Kitchen Dilemma: Open Shelving or Closed Cabinetry?

Open shelving in kitchens has been a trend in recent years, not only for home owners with a smaller kitchen footprint, but the large, luxurious kitchens are boasting open shelving as well. Some clients like the aesthetic nature of open shelves, some like the functionality of them, and some like to use a combination of both open and closed storage. Here are some of the pro's and con's for you to consider if you are thinking about incorporating them into your kitchen.


For fans of open shelving, the positives abound. 

  • They help a space (especially smaller kitchens) feel open and airy
  • They keep frequently-used items within easy reach
  • They create a display that tells a personal story of things collected
  • They are typically less expensive than closed cabinetry and can be a significant budget saver
  • For those who like to redecorate and restyle often, they provide an easy way to keep your home feeling and looking fresh
  • For those who like order, they can keep you from accumulating unnecessary things and limit the number of items you can display
 Closed cabinetry gives a kitchen a unified, cohesive look.

Closed cabinetry gives a kitchen a unified, cohesive look.

But let's look at the drawbacks to open shelving.

  • If your life is busy, they cannot hide disorganization like closed cabinetry can
  • They can make a kitchen look cluttered if items are not displayed with thoughtfulness
  • Depending on where they are located, items are not protected from gathering dust, dirt, pet hair, or grease
  • They do not offer the same amount of storage as cabinetry

At the end of the day, your kitchen storage should be functional, efficient, and work with your personal cooking style.

Five Things to Remember When Designing Your Kitchen

We love designing and staging kitchens. The chance to make the heart of the home beautiful, inspiring, inviting, and creative is one of our favorite tasks. So we are going to spend a few days focusing on this love of ours and sharing it with you. Welcome to the first post in our Kitchen Series. 

1. The Work Triangle

This consists of the sink, the stove, and the fridge. It is the busiest area in a kitchen, and you want to keep the traffic unobstructed. The components should not be within a 10-foot radius (people will be running into each other), but they should not be farther than a 25-foot radius (you will be tired at meal time from the running back and forth).

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2. The Counter Space     

If you've ever been faced with the conundrum of too little counter space, you don't have to be told how valuable it is. When designing your kitchen, be sure you designate ample room to work. The last thing you want when cooking a meal is to have to prep in another room. Chopping up kale on your coffee table just doesn't feel as zen. 

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3. The Storage Space      

Don’t leave the space above your fridge empty. This is good real estate for storing things you don’t use daily and don’t want strewn all over your counter top or hidden down the hall in a linen closet. Also consider putting shelves in lower cabinets. This doubles the amount of storage space in your kitchen.

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4. The Lighting

You may be thinking that the lighting in your bathrooms are the most important, but you don’t want a poorly-lit kitchen. Kitchens are where people naturally gather, and you want yours to be welcoming. You also want to be able to prep and cook safely, with clear visibility. Intentionally design your work areas to be well-lit.


5. The Backsplash

Do not forego this detail, thinking you’ll save money. Eventually, you’ll find yourself frustrated, trying to clean grease off of paint or wallpaper. Tile is much easier to clean and adds interest and finesse to a kitchen.  


Architects are Sketchy

Here's a fun little collection of our sketches. The promise each sketch holds is easily felt and believed in, yet somehow difficult to put into words — this is why we draw our ideas instead of writing them.



"You can use an eraser on the drafting table, or a sledge hammer on the construction site."
— Frank Lloyd Wright 

Here are some sketches brought to life:

BEST OF CAI: Room for Your Thoughts

They are the places where our days begin and end, not to mention the almost incalculable time in between.

Well, truthfully, a quick Google search told us that in a woman's lifetime, she'll spend the equivalent of one year, seven months, and 15 days in the bathroom, just a month longer than her male counterpart. That's quite a chunk of time in such a small domestic space. It's not a room that draws people in to gather and connect, rather it's often the place that offers a moment alone with our thoughts, or some brief and necessary peace and quiet. 

So we’ve decided to pay attention to them; to make them beautiful, to acknowledge their importance and potential. Some boast smooth marble, some are sparkling white, some are warm and woody. They all surpass the needs they meet and offer beauty too.

Here are some of our favorites:

MATERIALS PALETTE: Covering as Expression

Remember that Reno in Mountain Brook that’s in progress? Here’s a sneak peek at the wallcoverings we’re using on the interior. Each one is beautiful by itself, but when we see them like this, in palette form, their sum seems to communicate the personality of this beautiful young family in a way only an interior designer could. Joanna Goodman works her magic again:

IN THE WORKS: Apropos Home in Homewood

Homewood, Ala. – 

A renovation with some really fun details is underway in Homewood, a suburb of Birmingham that has remained pedestrianly-driven in its design. Sidewalks and quaintly accessible downtown areas boasting locally-owned boutiques and restaurants contribute to the popularity of this little city. 

Christopher-Apropos Home sketch

We are updating both the exterior and the interior with a long and exciting list of architectural goodies: hardwood floors, new hardware in the kitchen and bathrooms, windows, steel entry doors, paint, and an outdoor fireplace and kitchen. Check out some Before and During photos here, and stay tuned for the Afters, because project designer Ria Neill be wrapping up this project before you know it.

The Way Good Architecture Feels

In so many of the places you normally find yourself, it feels as if you’ve put on a cheap suit with your pants twisted one way and your jacket the other, and you are trying to walk a straight line. But when things are right, and you are in an architecture that is strong and receiving of you, you are home safe and free…. Good architecture requires whole vision, expert timing, and sensitive placement.
— Bobby McAlpine of McAlpine House

Sometimes the desire to design in contrast rather than in context can be hindering. If we design in contrast, in an effort to stand out and create something notable, we run the risk of its uniqueness contributing only chaos instead of insight or reflection of the current society or the personalities of the occupants. 

Properly addressed contextual considerations like time, space, and people will reduce chaos if not eliminate it. The heavy-hitter for our firm in this line-up is people. We ask ourselves questions like, “What are the occupants’ traditions? What are their perceptions? What are their needs?” These are not questions we ask and answer once, of course. We are continually asking them, answering them, and then asking again. 

 Architecturally interesting and compelling window treatment we are saving in our renovation of this mid-century office space.

Architecturally interesting and compelling window treatment we are saving in our renovation of this mid-century office space.

Residentially speaking, this contextual element is obviously necessary. However, is it less-necessary in commercial architecture? We don’t think so. We are currently constructing a new office space for CAI in Birmingham, and as with every project, we want to know what the occupants will need. What will make their professional lives better, more efficient, more beautiful, more inspiring?

Contextual design that fits well and feels right is a non-negotiable for CAI.

Want to see more of our commercial projects? 


IN THE WORKS: Bespoke Estate

Mountain Brook, Ala. –

This custom home is currently under construction, and we are having a ball designing its four floors and six fireplaces, among other remarkable details like bookmatched marble slabs, custom kitchen and pantry cabinets from Italy, decorative ceilings, wood paneling, and venetian plaster.


We want to achieve the look of an old, stately home with contrasting modern touches: custom steel doors and windows set beside a slate roof, natural stone and stone pavers, and brick.

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One of our favorite architectural elements? A bridge that runs over the pool, connecting the poolhouse to the main house.