And today, I would like to talk about open shelving in the kitchen. Yes, yes, we've heard: it's lovely, it's trendy, it creates a "feeling of openness," and it's just as useful as leaving the cabinets up there. And here is where I get off the train. Yes, it can be really pretty. But if there's one design habit that pisses me off (and there isn't), it's people expressly claiming to have added functionality - and to have needed said functionality - when that is the opposite of the truth. If you added a tiny shelf in your bathroom so you could put seashells on it, or miniature apothecary jars of bath salts in a room where no one takes baths, tell everyone the truth: you added decoration. You did not add storage. Storage is not for things that you only want to look at.
Let's be honest. The actual fact is that your kitchen is so much larger than you really need it to be that you can store four of everything that anybody needs in your lower cabinets (or a huge pantry across the way). You didn't rip off your upper cabinets and add shelves because you had caught wind of a newer, more brilliant way to store your dishes. You're not even really pretending that you need those shelves for storage!
These people are trying a little harder to pretend:
But they're not fooling me. That's at least four upper cabinets that you lost there. That's all you'd have had in all of them? Where are the rest of your drinking glasses? And your mismatched cereal bowls? Come on, now.
Now the pretense ramps up into high gear:
"I own thirteen pieces of milk glass and some sort of weird trophy object and I am willing to sacrifice a pantry's worth of storage for them. They need room to breathe, people!"
Concededly, some people are not pretending. They are actually using shelves for storage. It would be wrong not to acknowledge these people. For example:
Sure, this could all have been staged by a prop stylist for the photo (the open cookbook certainly was). But you know what? I believe you. That looks like a collection of Talavera there on the middle shelf - and not an outrageously large collection that you assembled to decorate a useless shelf, either. I count three serving trays, a serving bowl, and a pitcher. I would use those on a regular basis. And I am totally convinced by your water glasses, your wine glasses, your dinner and lunch plates, and your cereal bowls. Those green glass bottles might just be for decoration, but hey, they're on a high shelf. And now, I want to know what's in that galvanized box.
And here's one of my favorite kitchen design pictures:
I don't believe a prop stylist has ever been near this kitchen. Hey, I could be wrong - maybe it's never been used. Maybe it's a set. But if this kitchen is wrong, I don't want to be right. Look at all those pans! They're all stainless steel. You buy copper to show off; you buy steel if you want to use it all the time and need to scrub it to death. Is that home-canned tomato sauce on the blue stove (which is an awesome stove, by the way)? Look at that giant colander! I've never needed one that big. And the only people I know who have those old stovetop espresso makers instead of the expensive electric ones are serious coffee drinkers. There is no storage space in this room that is going unused - not even the floor. I ardently believe that if I spent a day in this kitchen with its owner, I would emerge a fabulously improved cook. Starting with what those giant squash in the basket are and how to fix them...
And, hey, I want to give these people props, too:
You knew you needed a lot of storage, so you kept most of the cabinets closed. You left a few open to mix things up, but gosh darn it, you are using them. How many cookbooks are on that shelf? Bet they're good ones, too.
You, on the other hand...
...needed a separate shelf for each of your platters shaped like blowfish. And you appear to have dedicated one entire shelf to a napkin holder and a (not very realistic) sculpture of an artichoke. Also, your creamer looks like a gargoyle. Have that looked into.
Of course, that looks reasonable in comparison to some things:
Who is looking into these mirrors? And why don't you have a refrigerator?
Now, I'm not totally unreasonable. I recognize that in some cases, the only possible use for a shelf is decorative storage. It's not like the homeowner could have used this space for the dishes:
A singing fish was kind of the obvious choice. (At least, I hope it sings.)
And, likewise, the space above this window isn't easily accessible. The items they've displayed (and the kitchen) are beautiful:
And I recognize that, if you have some open shelving and some closed cabinets, you'll want to make your prettiest dishes visible, and organize them neatly:
That doesn't mean the shelves aren't real storage. Certainly not. And I don't know how you get dinner plates down without smashing dishes here:
But I'm willing to give this the benefit of the doubt. However...
...some arrangements are clearly just for decoration, even when they sacrifice an entire wall worth of cabinetry. (I notice you needed an entire shelf for your 624 sign there.) And:
Is that an...empty...storage...pagoda...? Right. And I think we can all agree...
...if half your shelves and cabinets are empty, you just have too large a kitchen. Likewise:
Our friends in places where space is at a premium are the ones who are fearlessly embracing shelves as storage:
And the results are stunning! I think we could all learn from this. (This kitchen is in Bratislava, by the way.) And some Americans are taking the cue:
I see your Hellmann's. And your French's. And your Cheerios. I believe you.
Even the OC has someone using every square inch well:
Look at that. If you have a giant stove, I am going to be generous and assume you cook a lot. And if so, I buy that you have two blocks' worth of knives. And I respect that you keep them on the countertop, where you can actually use them. And, fine, I don't believe that most people have a giant candle and a potted hydrangea on the island/prep table, so I'll blame the stylist for that. But that fruit tray actually makes sense - you'd have a lot of tangerines and bananas, but just a couple of watermelon and squash, and fewer lemons. And lots of sauces, most at least partly used. (I don't have this large a rack over my stove, but it came with a little one, and I need to make better use of it. My kitchen is way smaller than this one.) And look at that shelf under the prep table! Those baskets don't even match! My heart is warm.
You, on the other hand:
Should not have a shelf under the prep table at all. That just looks ridiculous.
That ten-ounce teapot needed its own shelf.
Obviously, I am not a fan of minimalism. But even I can admit that - on occasion - things can be taken too far in the opposite direction:
My eyes hurt. I think maybe if you subtracted the rooster, it might work.
And there is minimalism I respect:
These people are making use of every inch of storage space they have. And these people:
I want to believe that they have a daily need for three different meat grinders, and a...thing. In open storage, so they aren't slowed down by fishing around for them.
And then some people have to blast through a wall's worth of upper cabinets
...so they can have an entire shelf for the word "EAT." (No doubt an instruction essential to the inhabitants.)
Stabbing is really the only answer.