A Case For Open Shelving: When Open Shelves are Better

July 08, 2024 6 min read

living room with open shelves - why choose open shelving - GearDen

Open shelving makes some homeowners reluctant. Whether they're floating wall shelves, open-faced cabinets, bookcases, or shelf modules, they can be a bit debatable because of their pros and cons.

For instance, as opposed to closed cabinets, open shelves showcase your stuff to the world, though sometimes, that can look messy. In kitchens and bathrooms, open display may even seem impractical, as the items on them could be exposed to dust, grease, or steam.

These are valid points, but as a team that's been in the home decor industry for years, we can confidently say that there are many instances when open shelves are ideal. Let's take a look at the advantages of open shelving, which rooms they'd be perfect for, and what you can do to keep them beautiful for good.


Pros (and Cons) of Open Shelves

These are some advantages of open shelving or floating shelves:

  • Open shelves are fantastic for decor. You can easily display pretty things or personal items you're proud of -- from artworks, family pictures, tchotchkes, figurines and sculptures, souvenirs... you name it! This is even more useful in studios or rented homes where wall repainting isn't allowed. With an open display, you can instantly add personality to the room.
  • Floating shelves keeps things handy. No need to keep opening and closing doors -- with open storage, your items are literally within reach in one motion.
  • Open shelving can be styled seasonally. When you're displaying moveable items on an open shelf, you can easily switch them up with the seasons. You can even do mid-season makeovers and occasion-specific decorating!
  • Open storage are easy to DIY. There are tons of simple tutorials to install wall-mounted shelves with the most basic DIY know-how. If nothing else, a standalone cabinet with open shelving will do the trick!

And in the spirit of fairness, here are the not-so-great things about open shelves:

  • Items are exposed to dust and dirt. This may not be ideal for delicate things like, say, jewelry or your favorite shoes.
  • Open storage isn't for less-pretty items. You won't want grungy pots and pans to become a focal point in your kitchen. Stash them in concealed storage and just display your nicer-looking things.
  • Floating shelves can look cluttered. With the ease of access, sometimes we forget we've put too many things on open shelves. They'll need cleaning and tidying every now and then.

Though open shelving has its pros and cons, in some instances, it can be just the perfect choice for your space. We explain where and how in the next section.


Spaces Where Open Display is Ideal

Living room

The living room is a space where you can truly exercise your decorating style to impress your guests and create a lovely lounging area for your family. Compared to other rooms in the house, you don't need to store so many things in the living room, so open shelves are perfect here. And if you do need that extra storage, just complete your shelving with cute bins or baskets. Just look at these examples!

Metal art pictured above: Personalized "Tree Of Life" Custom Metal Sign



Whether it's an entryway or a corridor between rooms, this space can be maximized with some open shelf units. In your entry, shelves can be indispensable not just as shoe storage but as convenient landing spaces for keys, coins, and other knickknacks.

DIY and photo credit: Michelle Hinckley



It's always nice to have something personal to look at in your bedroom, as this is your restful oasis. With an open shelf or two across your bed, you can display things you love like art, souvenirs, and framed photos. Alternatively, you can install shelving over your vanity table as extra space for your grooming items.


Office/Study room

Doesn't matter whether your office space is a full room or just a corner of your bedroom -- it deserves shelving! Open storage allows you to arrange papers and devices you often use while creating space for decor and style. What's more, you can strategically place your shelves right next to -- or above -- your desk for a space-efficient corner. Personalize it as much as you like!

Wall art pictured above: "My Daughter Forever - Love, Dad" Premium Canvas

Metal art pictured above: Personalized "Family Tree" Custom Metal Sign

Coffee corner

We love at-home coffee stations! If you're a big fan of coffee (like us), a shelf or a cabinet-turned-table can serve as your coffee-making spot. Place all your caffeine paraphernalia here and you'll head straight for this corner every day when you wake up.

Wall art pictured above: "But First, Coffee" Premium Canvas



Okay, hear us out: floating shelves in a kitchen can be functional and beautiful. If you're concerned about grease and grime getting to the exposed display, plan your open shelf away from cooking areas. Floating shelves are especially practical over your sink so you can dock your implements in one effortless motion. You can also have some open cubbies next to your pantry so you can store often-used food items and keep them easy to reach.

Wall art pictured above: "Y'all Come Eat" Premium Canvas and Personalized "Kitchen - Seasoned With Love" Premium Canvas

Metal art pictured above: Personalized "This Is Us" Custom Metal Sign


Dining room

If you're not into the hefty look of a full cupboard, open shelves are the lighter-looking alternative. Floating ledges are perfect if your dining area is on the smaller side, because they provide storage and decor potential without overwhelming your space with furniture. But if you have a sizeable dining room and want a grand treatment, why not go for a full-wall bookcase for maximum impact?

Wall art pictured above: Personalized "It's So Good To Be Home" Premium Canvas

Wall art pictured above: Personalized Family Name And Initial Premium Canvas 


Kids' room

Open shelving can be super practical in a child's bedroom, playroom, or nursery. Kid-friendly floating shelves serve as easy-access solutions for toys, books, and personal items. This can also encourage children to arrange their things as they like, promoting a sense of ownership and organization in them. Of course, any hazardous objects like scissors and medicines should be stored safely away from little hands' reach.

Are you building your baby's room? Read our must-know tips for creating a safe and conducive nursery for your child - click here.


How to Style Your Open Shelves

Here are our quick steps for arranging and decorating an open display:

  1. Curate your items. Choose the practical items you want to store on the shelves, like pots and pans, as well as a few complementing decorations.
  2. Refresh the shelf unit. Before putting in anything, see if you want to make a few updates to the shelf, like its stain or paint. It's also a good idea to lay down some shelf liners for easy cleaning.
  3. Arrange bigger items first. Take your practical objects and bigger pieces, and arrange them on the shelves. Leave lots of space between them.
  4. Punctuate with decor. Add smaller decor items like figurines and tchotchkes. Feel free to play around with grouping and layering.
  5. Adjust and edit. Take a step back and look at your shelf. Does it look cramped, imbalanced, or lackluster? Edit as needed.

For more tips on putting together your open shelf display, read our blog post here!


Bonus Tip: Can't Decide Between Open or Closed Shelves?

Go for a combination! There are ways you can combine the visual impact of open shelves with the practicality of closed storage. For example, you can opt for glass-front cabinets, or install a mix of open and closed units. See these inspiring examples:

Metal art pictured above: Personalized "Tree Of Life" Custom Metal Sign


So, have you decided on which type of shelving you want for your space? Open, closed, or combination? Whichever you pick, we hope you have fun decorating with it!

If you're looking for new decor for your home or reno, shop GearDen.com! We have a wide range of customizable decor pieces like the ones above, from wall art to metal signs to pillows and blankets. And they're highly rated by customers like you! Happy decor shopping!

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