Floating Kitchen Shelves vs. Cabinets

written by Kasey White
last updated: January 13, 2023

Your kitchen is the heart of your home. A well-designed kitchen is the perfect place to prepare delicious meals, gather friends and family and entertain. 

If you're remodeling your kitchen or designing a new one, you likely have many different decisions to make. You want to create a stylish and beautiful room with storage that maximizes the space available. If you're deciding between shelves or cabinets in your kitchen, we've created a handy list of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Learn everything you need to know about the pros and cons of open shelves vs. kitchen cabinets. 


Cabinetry has long been the go-to choice for kitchen storage. You can place cabinets above and below your countertops as well as under a kitchen island. There are even narrow cabinets that fit in corners and other areas to utilize your kitchen's space. Cabinets also create a focal point in your kitchen, helping to anchor the room. Cabinets are best if you want maximum space and clean, sleek storage. 

Open Shelves

Floating kitchen shelves became a popular design trend thanks partly to home renovation shows. Homeowners and designers opt for open shelves to display pretty dishes and other items in a trendy, minimalist way. But has the hype fizzled out? How practical are floating shelves in a kitchen? While some still choose shelving instead of kitchen cabinets for a modern, minimal aesthetic, many avoid them due to their impracticality. 

Pros of Cabinets

There are many advantages to using kitchen cabinets vs. shelves. Here are the top four reasons to outfit your kitchen with cabinets.

Many Styles to Choose From 

Kitchen cabinets can help bring your design style to life. There are many cabinet styles to choose from, whether your aesthetic is traditional, modern or somewhere in between. You can further customize your cabinet doors with your choice of knobs, handles and hardware. 

More Storage Space

Who doesn't love extra storage space? It's easy to underestimate how much closed storage you need. In addition to dishes, your kitchen needs to store cooking utensils, linens, cookbooks, cleaning products and, of course, food!

Countertop appliances and large dishes like pots can take up a lot of space. You can store these items in cabinets for a clean, clutter-free kitchen. You can also insert sliding shelves or dividers to maximize your cabinet space.

Easy to Clean

Kitchen cabinets protect the items inside from dust and contaminants. If you're looking for kitchen storage that keeps your supplies clean, cabinetry is a good option.

Hides Excessive Clutter

Not every kitchen item is display-worthy. Plastic cups and extra silverware are certainly functional, but they don't need to be seen. Cabinets allow you to store things out of sight, hiding any clutter. 

Cons of Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets have few drawbacks, but consider the following to help you make your choice.

More Money Upfront

Cabinetry is more expensive than open shelves because it requires more materials and installation time. Even so, cabinets are a worthwhile investment since plenty of storage is attractive for resale purposes.

May Show Wear and Tear Over Time

As with most things, kitchen cabinets will show signs of use over time. We've all seen crooked or drooping cabinet doors, misaligned drawers and broken hardware. You can avoid these issues by choosing high-quality cabinets. Proper cabinet materials and construction can make a significant difference.

Pros of Open Shelves

You might choose shelves instead of cabinets if you want an inexpensive, minimalist storage option that's easy to personalize. Other pros of open shelving in kitchens include the following.


Trendy and Stylish

Minimalism has become a popular home design aesthetic. Floating shelves can help make your kitchen feel more spacious, especially if you only display a few items. Open shelves can be an attractive storage piece in your kitchen, depending on the material you use. 

Improved Functionality in Your Kitchen

Open shelving allows you to place everything you use in your kitchen in view and at your fingertips without opening cupboards and searching for items. Open shelves can streamline your kitchen activities and save valuable time.

Showcases Other Design Elements

Do you have brick, paint colors or wallpaper that you want to showcase? These elements add flair to a room and can be fully appreciated by using open shelving.

Open shelves also provide an opportunity to decorate. You can display seasonal decorations like flowers, pumpkins and holiday greenery throughout the year. Just remember that doing so will further limit space for your dishes.  

Less Money Upfront

If you're designing a kitchen on a budget, floating shelves are a good choice. You can get creative with them while staying cost-conscious. 

Cons of Open Shelves

The following cons of open shelving in kitchens are why many homeowners and designers opt for traditional kitchen cabinetry. 

Significantly Less Storage Space

Open shelves typically have much less storage capacity than cabinets, and if you're working with a small kitchen, your storage is already limited. You'll need backup storage for anything that doesn't fit on open shelves.

Exposes Dishes to Dirt and Grime

Open shelves expose your dishes and décor to grease and grime that can be challenging to clean. If you aren't ready for the extra cleaning, cabinets are the better choice to protect your dishes from dirt.

Can Look Unorganized

Open shelves can become messy and cluttered if you aren't diligent with cleaning and organizing. You will need to actively manage your kitchen supplies to keep your shelves looking tidy. 

Everything Must Be Display-Worthy

Open shelves are just that — open. If your kitchen supplies don't include matching sets of dishes or pristine china, you may prefer to store them in cabinets, out of sight.  

Contact Wellborn Cabinet for Kitchen Storage Solutions

Are you leaning towards cabinets vs. floating shelves? We can help! Wellborn Cabinet has earned its reputation as one of America's high-quality cabinet makers. We've been building quality cabinets with care since 1961. 

Can't decide between cabinets and open shelves? Our cabinets have the option for glass doors, making your shelves and dishes visible so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. 

If you're a homeowner, request a catalog to explore our options and find a Wellborn Cabinet dealer near you. If you're interested in becoming a dealer, request more information.

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