Modern kitchen design has really embraced open plan living. Should kitchen storage be left open also or is it better to have closed cabinetry so you can stow everything away behind doors and drawers? There is no definitive answer as there are pros and cons of each storage solution both from a style and practical standpoint. You need to consider your requirements and lifestyle when choosing either of these looks.

gray engineered quartz countertop

Open storage

The trend of installing open shelving instead of upper cabinetry is set to continue. Are you willing to keep up with the maintenance involved with this style though?


Open shelving is great for displaying your favorite things. You can arrange items from everyday pots and pans to statues and paintings for an eclectic display. You can also keep regularly used items together for easy access. Plates, bowls, glasses, and mugs are within arm’s reach and they won’t get dusty as they’re used all the time. It’s cheaper to put up shelves than install a row of cabinetry. The minimalist nature of shelving opens up walls and lets in light. This works especially well in a narrow or small kitchen but is a bonus in any kitchen design.


Unlike closed storage, you can’t pack everything into the space available on shelving. Everything must be attractive and arranged in a way that won’t overwhelm your kitchen design. Once you’ve decided on the contents you want to display, you need to keep them free of dust and grime, especially if your shelving is near a stove top. As an alternative you could incorporate glass front kitchen cabinets that add some light and depth to your design without fully exposing the contents of your cabinetry.

kitchen cabinets with open storage

Closed storage

Cabinets take up wall space, but they also offer a lot of concealed storage.


There is a huge range of cabinetry to suit all tastes. The type you choose often dictates the style of your kitchen design. The doors can be as intricate or simple as you like, and the hardware can be easily changed at any stage in the future to give your design a fresh look.  If you extend your cabinets to the ceiling, you are assured of having plenty of storage and a clutter-free countertop. Just store less-frequently used items in the highest cabinets. You could also add display cabinets to the top of closed storage, such as in this kitchen remodel in East Lansing.

Kitchen design with glass front cabinets

Whatever you put in closed storage can be as cluttered as you like, without interfering with the look of your remodel. Having doors on your storage also greatly reduces the need to regularly dust and clean its contents.


If you have items you’d like to display, glass fronted cabinets are the answer, but they need to be well-lit and complement the style of your remodel, which could increase costs. Cabinets are generally more expensive than finishing a wall and putting up shelving. If your kitchen is small or dark, closed storage can take up more space or light, giving your room a more closed-in feel.

It’s clear that both types of storage have positive and negative aspects, but one might be more suited to your needs than the other. If you can’t decide, you could always mix and match, incorporating cabinetry and shelving in your kitchen design. Shelves with interesting items break up rows of cabinet doors Likewise, closed storage areas can offer a break to busy open display areas.

Look at our kitchen design gallery for more storage ideas. Make an appointment to talk to our design experts today to determine the best type of storage for your kitchen remodel.