Open Shelving

How to Incorporate Open Shelving in Your Wellness Kitchen

If you have been sucked in by beautiful Pinterest kitchens with sleek, curated open shelving, then you and I are in the same boat.  Open shelving can turn a dark, cramped kitchen into a space full of life and personality.  It can also help make your kitchen healthier which is why open shelving is a perfect fit for wellness kitchens.  


Kitchen open shelving is a hot design trend right now, and I am all for it buuuut, I do have some guidelines.  Just like with the rest of wellness kitchen design, open shelving needs to be carefully thought out before you go all in with it.  This blog post is going to talk about the good and bad with open shelving, when to choose open shelving vs. cabinets, and how to place and design the open shelving.

Wondering what a wellness kitchen actually is and why you need one?  Find out why you need a kitchen designed for wellness HERE.

What I love about open shelving:

  • Open shelving takes up less visual space than cabinets, and therefore can make a kitchen feel much more open.  This is very important in a kitchen designed for wellness.  You want to be drawn into your kitchen and enjoy being there so that you are happy to stick around and cook some healthy food.
  • Open shelving adds personality to a kitchen.  Looking at a wall of cabinets doesn't say too much about who you are.  But open shelves give the opportunity to add a little spunk or interest, and a glimpse of your personality to your kitchen.  Visitors will enjoy seeing more about who you are rather than looking at a wall of cabinets.
  • Open shelving is a perfect place for fresh herbs and other indoor plants.  Bringing plants into the kitchen will help bring life into your wellness kitchen and can promote healthy eating habits.
  • Open shelving makes dishware and everyday cooking items easy to reach.  Having these items easily on hand will make your life easier in the kitchen, providing a better cooking experience.  

What I don't love about open shelving:

  • Open shelving can easily get cluttered.  The last thing you want is a bunch of clutter piling up on the open shelving in your kitchen.  This will cause annoyance and stress and will decrease the likelihood of you using your kitchen.
  • Open shelving collects dust.  Dust is an accumulation of the toxins releasing into your home, so you want to keep shelving that collects dust to a minimum.
  • Open shelving doesn't provide as much storage as cabinets.  If you have a small kitchen with limited space for storage, an excessive amount of open shelving will leave you without a place to store your items.

Do you prefer watching over reading?  If so, watch my Facebook Live Episode called How to Effectively Incorporate Open Shelving Into Your Wellness Kitchen to gain all the insights that I talk about in this post (photo slideshow included!).

How many is too many?

Open shelving is a perfect way to open up a kitchen and make it more inviting, but over doing the open shelving can be a detriment to a wellness kitchen.  Since open shelving will collect dust, you want to limit the amount of shelves you put into the kitchen.  

The image of the beautiful kitchen above is everything I want in a kitchen.  It is open, intriguing, full of light, BUT there are too many shelves for it to a be a healthy kitchen.  Not only would cleaning those shelves on a weekly basis be a nightmare, but trying to reach the high ones could cause accidents.

There needs to be a balance between the beauty and excitement of open shelving with the practicality of keeping your kitchen clean and safe.

What is the right amount?

Think about the items that are well placed on open shelving: everyday dishware, potted herbs and plants, commonly used spices and common dried food storage like rice and beans, or maybe a few cookbook you use regularly.

Do not have more shelves in your kitchen than would fit these items.  This might be about 6 feet to 12 feet of open shelving. 

Leave room for your personality

open shelving

Don't forget to let your personality shine through.  Open shelving allows you to show off a bit of who you are, much more than cabinetry can.  Adding personality to your shelving will make you happier and will give you guests a glimpse of who you are.

open shelving vs. cabinets

One of the draw backs to open shelving is that it provides much less storage than cabinets.  And you don't always want to see all the parts and pieces of your kitchen equipment.  You can combine open shelving with upper cabinets to create openness while incorporating the necessary amount of storage needed.

avoid full height shelving

open shelving

Full height cabinets like pantries should not be replaced with open shelving.  I would not recommend using open shelving for full height storage.  The main problem with this is that dust, dirt and pet hair will very quickly accumulate on shelving that is in close proximity to the floor.  Full height open shelving is just asking for constant cleaning and constantly dirty dishes or food storage containers.

opt for enclosed transparent storage

open shelving

If you want your full height storage to feel more open consider adding glass panels to the doors like the photo above.

where to place open shelving

Near the prep zone:

One of the pros of open shelving is that everything on it is easily accessible.  Make sure you are making your life as easy as possible by placing the shelving within arms reach of your prep zone.  This will save you from making multiple trips to your pantry for dried food, make plating your dinner a snap and make it easy to grab fresh herbs as you're prepping your healthy meal.

Within Reach:

While a stack of 3 or 4 shelves reaching up to the ceiling is an impressive design feature, the practically of it is lacking.  It is impossible to reach a shelf that is 8 feet off the floor, so the shelf will become a dust collector.  

Keep shelving within a reachable height range so that you can store everyday, practical items on them.  Keeping open shelving within reach will also make your life easier as your preparing food.  No hassle trying to reach for high items.

where the sunlight reaches:

open shelving

My favorite reason for open shelving is that it provides the perfect opportunity for indoor plants and fresh herbs.  Many herbs needs full sunlight, so look at where the sun is entering your kitchen, and place the shelving in a location where sunlight will hit during the day.

in small kitchens:

open shelving

If you have a small kitchen and are worried that open shelving will take away from your minimal storage space, consider adding a single shelf to the outside edge of your kitchen like in the photo above.  This design technique creates a soft edge to your kitchen which makes it feel more open and inviting.  

Only place a few items on this shelf to maintain visual comfort.  A cluttered shelf will defeat the purpose of adding the open shelving since your kitchen will no longer feel inviting.  

Final Thoughts

When designed right, open shelving will help make your kitchen healthier and a more enjoyable space to be in.  Just keep in mind the balance between the wow factor of endless shelving and the practicality of a healthy and functional kitchen.  If you do, you will have a beautiful, inviting kitchen that will draw you in, and you'll never want to leave. 🙂