We Love this New Twist on Open Kitchen Shelving (That Isn’t New at All)

published Dec 17, 2018
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(Image credit: Aimée Mazzenga)

Open shelving is one the most popular—and also the most controversial—kitchen trends of recent years. There’s a lot to like about it: it can make a kitchen feel more light and open, and it’s a great way to display dishes, if that’s your thing. But open shelving can also look a bit… unfinished. That’s why we love this new twist on the look, which isn’t really new at all.

The look we’re talking about? Open shelving that looks built in, like a cabinet with shelves but no doors. This was actually fairly common in older kitchens (witness this one from the 18th century) and was even touted by 20th century household efficiency experts as a way to save time (since you didn’t need the extra step of opening the door). We just think it looks nice—and gives open shelving an intentional, meant-to-be-there look that’s lovely in any space, but particularly nice in a more traditionally-styled kitchen.

(Image credit: deVOL)

The good people at deVOL make some of my favorite kitchen designs, including the darkly delicious Bloomsbury kitchen, seen above. The open shelving is partially recessed into the wall next to the stove, which gives it a more subtle look.

(Image credit: Plain English)

This design from Plain English is clearly a modern kitchen, but it has all the elegance and poise of a space that’s 100 years old. The bank of cabinets on the right, with open shelving above, mimics an old-fashioned hutch.

(Image credit: Plain English)

Here’s another photo, from Plain English, that shows the potential this kind of design can have in a traditional kitchen.

(Image credit: Kitchen & Beyond)

In this design from Kitchen & Beyond, a cabinet with open shelving is fully recessed into the wall, for a beautifully minimal look.

(Image credit: Amanda Kirkpatrick)

Open shelving in this style can mix neatly, almost seamlessly with glass-front cabinets, as seen in this kitchen design by Hendricks Churchill. The paneling that extends from the backsplash and behind the cabinets is a lovely detail.

(Image credit: The Inspired Room)

Just a little bit of open shelving mixed into a bank of cabinets makes a perfect place to display cookbooks in this kitchen from The Inspired Room. Note the shiplap-like wood paneling that lines the back of the shelves.

(Image credit: Four Chairs)

Here’s another variation on the look, from Four Chairs, where cabinets with built-in shelving above abut a refrigerator, neatly encased in its own custom cabinetry.

(Image credit: Neptune)

In this kitchen from Neptune, a bank of open shelving takes on a particularly built-in look thanks to being painted the same color as the wall.

(Image credit: Shira Gill)

Of course, you could get this look with a pricey remodel involving custom cabinets, but if you’re shrewd you’ve probably already figured out there’s another way to do this. This lovely minimal kitchen from Shira Gill demonstrates that the look is very much within reach, maybe without remodeling at all: just ditch the doors on your cabinets, patch the holes—and make sure all your dishware matches.