50 Stylish Kitchens That Make A Case For Exposed Shelving

4 min read

When it comes to kitchen design, there are endless possibilities. From the color scheme to the layout, every detail plays a crucial role in creating a space that is both functional and visually appealing. One design element that has gained popularity in recent years is exposed shelving. This trend involves removing upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelves, creating a more open and airy feel in the kitchen. In this article, we will explore 50 stylish kitchens that make a strong case for exposed shelving, discussing the benefits, design ideas, and tips for incorporating this trend into your own kitchen.

Benefits of Exposed Shelving

Before we dive into the design ideas, let’s first explore the benefits of exposed shelving in the kitchen. Understanding these advantages will help you decide whether this trend is right for your space.

1. Increased Visual Space

One of the main benefits of exposed shelving is the illusion of increased visual space. By removing upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelves, the kitchen instantly feels more open and spacious. This is particularly beneficial for small kitchens or those with limited natural light.

2. Easy Access to Everyday Items

With exposed shelving, all your everyday items are within arm’s reach. This makes it easier to grab the ingredients you need while cooking or quickly find your favorite coffee mug in the morning. No more digging through cluttered cabinets!

3. Showcasing Beautiful Dishes and Cookware

If you have a collection of beautiful dishes, glassware, or cookware, exposed shelving allows you to showcase them like works of art. This adds a personal touch to your kitchen and creates a unique focal point.

4. Cost-Effective Solution

Compared to traditional upper cabinets, exposed shelving is often a more cost-effective option. It requires less material and labor, making it a budget-friendly choice for those looking to update their kitchen without breaking the bank.

Design Ideas for Exposed Shelving

Now that we’ve discussed the benefits, let’s explore some design ideas for incorporating exposed shelving into your kitchen. These examples will inspire you to create a stylish and functional space.

1. Minimalist Elegance

A minimalist approach to exposed shelving can create an elegant and sophisticated look. Opt for clean lines, neutral colors, and minimal accessories to achieve a sleek and timeless kitchen design.

2. Rustic Charm

If you prefer a more cozy and rustic feel, exposed shelving can be paired with reclaimed wood or distressed finishes. This combination creates a warm and inviting atmosphere, perfect for country-style kitchens.

3. Industrial Chic

Incorporating exposed shelving into an industrial-style kitchen adds a touch of modernity and urban charm. Pair the shelves with metal accents, concrete countertops, and stainless steel appliances for an effortlessly cool look.

4. Open and Airy

For kitchens with limited natural light or smaller spaces, exposed shelving can help create an open and airy feel. Opt for white or light-colored shelves to reflect light and make the room appear larger.

5. Colorful Display

If you love vibrant colors and want to make a statement, exposed shelving provides the perfect opportunity. Display colorful dishes, glassware, or even small potted plants to add a pop of color to your kitchen.

Tips for Incorporating Exposed Shelving

Now that you have some design ideas in mind, let’s explore some practical tips for incorporating exposed shelving into your kitchen. These tips will help you make the most of this trend while ensuring functionality and organization.

1. Organize with Style

When using exposed shelving, it’s important to keep your items organized and visually appealing. Arrange your dishes, glassware, and cookware in an aesthetically pleasing way, using different heights and textures to create visual interest.

2. Use Baskets and Bins

If you’re concerned about the cluttered look often associated with open shelves, consider using baskets or bins to group similar items together. This will not only keep your shelves organized but also add a touch of style.

3. Mix and Match with Cabinets

Exposed shelving doesn’t have to replace all your upper cabinets. You can mix and match by incorporating a few open shelves alongside traditional cabinets. This allows you to enjoy the benefits of both storage options.

4. Consider Floating Shelves

Floating shelves are a popular choice for exposed shelving as they create a seamless and modern look. They also provide added flexibility in terms of placement and can be easily adjusted or removed if needed.

5. Maintain Regular Cleaning

With exposed shelving, dust and grease can accumulate more easily compared to closed cabinets. Regularly dust and clean your shelves to keep them looking their best and maintain a hygienic kitchen environment.


Exposed shelving in the kitchen is a trend that continues to gain popularity for its aesthetic appeal and functional benefits. By removing upper cabinets and replacing them with open shelves, you can create a more visually spacious and accessible kitchen. Whether you prefer a minimalist, rustic, or industrial look, there are countless design ideas to suit your style. Remember to organize your items with style, incorporate baskets or bins for added organization, and consider mixing and matching with traditional cabinets. With careful planning and attention to detail, exposed shelving can transform your kitchen into a stylish and functional space.


1. Are open shelves suitable for small kitchens?

Yes, open shelves can be a great option for small kitchens as they create the illusion of increased space and make the room feel more open and airy.

2. How do I prevent open shelves from looking cluttered?

To prevent open shelves from looking cluttered, make sure to organize your items in an aesthetically pleasing way. Use baskets or bins to group similar items together and create visual harmony.

3. Can I mix open shelves with traditional cabinets?

Absolutely! Mixing open shelves with traditional cabinets allows you to enjoy the benefits of both storage options. You can use open shelves to showcase decorative items or frequently used dishes, while keeping less attractive items hidden in closed cabinets.

4. How do I maintain the cleanliness of open shelves?

Regular cleaning is key to maintaining the cleanliness of open shelves. Dust them regularly and wipe them down with a damp cloth to remove any grease or food residue.

5. Can I install open shelves myself?

If you have basic DIY skills, installing open shelves can be a relatively simple project. However, if you’re unsure or not comfortable with the process, it’s always best to hire a professional to ensure proper installation and safety.


Exposed shelving in the kitchen offers numerous benefits, including increased visual space, easy access to everyday items, and the opportunity to showcase beautiful dishes and cookware. By incorporating design ideas such as minimalist elegance, rustic charm, or industrial chic, you can create a stylish and functional kitchen. Practical tips like organizing with style, using baskets and bins, and maintaining regular cleaning will help you make the most of this trend. Whether you have a small kitchen or a large one, exposed shelving can transform your space into a visually appealing and accessible area.

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