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Thinking about open kitchen shelving? Here are seven photos and ideas to inspire your kitchen refresh.

Not everyone’s approach to keeping busy during quarantine is culinary in nature, despite the number of newborn sourdough loaves that cross your Instagram feed on the daily. Many have approached this time with all manner of spring cleaning, spring organizing, and spring overhauling one’s decor.

If you’re interested in a new kitchen look, but overwhelmed by the prospect of where to begin, consider an approach that starts without needing to acquire anything, not even a can of paint. In fact, it starts with taking something away: namely, your cupboard doors.

A doorless or open look can give your kitchen an immediate facelift, breathing life into the space, and with it encouraging some simple sorting and Kondo-approved tidying up. You don’t even need to commit to all of your cupboards to achieve a fresh aesthetic. Even just a single storage space makeover can make your kitchen feel like a whole new room. Here are seven approaches to an open look to inspire you to throw open the cupboard doors (and maybe even throw them away).


I begin here intentionally to demonstrate how a little effort can go a long way with this open cupboard concept. You can even still see the little holes where the cupboard hardware used to be. You could sand them down, spackle, and paint over them eventually if you want, but if not? No big deal. Colorful dinnerware, a hodgepodge of functional and aesthetic elements, and a few quirky pieces—looking at you Cat in the Hat—amount to a radical redesign that probably only took about 45 minutes.

Wilcoxson Brooklyn Ceramics Handmade Color Drip Mug Set, $129 from Food52

A cheerful set of mugs to inspire you to take off one (or more) of the cabinet doors.
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This is an equally simple concept—just the removal of the cupboard doors—but the look relies very much upon a savage approach to minimizing the amount of stuff you have on display. Those of you real Marie Kondo devotees, if you’ve been meaning to thank the ever-growing stash of takeout containers for their service and send them to the recycling bin, this look gives you an excuse. Pared down to just the few pieces that you use on the regular, and function becomes the form.

Anchor Hocking 6-Piece Glass Bowl Set, $119.96 from Wayfair

High quality nesting bowls to keep the look clean and functional.
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Pop of Color

If you are inclined to acquire a little paint, some wallpaper, or even a few contact paper sheets, an open cupboard gives you the opportunity to add more color to your kitchen regardless of the items on the shelves. Here, a robin’s egg blue peeks out from behind the goods, making white pieces and clear glass containers pop.

Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper Roll, $1.25/sq. ft. from Wayfair

Giving a hint of blue and distressed wood to the inside of your cabinets.
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Thematic Design

A few thematic pieces, along with an open cupboard aesthetic, take what is otherwise a contemporary kitchen with basic, functional dinnerware and give it immediate character as an old-timey grocery. I’m looking at the bakery and grocery plaques, the bread and pickle containers, and even the simple storage baskets, but even just one or two of those elements can be transformative in an open plan.

Olivia & May 3-Piece Galvanized Metal Canister Set, $32.99 from Target

A cute and convenient set of canisters to give just a hint of country charm to the operation.
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Pantry Patterns

In an open kitchen look, you don’t need to rely only on dinnerware, color splashes, or knickknacks for elements of design. Pantry staples like pasta, grains, beans, and lentils in clear storage containers can provide a look that incorporates color, pattern, and texture.

4-Piece Storage Jar Set, $32.99 from Wayfair

For letting your beans and lentils do the decorating work.
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If you’ve wondered what to do with the family china or tea service that’s been sitting in storage without a proper display case, now you can stop waiting for a proper display case. What better way to make heirloom pieces useful again by giving them the showcase they deserve simply by removing the cupboard doors? Ditto for mismatched vintage pieces acquired via a lifetime of yard sale savvy, or just an eye for that faux-vintage look.

Vintage Denim Dinnerware Set, $73.99 at Wayfair

Almost too pretty to stack.
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Completely Open

One final look to demonstrate just how big a kitchen can feel (and how attractive well organized spices are) when you open your mind. And all of your cupboard doors. Or remove them altogether.

Kennard 3-Tier Wall Shelf, $123.99 at Wayfair

For that completely open look with an industrial edge.
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Header image courtesy of Image Source/Getty Images.

Pamela Vachon is a freelance writer based in Astoria, NY whose work has also appeared on CNET, Cheese Professor, Alcohol Professor, and Diced. She is also a certified sommelier, voiceover artist, and an avid lover of all things pickled or fermented.
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