A Kitchen Storage Trend That’s a Fresh Update on Floating Open Shelving

published Jun 19, 2017
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(Image credit: Liz Calka)
(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

If you’re itching to kick your standard closed cabinets to the curb to update the look of your kitchen, you may be considering the controversial open shelf. But before you add a bunch of bespoke floating wooden shelves to your kitchen, consider this in-between look that’s a little less expected. It just might be the thing you’re looking for to add some organized, yet visually interesting storage to your cooking space.

→ Cubbies

Though a subtle difference, open shelves and wall cubbies are two separate styles of storage. Open shelving involves one or more straight (usually floating, but sometimes installed with visible shelf support hardware) shelves attached to a wall.

Open shelving has its advantages, to be sure — it’s modern looking and provides easy access your pretty kitchen stuff. But, there are downsides as well. Occasionally, the precarious stacks of dinnerware and drinkware can make a space look messier than it is. Also, the dreaded more-frequent dusting.

But the kitchen cubby is its own delightful category. Yes, it’s still storage without a door (so may need dusting, but perhaps not as much, as you’ll read below). But the very nature of the cubby — a set of small, contained squares or rectangles — somehow makes this storage option feel more…contained. More, in control. You’ll still have access to kitchen goods you might use often as well as space to display pretty things, but gone is the potential sense of disarray with open shelving; the cubbies themselves help to keep the clutter in check.

Gina’s kitchen (shown above) features a citrus-colored palette, a vintage-style orange fridge and lots of fun details to love. But there was one element that caught my eye:

That wall of wood storage cubbies! Gina describes how the idea for this storage wall in her kitchen came to be:

“I saw the cubby design on HOUZZ. It was a little different and we had to take into account the electric box, but my contractor/builder was able to make it work. I have a cleaner once a month — but it surprisingly does not get that dusty.

I change things up a little if I buy a new treasure and want to add in there. Sometimes, I have to move around or put something away — but it has stayed relatively the same for the past two years. I love antique shopping — so sometimes i will add something. My contractor also made little slits in the back of each shelf for the plates I have standing up so they do not slide (my idea).”

Gina’s cubby wall is inspiring, but there are other examples — and reasons — why you might choose cubbies:

(Image credit: Viv Yapp)

They work with a lot of different styles.
Cubbies might seem old-fashioned, but they can be translated for modern style spaces, too. As seen in this DIY London kitchen, the cubby storage fits right into a sleek and streamlined room.

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

They’re great for small spaces.
Of course, cubbies can be amazing for small spaces, and not just because of the benefit of added storage. They can be great when you just don’t have room for swinging cabinet doors. Instead of upper cabinets (can you imagine trying to open and close cabinet doors while cooking in this small kitchen?), this tiny San Francisco’s rental kitchen features a tall set of storage cubbies that makes the small space feel organized. And the pots are easily accessible.

(Image credit: Lana Kenney)

Very useful for lots of uniformly shaped things.
This type of uniformly shaped storage can be very useful when you have a a lot of similarly shaped objects you’d like to store and easily access. As seen in this beautiful Cape Town kitchen, wine bottle-sized, deep, square cubbies are the perfect storage solution for this home.

(Image credit: Natalie Jeffcott)

They’re a practical resolution for extra (odd-sized) areas.
Cubbies can be a stylish solution when installing cabinets and you find yourself with extra space that doesn’t fit a standard cabinet size. (I’m not sure if that issue was the case in this Melbourne kitchen, but it illustrates how great the idea would look if you’ve got a similar issue in your kitchen.)

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

You can cheat your way to cubby storage.
If you’re not particularly handy, rent your space or are just looking for a quick, cubby-like fix, certain cabinets with their doors removed can give off cubby-storage vibes, like in Keith and Joe’s small studio’s kitchen.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

You can choose wall-mounted or free-standing cubby storage.
And while most of the examples in this post are cubbies attached to a wall, this idea could be made freestanding, like this DIY storage piece in this Australian home.

Cubbies you can buy:

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Step-cubbies from Amazon. (Image credit: Amazon)