Posted on: 12.03.2023 Posted by: Редакция Comments: 0

Open shelves, especially in kitchens, have become a popular design trend in recent years. Planning how to utilize the available space in your home can be easier said than done, and choosing between shelves or cabinets can be a difficult decision. So, are shelves or cabinets the better option?

Shelves are the better option if you’re looking for an affordable way to create storage space that can be easily customizable. However, if maximizing space and having a streamlined, clean-looking storage is your priority, opt for cabinets instead.

Both shelves and cabinets have their advantages and disadvantages. By weighing all of these, you can decide which option is best suited to your home. Let’s learn more about these pros and cons in the rest of this article.

Advantages of Shelf Storage

There are many advantages to opting for open shelves in any part of your home—especially in the kitchen. You’d be surprised at how much space cookware and kitchen appliances can take up.

Open shelves for storage not only are practical for storage—they offer many other benefits.

Shelves are flexible and easy to style

There’s a reason why many design boards and interior decor have open shelves everywhere. Open shelves are highly versatile—that is, although they mainly serve for storage, they can also double as display platforms for your home decor.

If you feel like your home needs an aesthetic lift, you can use open shelves as the centerpiece of your home’s interior decor. Consider putting decorative pieces like vases, flowers, or pictures on them. Customize your shelves to your liking.

That’s why it’s completely up to you whether you want a minimalist look or an elaborate design.

But if you want practicality, you can use shelves for both decoration and storage at the same time. Arrange your plates or other kitchen utensils on them and then add decorative pieces based on the look you desire. Shelves are very similar to a clean canvas—you can use them for any style you desire.

Shelves are practical and affordable

Cost is always a big factor when it comes to designing your home, and if money plays an important role for you, shelves are more suitable for your budget. Open shelves are definitely much cheaper than cabinets, mainly because they require much less material.

Additionally, if you want to expand your budget and enjoy DIY projects, you can install them yourself.

Because of the affordable shelves, you can afford to have more of them, depending on how much you need to organize and what looks good in your home. If you have a large family home, you need as much storage space as possible without cluttering your home with cabinets!

Shelves allow quick access to frequently used items

Another advantage of open shelves is that they’re a great way to organize items that you frequently grab at home. In the kitchen, for example, you’ll need to have your spices and other cooking utensils easily accessible, making cooking more convenient and less time-consuming. It’s also a good way to quickly see which items need replacing or refilling.

What usually happens with cabinets and other closed storage options is that many things are forgotten. When the time comes for you to use them, they’re either expired or there’s too little left. With shelves, you can completely avoid this.

Aside from being able to reach things you use frequently, you’ll also be less prone to keeping too many things and storing away things you don’t need.

To make organizing more fun and pleasing to the eye, plan which items go on which level, so the items are coordinated and add dimension to your kitchen’s design. You can even style them to accentuate or complement the interior of your home.

Shelves make a room look larger

If you need storage space but are worried about the room looking cramped, you can opt for open shelves. Unlike cabinets, they can give the impression that a room is more spacious.

This is especially true if you have a small room with low ceilings. Adding cabinets only emphasizes the smallness of the room and makes it look cramped. It’s easier to work with shelves, as they can fit into any available space—including corners!

Disadvantages of Shelf Storage

Shelves are a great cost-effective option for creating more storage space while achieving Instagram-worthy home designs. However, they do come with some disadvantages. If the following drawbacks don’t particularly bother you, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t reconsider installing shelves.

Shelves need regular dusting

Functional and aesthetically pleasing shelves are wonderful, but without regular cleaning, they can’t remain that way. Since your items are exposed, they will need to be dusted every now and then.

If you’re someone with a busy schedule who can’t keep the shelves clean regularly, they may not be the best option for you. Depending on where you live, dust can accumulate quite quickly. Therefore, dusting can take longer if your shelves are full.

Shelves have less storage space

Perhaps the biggest disadvantage of open shelves is that they provide significantly less storage space compared to cabinets.

In general, floating shelves are available in depths of 12 inches (30.48 cm), but most ready-made shelves can be supplied in depths of only 4 inches (10.16 cm). This is just enough to carry most household items like plates and other kitchen utensils. On the other hand, most cabinets can be supplied with a depth of 24 inches (60.96 cm), providing more storage space.

That’s why space is quite limited. You can’t stack too many things on top of each other (as we usually do in cabinets), as shelves with a standard depth can only bear limited weight. If your shelves need to hold heavy items, you’ll need to use stronger brackets or install more rods.

However, if you need custom settings for your shelves, you’ll need to have them specially made, which usually costs more.

Shelves reveal clutter

If your house is like that of a regular person, there will be times when you simply can’t help but put things on your shelves that don’t belong there or don’t look good.

Over time, these things can pile up and create clutter. When that happens, the mess that accumulates is visible to everyone. So, be practical in your selection—if you have kids or don’t particularly enjoy organizing things, for example, shelves may not be a good idea.

Advantages of Cabinet Storage

Before open shelves became all the rage, we thought storage space was synonymous with cabinets. They were everyone’s default choice. Despite the aesthetic advantages of open shelves, many still consider cabinets to be the better option. So, let’s get into the advantages of cabinet storage.

Cabinets provide more storage space

As mentioned earlier, most cabinets have a depth of at least 24 inches (60.96 cm), which allows for more storage space. So, if you have a lot of items to store, this is definitely the right option.

Storing things in cabinets is usually easier than storing them on shelves, as they don’t need to be decorated or styled and are very straightforward in terms of their function. You can simply put things inside and not worry about how the cabinets will look from the outside, which is perfect for those who have no interest or time for decorating.

Cabinets hide visible clutter

Homes can sometimes be messy, and that’s perfectly normal, especially in large families. It just means they’re lived in! One way to minimize visible clutter, however, is by using cabinets. All you have to do is put your belongings inside, and the mess is no longer visible.

If you’re incredibly busy and don’t have time to tidy up, you can keep the clutter inside your cabinets, and no one can tell your house was a mess. (But if you have the time, it’s, of course, ideal to organize the interiors of your cabinets.)

Don’t underestimate how much clutter the small utensils and spice bottles in a kitchen can cause. They can pile up quickly and make a kitchen look messy when left out in the open. However, an otherwise messy kitchen can still look neat and organized if equipped with cabinets.

Cabinets conceal things that are unsightly to look at

What about those rags, cleaning tools, or trash bins? You hardly want to display those things in your home. However, if you have cabinets, you have space to store them so that no one sees them.

Even for less unsightly items like bags of dog food, canned goods, and other groceries, cabinets can be a suitable storage option, as placing these things on open shelves can make your kitchen look cluttered or feel like a pantry.

Disadvantages of Cabinet Storage

Although cabinets are the original choice for home storage, they also have their downsides. Not everyone may think that maximizing storage space is enough. Here are some of the drawbacks of choosing cabinets for your home storage.

Cabinets can make small spaces feel cramped

If you have limited space in your kitchen, you should install them as the last resort—both upper cabinets and cabinets under the sink. Cabinets are already fairly bulky on their own. Yes, you can store many items in them, but they also take up a lot of space.

Cabinets can make an already small room look smaller, which is usually the opposite of what you want. If you really want cabinets, you can forego upper cabinets to make the space look more airy.

Cabinets tend to conceal clutter

Because cabinets can store so much, they also enable us to hoard things that we don’t really need. They’re the perfect place to leave things and forget that they existed. For this reason, it’s easy to accumulate hidden clutter that takes a lot of time to clean up and reorganize.

Can’t choose? Use Both!

If you’re convinced that both have features you need, you don’t have to choose just one. You can use both shelves and cabinets in the same rooms and even together as a functional and aesthetic unit. Here are some options:

Glass Door Cabinets

If you like the look of open shelves but need the larger storage space of cabinets, you can opt for cabinets with glass doors. This way, you achieve the look of shelves while still getting the spaciousness of cabinets.

However, if you want a more affordable option for installing cabinets, you can get something like this Ameriwood Altra Aaron Lane Bookcase instead from Amazon. You can place it anywhere you need it since it doesn’t need to be attached to a specific spot.

Shelf-Cabinet Combination

One solution to the need for ample storage space in a small area is to use both cabinets and open shelves. For example, for a small kitchen, you can install cabinets underneath the sink and floating open shelves above the backsplash. This way, you can maximize space while preventing the area from feeling cramped.

You can even have this combination in one built-in unit, such as the Spirich Home Tall Cabinet at Amazon. You can place this cabinet in the corners of your kitchen or living room.


Cabinets are great for those who need a lot of storage space and desire a clean, streamlined effect. On the other hand, shelves are great for those who need less storage space and prefer the freedom of customization and styling.

When deciding between shelves and cabinets, there are three main aspects to consider:

  • How much storage space you need
  • What function you need (storage or decoration)
  • How often you’re willing to tidy up

Don’t let trends dictate which choice to make; instead, choose what works for you.

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