-remodel, and led to a lot of banging heads into the cabinet doors). Impressively I have not yet found dog hair up there despite having a very furry dog, but I imagine that day is coming! We have a preschooler but the shelves haven't been an issue there since they are much too high for him to reach (but we love the dishes-in-drawers for this since he can unload the dishwasher!)

We are also in an earthquake zone but decided this was not a concern for us--our house is bolted down and we actually had a big (for us!) shake not long after the new kitchen went in and nothing moved at all. The major threat for that is likely to be "the Big One," and we decided that at that stage, if the worst that happened was that we lost a few mugs, it would not be a big issue. (Our neighbors also reported the same thing that itsallaboutthefood said--in '89 most of their cabinets opened and things fell, so shelves vs. doors was moot.) I do make a point not to store heavy things that might seriously injure someone when falling there (or on any other shelves/walls/high places), though.

The two primary reasons we chose the open shelves--and the reasons we would again--were aesthetics (makes kitchen feel more open since they are over the primary prep space and I was always hitting my head on the old upper cabinet in that space) and cost (saved a LOT by skipping uppers on that wall--we do have three uppers on another wall, and I would personally not want a kitchen with no closed upper cabinet storage at all since we use these for food, wine glasses, etc.) The major cons, IMO, are the dust and the visual appearance if you plan to make them utilitarian vs. pretty (but we didn't care much about the look and knew that going in--went for function over form there). GW had also warned about grease since our shelves are next to the stove, but we also put in a good range hood and have not (yet?) had problems with wandering grease.

One thing you might consider if you still like the idea after hearing all the cons is to put them somewhere where you could easily swap them out for cabinets in the future--this made me braver about trying them since we figured the worst case scenario was that we would replace them a few years down the road and be out the very minimal cost of the shelves. Luckily, we've enjoyed having them and they've been a good fit for our family, but I think it's a very individual thing.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Personally I'm opting for a mix of open and regular cabinet uppers for my kitchen. The open shelving really opens up the area without it being cabinet heavy, but the cabinets I did opt for are great for hiding all the clutter/unsightly not-perfectly matching plates.

I however love the decorative look of the open shelving. Yes, it needs to be dusted, but so does the top of my bedside tables, the coffee table, the fireplace mantel, the open shelving in my bathroom, the little ledge under my dining room table, the sofa table...

Really, if you like the look, go for it. The earthquakes...well...can you maybe get them with a little railing in the front or maybe only store less "dangerous" items?? Or teach the kids to not stand under the shelves when tremors start???

But I love my shelves. And dated?? Probably not, when mixed with "normal" cabinets too.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I had open shelves for 8 years. Four 4' shelves held my dishes, serving bowls and cups, plus a few decorative items on the top one. This was a small 10x11 cottage kitchen. You know... white cabinets, shaker doors. Other things were in standard cabinets or a small pantry. The 'look' was downright terrific! I'm particular, the stoneware is pretty, and my kitchen got tons of compliments.

However... even though many of the items were used almost daily, those that were not got dusty on the top layer of a stack. Plus, using a gas range (even with a decent outside venting hood) left the shelves, and less used items, with a greasy coating... I am an avid cook. It required MUCH more time and cleaning. But, the convenience and aesthetics were awesome.

Would I do it again? Well, I now have a newly built home. It has upper cabinets, with glass doors for displaying my stoneware. It is the BEST of both worlds!!!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I like the look but not the dust (old house, casual housekeeping at best).

DH hates the look, absolutely HATES it, so the idea was a non-starter for us.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

What type of heating do you have? I'm really wondering if this is the key that people don't mention on the dust side...we have hot water/steam, so you don't get all that moving air you get with hot air heat. Presumably this means less dust (though not under beds behind boxes of kid toys, so who knows...

Anyhow, I have some open shelves in my kitchen and absolutely love them. But they are NOT near the stove, and would never have them there because the thing creates grease. We use most things pretty regularly, but when we don't use something, it takes a good long time for dust to accumulate (1 yr +), and even then, it's a "quick wipe" amount, not really a full-up-wash-with-soap thing. Unlike the cabinets directly over the stove...

Earthquakes: figure out how much shake you really expect, I suppose. And do be sure you connect your bookcases to the walls. Should do that with kids anyhow, of course...


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I have them and I love them. I would only put glasses on them if they get rotated often (for instance, while I like wine, I probably only drink it once or twice a month, so I wouldn't put wine glasses up). Mine are fairly new, and I'm not sure EXACTLY what will go on them but I do know that A) I won't overload them and B)I'll only put some display items and mainly things that I use alot. Full disclosure, I have two dogs and two cats. My cat's arent climbers and none of the animals are allowed in the kitchen without a person accompanying them. I never find animal hair on them.

This is what I have so far:

Dinnerware and baking dishes in the pantry:
 photo Kitchenandmisc214_zps5066d695.jpg

Food I use often on the other side b/c it's not visible unless you go in the pantry(Always filling kongs with peanut butter for the dogs):
 photo Kitchenandmisc215_zpsba6685d8.jpg

Above the stove I put the vintage corningware I use all the time, my bread and mixing bowls, vintage irish water jugs, and my simplex tea kettle (it whistles and it's made in England! I use it every day and the the whistle reminds me of making tea as a child for my mom). I use all of the things above the stove often:

 photo Kitchenrevealandmisc040_zpsdf56450b.jpg

I wipe down the shelves above the stove about once every 3 weeks (It's not that difficult since A) I don't keep that much up there and B) they don't get that dusty) and the shelves in the pantry only need it once every other month or so. It's well worth it to me for the happiness I get from having it all out and available. Some day I'll figure out EXACTLY what I want on the shelves (probably after my backsplash goes in)


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Anyone who decides on open shelving should be sure to have an excellent vent hood over the range and use it when you cook. I rarely cook without turning mine on and the lights in the hood are on all the time -- so handy. It significantly reduces any grease factor.


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I have three cats, no propensity towards cleaning, and a serious clutter habit.

Open shelves? Never!


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Love mine. The two lower shelves are all-work shelves with stuff I use near-daily. Mise en place bowls, salad bowls, strainers, and our dinner plates. I really love being able to reach over and grab what I need when I'm prepping dinner. The top shelves are purely decorative. Even though our shelves flank the stove, I've never found grease or dust on anything, except for the small mortar and pestle, which I don't use much. I'm religious about using the hood when I cook (and we're vegetarian now -- sometimes I wonder if the HOGS from meat are greasier). The top shelves get a little dusty, not greasy, and I dust up there about once a month. Since I don't use what's on those shelves, the dust doesn't bother me. I'd do open shelves again for sure -- can't beat the convenience, and I don't find them hard to keep straightened up.

This post was edited by justmakeit on Mon, Feb 3, 14 at 22:20


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

I've had them for a quarter century (pre-Civil War old farmhouse with not a single built-in cabinet, not one!).

I am so over them. In my new kitchen, I'll have a single shelf (fairly narrow) by sink for a couple of used multiple times a day items, and similar one near range (match safe and container to hold matches used to light the burners and ovens, little candle to burn when cutting onions, etc.)

All of my things are now on open shelves (or hanging pot racks, my other bete noire). And all of my things are getting stowed in cabinets because I am sick to death of starting every meal prep by re-washing the "clean" stuff. It's not just having to re-wash the turkey platter the day before Thanksgiving - that I wouldn't mind - but every dish, cup, pan, lid, mixing bowl, etc. acquires 24 hours of dust, pet dander and hair, pollen, and assorted air-borne snarf. And I don't like eating it, not one bit, not even just "24 hours" of it. If you'd have to clean something after say, a week, why would you want to eat even a fraction of the dirt? The stuff doesn't stay clean for six days, and then get suddenly dirty on the seventh. It gets dirty 24/7, but it takes awhile to become grossly visible. Ick!

Open shelves and TV cooking show style cooktops on islands facing towards the family rooms are the avocado appliances of this decade - and pure set-decoration style. Certain to be designated the primary signs of kitchens renos c 2008 - 201?? And if you wait long enough after that, they will eventually come back in style despite having spent a long time in dated deco purgatory. Then hipsters will choose them, again , for their irony.

Meanwhile, can we just move on?

L.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

So, liriodendron, I don't understand. Do you like open shelves or not?

Don't get me started on having to open and close cabinets for the last 30 some odd years!! You know no one cleans the handles properly...or often! So there I am, opening and closing cabinets touching the same hardware that some booger picking, non hand washing kids in and out of all day. Gross. I think it may've done damage to my rotator cuff as well.


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I think that open shelves would have to be more popular to be likened to the avocado appliances of this decade.

I'm glad I'm not trying to be trendy!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

You put it perfectly, itsallaboutthefood!! Either you like the patina of soapstone or you like prestine granite. It's more about personal preference and the style/function that resonates with you more than anything else


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

Thanks magsnj...I also hated having to open doors in upper cabinets. I took the doors off my upper cabinets in my old kitchen before I remodeled and put in my open cabinets.


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Another vote for love them!
About a year ago, I did a freshen up facelift on our kitchen, which included new cabinet doors and drawer fronts on the cabinets I built in 1986. While the old doors were off, the upper we use for everyday items just seemed so natural that way, we decided to not replace the doors and see how it went, knowing I could always add doors later if we didn't like the look or function. Turns out, the open shelving is a favorite of ours among the new things in our kitchen. I'm not sure where all your dust is coming from, perhaps it's climate or geographically driven? Even if we had dust here, there would be no time for it to settle, as we're continually using the dishes, bowls, and glasses we store there. No grease issues either, even though my range is only four or five feet away, and I cook a lot! (Although, I'm sure the hood helps mitigate grease accumulation).
Our kitchen is small,10'x10'-8", so even this little bit of open shelving helps make the space feel larger, and it's so convenient to just grab what we need, and put away after washing. Truly a win win for us!
And, I might add we live smack dab on top of one of the longest earthquake faults in California, when the big one hits, believe me, cabinet doors are not going to save a thing...


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Such a personal as well as 'hygenic' decision! Having a dog that sheds, and 2 cats, one a long-hair white, my open dark stain kitchen hutch gathers enough 'stuff' w/o adding open shelving! In my kitchen, I can't imagine!! As I see it, that's the only downside.

As for 'Europeans and their open shelf kitchens' I've yet to see even one! I've been to a few countries/cities, in various homes, and just like the US, seem more prevalent in bars holding bottles of booze. ;)


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

thanks for all the input -- very helpful in thinking about this decision. I just wrote a long post that got eaten before I submitted, so I'll be brief.

ctycdm, that is a gorgeous kitchen! magsnj, your pantry and space is so charming - the blue cabs are adorable. We don't have a pantry space in his home (1957 house), so we're having to be creative with our cabinet layout.

I think we're going to do a modified version of open shelves. I really do love the look, and I think functionality wise they work for us (I too get sick of opening and closing cabinet doors), but we're lacking cabinet space in this kitchen. It's just not that big. So, we're contemplating a smaller cabinet with a shelf underneath for storing everyday items like plates, cups and wine glasses. It would look sort of similar to the henrybuilt ones that iheartgiantschaunzers posted or maybe even something like this (our cabs won't look anything like this, but this is just the general idea):

Another design we're considering is (kitchen is not my style, but just an example):

Still working out the design kinks but this thread has been very helpful, so thanks!


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

We have a mix of open shelves and uppers. I LOVE open shelves. We are moving and incorporating them into our new kitchen.


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Love our open shelves. So easy to grab what I need while cooking. We also have dogs and I think they're just too high up for dog hair. I only have bowls that are regularly used and cookbooks on the shelves, so nothing has a chance to get dusty. However, I've noticed that the shelves themselves hardly collect any dust. The shelves are far away from our range, though, so there's never any grease. I would absolutely do them again.


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NOPE. Totally not for us. Our plates and glasses are nice enough, but are totally the wrong color for our kitchen or are too "assorted." We do have some nice glasses but the everyday ones originally had jelly in them + a couple that showed up here or there. Coffee mugs are the set I bought + a bunch of other random ones from work or wherever. I know that a lot of this can go into drawers, but there's nothing we own that I can think of that would look good on open shelves except maybe for our 1950s turquoise and chrome Kennmore toaster. The other drawback for our family personally, is that one of the two of us is a bit clumsy and might reach for one glass but knock one off the side of the shelf in the process.

Maybe if you're going for the rustic look it would work, or modern if your things fit the same style but for us it's a non-starter.


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RE: Open Shelves -- love them? hate them?

magsnj, being indoor-only, my cats have free access throughout the house, unless there's a door--they are not allowed in closets. They would kill to have your open shelf space.


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