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Latest Kitchen Trends: Subtle Ways To Make Your Kitchen Feel More Open

For anyone that keeps an eye on home design trends, it’s not exactly breaking news that open floor plans have become more desirable, especially in the kitchen. But some of the ways this trend is manifesting are more than a little surprising. In many ways, attention has shifted away from big architectural features – like knocking out walls to form a great room or installing a kitchen island – and towards a much smaller-scale definition of “open.” Many types of kitchen storage in particular are being turned inside out, transforming everyday items into an essential part of a kitchen’s decor.

Open Shelf

Having Open Shelves Instead Of Cabinets Can Create A Beautiful, Inviting Symmetry, But Mismatched Or Too Many Items Can Quickly Ruin The Look, So Be Sure To Keep It Simple And Minimal (by Alice Lane Home Collection, photo by Meikel Reece )
Having Open Shelves Instead Of Cabinets Can Create A Beautiful, Inviting Symmetry, But Mismatched Or Too Many Items Can Quickly Ruin The Look, So Be Sure To Keep It Simple And Minimal (by Alice Lane Home Collection, photo by Meikel Reece )

Maybe the trendiest example of the move toward more open kitchens is the increasing popularity of shelf storage in the kitchen – specifically shelves replacing the conventional kitchen cabinet.  What this means practically is that all your dishes are on display all the time, and that your dinnerware becomes a crucial component of your kitchen decor. This look can be accomplished by removing cabinets entirely and replacing them with shelves, or even just removing the doors from cabinets and cleaning up the frame. In the case of the latter, painting the inside of the old cabinet an assertive color can make the shelves pop, while simple white or brightly colored dishes act as their own self contained decorations. Be aware, though, that this look can easily go wrong, turning from open and homey to just plain busy and messy looking. The more dishes you have and the less they match, the harder an open shelf look is to pull off.

Glass Panel

Glass Fronted Cabinets Produce A Similar Effect, Offering Glimpses Into The Cabinets That Turn Them Into A Permanent Display Fixture, But Offer A Little More Privacy As They Can Be Mixed With Traditional Closed Cabinets (by Gast Architects, photo by John Sutton)
Glass Fronted Cabinets Produce A Similar Effect, Offering Glimpses Into The Cabinets That Turn Them Into A Permanent Display Fixture, But Offer A Little More Privacy As They Can Be Mixed With Traditional Closed Cabinets (by Gast Architects, photo by John Sutton)

Similarly, the conventional wood cabinet doors are being replaced by ones with glass panes. These can be either completely clear, frosted, or textured, with a single pane or a more traditional multi-pane style, but give that same sense of openness as they allow for glimpses into your kitchen cabinetry. The good news is, these two trends are largely limited to the upper cabinets, which means you’ll still have space to stow your appliances and other unsightlies, but the trend right now is to really transform your everyday items – plates, cups, stemware, and so on – into a permanent (if ever-changing) decorative display.

Pots

Pot Racks Over Your Kitchen Island Or Underneath Your Range Hood Bring Your Nicest Pans Out Into The Open And Add A Nice Rustic Touch To The Space (by Frederick and Frederick Architects)
Pot Racks Over Your Kitchen Island Or Underneath Your Range Hood Bring Your Nicest Pans Out Into The Open And Add A Nice Rustic Touch To The Space (by Frederick and Frederick Architects)

The kitchen cabinets aren’t the only things that are getting opened up, either.  While lower cabinets are staying mostly closed and intact, some of the stuff you probably store there – especially your pots and pans – are frequently being transformed into displays as well. European style pot racks are definitely on the rise, either as part of a stationary range or installed over a kitchen island, and offer a great way to put your finest cookware on display. In a smaller kitchen, this can free up much needed storage, and in even the largest kitchen adds a rustic, homey touch that works well with the farmhouse style kitchens that are so trendy right now.

Pantry Items

Glass Jars Of Your Most Used Pantry Items Have A Clean, Appealing Look, Are Easy To Access, And Showcase Your Taste (by Seattle Custom Cabinets)
Glass Jars Of Your Most Used Pantry Items Have A Clean, Appealing Look, Are Easy To Access, And Showcase Your Taste (by Seattle Custom Cabinets)

Even pantry items are starting to see the spotlight, with many common items getting a gourmet treatment and being placed in elegant or even antique jars and left out on the counter. Now, I’m not talking the traditional ceramic flour-sugar-cookie jars, but beautiful, ornate glass jars that put the contents on display. Once again, this is a great simple, rustic way to showcase your personality, especially if there are any unusual or especially pretty pantry items that you use often, like basmati rice, pasta, steel cut oats, tea, oils or vinegars, or even a really nice quality spice rack. In a small kitchen this can crowd your counter space if you go overboard, but in a larger space it can keep your most used items close at hand while turning them into an essential part of your decor.

Plate Racks

A Basic Plate Rack Is A Great Way To Get A Modern, Open Look With A Classic Farmhouse Style (by Kayron Brewer Studio KB)
A Basic Plate Rack Is A Great Way To Get A Modern, Open Look With A Classic Farmhouse Style (by Kayron Brewer Studio KB)

If you’re a little shy about putting everything out in the open, you can still get a little bit of that homey, inviting personal quality by installing a simple plate rack. These do almost the same thing as open shelf cabinets in that they put your plates on display, but the difference is, it’s limited to eight or ten hand-picked plates rather than your entire set of dinnerware that’s put on display. This option is a little lower maintenance, as it allows you to have cabinets that are messy (or partially empty – not everyone does the dishes every day!) without everyone knowing it. Plus, it’s a little bit easier to make a really nice statement piece without replacing all your dishes.

Fruits, Veggies, And Other Plants

As Little As A Bouquet Of Flowers, Bunch Of Herbs, Or Even A Bowl Of Apples Can Add An Inviting Natural Quality To A Kitchen (by Plain And Fancy Custom Cabinetry)
As Little As A Bouquet Of Flowers, Bunch Of Herbs, Or Even A Bowl Of Apples Can Add An Inviting Natural Quality To A Kitchen (by Plain And Fancy Custom Cabinetry)

Finally, leaving your fruit, veggies, or potted herbs out is another great way to underscore this open, natural, rustic look. A little bit of plant life can go a long way towards adding color and a soft, earthy quality to your space, especially when displayed nicely. Instead of a traditional bowl of fruit, look for a really stylish or antique platter to put them on. If you tend to cook with a lot of fresh herbs, keeping potted versions of your favorites is both convenient and a great way to add color to your space. I’ve seen a lot of great DIY mason jar herb gardens that mount to a piece of reclaimed wood that mounts to your wall for a really rustic look, but standard pots or even more modern fast-growing herb kits add just that little touch of pleasant freshness that can really improve the space.

What are some of your favorite ways to make your kitchen look and feel more open? Do you like the idea of open shelf or glass-fronted cabinets, or would you rather pass on this trend and keep your cabinets messy? Let me know in the comments!