We’re still making some kitchen decisions here at the Brown house. We’ve got the big picture and majority of the details planned out but we’re still contemplating a few touches here and there. For instance… next the the refrigerator (see the kitchen floor plan here), we want to do some sort of display shelving… either open shelving or glass front cabinets.

In order to help visualize both options in our kitchen, I drew a kind-of-almost-to-scale rendering of  both options. First up, here’s the glass front door option:

…and our second option, open shelving with a wall of subway tile as the backdrop:

On “paper”, we’re loving the idea of glass front cabinets. But then there’s the wall of subway tile with the open shelving. Yes, subway tile makes me weak at the knees and Greg thinks it’s “really cool”. Therefore, even with the renderings, we’re still torn between the two. So we decided to round up some cabinet eye candy to hopefully push us in the right direction…

Sally Wheat Interiors

Brandon Barré Photography

Erin McLaughlin

Nathan Egan Interiors

Molly Frey Design

Country Living

Urban Grace Interiors

Martha Stewart

The eye candy didn’t help the decision making process much because we love them all! On one hand, open shelving has a more modern look and in some way, it adds a little more personality to a kitchen. On the other hand, glass cabinet fronts are slightly more practical and keeps the dust out. Which do you prefer… open shelving or glass front cabinets?

Have you entered the Pinwheel Press Giveaway? Comments close at midnight! Click here to enter!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Rachel Q
    March 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    This is a hard one because both look so great. I’ve learned from living with open shelves in a house with a very sweet, but very fluffy cat, that it depends on what you’re going to use them for. If you’re storing cookbooks, glass canisters, less frequently used serving pieces, and such on open shelves then no biggie, but if you’re planning on storing glasses and everyday plates and cookware that you use regularly, then you’ll be doing a lot of dish washing since dust and pet hair get on them. As far as design, both will look fantastic! Looking forward to seeing what y’all choose.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    If I had the opportunity to do either in my kitchen, I think I would go with open shelving! Both are gorgeous though.

  • Reply
    Emily Clark
    March 18, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    I would soooo go with open shelving. Down the road, you can always add cabinet fronts if it gets old.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Ewwww, hard choice! I love them both. 😀

  • Reply
    Laura Lewis
    March 18, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Here is my take on it — I have a DEAR LOVE for both, very refreshing look. I would never do both because I’m not good at being minimal and organized enough that it looks cute to be in plain view of everyone. That being said if I was I would go with the open. With the glass or open you have both options of seeing inside, with the glass that’s just something more that will have to be cleaned. So if people are going to see inside either way I’d go with the open… plus that is so fresh and not common and will make your kitchen a little different from the norm!

  • Reply
    Kerri McConnell
    March 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    While I ADORE open shelving with animals I don’t see it as practical for our lifestyle. But I love all the kitchens shown!! 🙂

  • Reply
    Laura Lewis
    March 18, 2011 at 1:03 pm

    Plus I agree with Emily Clark… you can start open and if at some point you get sick of it or think you’d like the glass better then you can add the cupboards!

  • Reply
    Angela Wilson
    March 18, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Why not get the open faced cabinets, they seem like a very optimal compromise!! Such as the last picture?

    • Reply
      Angela Wilson
      March 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm

      *because that might cut down on dust/pet stuff and you could always add doors to them and get the line that you seem to like from your first drawing.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I would have to go with the glass shelving. Both are daring (you really have to be clutter-free) but I am a clean freak so I think the glass shelving is definitely more sanitary in a kitchen.

  • Reply
    Lisa R. C.
    March 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    May I move into your house simply so I won’t be able to allow Dickie’s BBQ cups in my kitchen cabinets anymore?! (And all of those other plastics cups men bring home…) Go with the glass shelving. Either one is a brave mood. I’d certainly consider five years down the road — possibly sippy cups, etc.

  • Reply
    Stephanie J
    March 18, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    All great pics but I lean toward option 1 with the glass doors. Beyond anything practical, I think they give a kitchen a far more finished look. They also somehow look less cluttered to me even though they have the added lines of the cabinet door. I don’t envy you this decision…I’d be so torn!

  • Reply
    March 18, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    i kind of like both…. an open shelf somewhere for cookbooks or canisters, and then glass doors for protecting pretty dishes and glassware!

    • Reply
      March 21, 2011 at 1:54 pm

      I agree. Both look awesome and both have pros and cons. It’s hard to choose (but I would be happy if I just GOT to choose!!). Would it be possible to include some of both? — maybe do all glass-front cabinets with one or two open shelves for displaying things that can get a little dustier? In my tiny kitchen, some of my dishes have to be stored on open shelves because there just isn’t room for more cabinets. And it is a PAIN to clean those shelves, and it seems like they’re always dirty. To me, glass-front shelves seem like the best thing for dishes. You can display them in artful ways, but don’t have to deal with constant dust.

  • Reply
    March 18, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    I vote for glass. I do like open cabinets but I really hate to dust =)

  • Reply
    Leanne Wight
    March 19, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Well, all of the eye candy pictures were stunning, but I am definitely a glass front cabinet kind of girl. I just think it’s more practical.

  • Reply
    karen @ our slo house
    March 19, 2011 at 11:27 am

    Open shelves! Open shelves!

    That’s what we’re going to do. (The benefit of glass cabinets is less dust…)

  • Reply
    March 19, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    What about a combination of both?

  • Reply
    March 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Lovely website. Something to keep in mind with clear glass doors on cabinetry is their purpose. Really all they do is formalize a space and add to the abundance of glossy surfaces, which can be appealing but also detract from the warmth that I think you’re after. Textured clear glass would be something to consider. A soft pattern instead of something aggressive would add interest. But honestly I love the combination of solid door fronts with open shelving and no glass. It will be fun to see what you choose!

  • Reply
    Leslie's Day
    March 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    Practicality would win out for me. I don’t want to feel like I have to wash every dish before I can use it (open shelving). That makes it sound like I would prefer open shelving in a perfect world, but actually I LOVE glass front cabinets:)

  • Reply
    March 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    I adore the idea of open shelving as a means of storage for things I use everyday…BUT in real life it annoys me. I am probably overlay anal about it, but it always looks in disarray because things are constantly in use and so the shelves are never picture perfectly composed with cute bowls and whatnot filling their proper spaces.

    That said, if that does not bother you or you are super good about cleaning up and putting away right away then that may not be an issue at your house (I have 2 small kids so things don’t always get done right away).

    Good luck making a decision. It would be hard for me too, but just know that what you have going design-wise is lovely and timeless. Either one you pick will look wonderful.

  • Reply
    Wendy M.
    March 22, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    I don’t blame you for having such a difficult time deciding!

    Personally I prefer the idea of glass cabinets. Now… here’s my reasoning behind this opinion.
    Being the sort of person with a massively mismatched array of glasses, cups, mugs, plates, etc. I can’t take the idea of an open cabinet. The modern feel that open cabinetry creates makes me swoon just as much as the next girl–don’t get me wrong! But it seems like more work than it’s worth. With glass-fronted cabinetry you could easily deal with minor discrepancies in your collection. With open cabinetry… that’s all you have to look at!
    Also, I feel like open cabinets are a hassle and a safety concern to some extent. I would always feel like my plates were about to fall on me or something–but that may just be because I’m short!
    I don’t know if this is helping any, and it’s difficult to root through so many comments filled with so many opinions… but maybe it’ll help anyway!

    (also, I’m a fellow subway tile lover… it’s just so great!)

  • Reply
    March 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    My cabinets are white with shacker doors and a chocolate island. On the top part of the cabinets I only made one glass pain to display dishes/vases. I love the way all glass looks but I have to much stuff (to say it nicely) that I want to hide in the kitchen…LOL, so this was a happy medium. Another thing I did was how my island is chocolate brown I painted the inside of the cabinet that has glass chocolate brown for it to stand out, how the cabinet is white. I’ll be more thann happy to send you a picture for an idea. I wish I could attach pics :).

    • Reply
      March 30, 2011 at 8:50 pm

      BTW…my back splash is white subway tiles with a stainless steel/glass hood.

  • Reply
    May 30, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Hello! Just wondering what you decided to go with! I’m in the same situation as we are re-doing our kitchen…glass or open? Would love to hear what you did and how you are liking it. Thanks!

    • Reply
      May 30, 2013 at 11:58 pm

      We went with the glass and we love it! The shelves don’t get dusty but it’s still nice to look at. Here’s a post that links to all of our posts about the kitchen reno process:

    Leave a Reply