Friday, November 16, 2012

design ideas that make me want to stab people in the eye

I see that I am developing a bit of a theme here.  (Not the theme of accidentally hitting "publish" when I am trying to tab into the content box to type the post.  Though that is arguably also becoming a theme.)  And no doubt I will have more posts in this vein.  Apparently, though precise decisions about what I like are elusive, what I don't like maintains a great clarity. 

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. 

For example:


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:

(houzz)

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:


SERIOUSLY. 

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

Oh look:


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. 

10 comments:

  1. I don't like open shelves much either. It is just not practical for me, you will have to worry about dust, tring to keep it looking pretty and not to mention breaking dishes. Some of these design's look nice though. The wall shelves with all the stuff looks scary. I am sure there is no kid in that house. I have some space above the cabinets and these pics give me some idea on what would look good. Thanks.

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  2. I knew instantly upon reading the title that I would love this post, and you did not disappoint.

    Also, I agree completely.

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  3. The lasting impression I have of this post is "Billy Bass". Yeah, the "singing fish" reference did me in. And yes, I actually purchased a "Billy Bass" as a Christmas gift for my nephews one year. It was on sale...a LOT.

    And 12 years ago I bought my hematologist a stuffed Santa that was enclosed in a fake-jail thing and the Santa sang "Grandma got run over by a Reindeer". Long story. It would bore you to tears probably, but at the time I thought it was funny.

    As for the cabinets...hmm...I don't know of anyone that has open shelving, so I guess I am not that sophisticated or hang out with people as such. I don't think I am missing out on much...

    I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

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  4. Okay..you are making me wish I had a bigger house! LOL! I would love a big pantry...however since I'm no longer really cooking...I guess what we have is enough for now. If we ever decide to move...I will definitely want a more modern and updated kitchen (and bigger).

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  5. I have some open shelving in my tiny kitchen because I have an awkward wall and I needed somewhere to store my cookbooks and assorted mason jars of stuff. I would never think of replacing cabinets with whole walls full of shelving! That's nuts. Just plain crazy.

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  6. I absolutely love this post! Totally love this. I have never been able to figure out why people have open shelving like that, but you made a good point that many people with open shelving just have huge kitchens and enough storage. I love it. I'm so glad that you are replacing that strange corner sink in your kitchen, as I think that would BOTHER me.

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  7. "A singing fish was kind of the obvious choice. (At least, I hope it sings.) " I am STILL laughing!

    I loved the kitchen you called your favorite too. When we moved to New Zealand we were struck by how few kitchens had overhead cabinets. I fell in love with not having them. But they didn't add silly useless shelves.

    don't get me wrong, in nearly every kitchen I've lived in where the landlord didn't care.. shelves were added. Plate width. Easy access. love it. But only for the things that seemed to always be in daily rotation.

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  8. As the designer of two of the kitchens you featured in this post I think it would be fair to show the rest of each kitchen which also includes a lot of closed storage. Both of these kitchens are large enough to hold both open and closed storage unlike some of the other kitchens you featured that only have open storage. I agree having only open storage doesn't give you a lot of options. It's all about balance and common sense. As an interior designer I believe it's important to make sure things are not only attractive but highly functional. If you have the space to do it you can have plenty of closed storage space and still have room to do something that makes the space unique. Please see my website to see the rest of these kitchens. www.DforDesignOC.com

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  9. As the designer of two of the kitchens you featured in this post I think it would be fair to show the rest of each kitchen which also includes a lot of closed storage. Both of these kitchens are large enough to hold both open and closed storage unlike some of the other kitchens you featured that only have open storage. I agree having only open storage doesn't give you a lot of options. It's all about balance and common sense. As an interior designer I believe it's important to make sure things are not only attractive but highly functional. If you have the space to do it you can have plenty of closed storage space and still have room to do something that makes the space unique. Please see my website to see the rest of these kitchens. www.DforDesignOC.com

    ReplyDelete