Cabinets Vs Open Shelving As The Best Storage Option

Choosing between cabinets and open shelving for your kitchen is a big decision.

From our own experience (and our clients), cabinets are a must in every kitchen, so the question really becomes cabinets and open shelving, or just cabinets?

Open shelving has some pros as well as cons, but so do cabinets. Let’s take a look at how they fare against each other.

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Pros and Cons of Open Shelving

Open shelving has become a popular design element in modern kitchens, offering both aesthetic appeal and practical advantages. However, this trendy storage solution also comes with its own challenges that homeowners should consider before making a decision.
Pros of Open Shelving Cons of Open Shelving
Aesthetically pleasing Dust and dirt exposure
Easy access Cluttered appearance
Cost-effective Limited storage
Versatility Maintenance required
Illusion of space Not suitable for all items


Aesthetically pleasing

Open shelves create the illusion of more space and a more airier room. They look modern and minimalistic, perfect for a modern kitchen where you want to maximize the visual space and appeal.

Offers easy access

Adding open shelving in your kitchen lets you quickly grab dishes, glasses, and spices. This can make cooking and serving meals faster. You can even use recessed shelves to save space. Plus, putting things away is simple and quick when everything has its spot on a shelf.

Less expensive than cabinets

Open shelves mean less material and often less labor to install. It’s a smart move if you want to update your kitchen without spending a lot of money. Shelves let you use more of your wall space for displaying items like dishes and plants.

Showcases wall colors and special items

Open shelving turns your kitchen walls into a display stage. Bright paints and wallpaper patterns shine through the spaces between dishes and plants. Your favorite mugs, heirloom dishes, or artisan bowls become part of the decor.


Less storage space

Open shelving looks great, but it brings less storage space than cabinets do. You can’t stack items high like you can hide away in a closed cupboard. Think about your kitchen tools and pantry items. If you have a lot, open shelves may not fit them all.

Requires more cleaning

Open shelving in your kitchen puts everything on display, which means dust and grease can settle on your dishes and items. You may find yourself wiping down plates before using them, even if they’ve been sitting out for a day or two.

Can look unorganized

Shelves full of items might give a cluttered look. If things are not neatly arranged, your kitchen can seem messy. People who like keeping their spaces very tidy may find this troubling. Different shapes and colors of dishes create a chaotic appearance easily.

Items must be display-worthy

The risk of messy shelves pushes you to select items that look good on display. Open shelving requires a keen eye for style because everything is visible. Pretty dishes, colorful bowls, and unique glasses become part of your kitchen’s design. You can’t just stash mismatched mugs or old plastic containers there.
Modern Kitchen Ideas To Inspire Your Future Remodeling Project

Pros and Cons of Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets are a must in a kitchen. As we mentioned above, you don’t want dust and grease to sit on your plates and glasses, and the cabinets are the perfect place to store them.

Let’s look at the pros and cons of cabinets, and then talk some more about their cost and materials.

Pros of Kitchen Cabinets Cons of Kitchen Cabinets
Ample storage space Higher initial cost compared to open shelving
Concealed storage Can make a small kitchen feel more enclosed
Protection from dust and dirt Limited design flexibility compared to open shelving
Neat and organized appearance May require additional lighting for darker interiors
Versatile design options Installation can be more complex and time-consuming
Durability and longevity Difficult to access items in the back of deep cabinets
Customizable with various materials and finishes May contribute to a more formal or traditional aesthetic

Kitchen Cabinets Types

Type Cost per Cabinet (USD) Cost per Linear Foot (USD) Quality
Stock / RTA cabinets $220 - $500 $100 - $400 Low to good
Semi-custom cabinets $250 - $850 $150 - $700 Low to great
Custom cabinets $600 - $1,600+ $500 - $1,200 Good to great

Kitchen cabinets are often segmented into 3 types.

  • Stock cabinets (or ready-to-assemble cabinets) are the cabinetry you can buy from big box stores, like Ikea, Lowe’s, Home Depot, and more. They are stock, so they come in very limited sizes and finishes.
  • Semi-custom cabinets are, like their name suggests, not fully stock, but not fully custom either. These can also be found in home improvement stores, but you have the possibility to change some of their sizes and finishes. Of course, the number of options is limited, but they offer a more flexible plan for every homeowner.
  • Custom cabinets are fully customizable according to your needs and preferences. You’ll work with an expert carpenter, cabinet builder, and cabinet installer to manufacture, finish, and install your cabinetry. These are great options for people who want a fully custom solution, but they cost more than the other options.

Kitchen Cabinets Cost

Ok, but how much will it cost in total?

That’s difficult to say, and ballparking your kitchen cabinet price is never a great idea because a lot of things can change.

However, for a very large kitchen (of over 200 square feet), adding custom cabinets will be $25,000 and up for some quality cabinets with a nice finish and hardware.

Stylish light gray handles on cabinets close-up, kitchen interior with modern furniture and stainless steel appliances. kitchen design in scandinavian style


So, which is going to be for you?

Here’s our take on it.

Kitchen cabinets are a must, and you can’t call a room a kitchen without them. Open shelving is great to add more storage space, display a beautiful set of china, or complement the walls or other features of your kitchen.

Here at High Sierra Cabinets, we’ve installed hundreds of kitchen cabinets and shelves for our clients in Reno, NV. If you’re interested in more info about what cabinets to choose or you want an expert to install them for you, give us a call at (775) 242-6405 and let’s talk!