Planning A Kitchen Wall Full Of Tile And Open Shelves

We’ve mentioned having a backsplash + open shelving + range hood idea a few times without much elaboration, so here’s the full monty explanation: we basically want to create a counter to ceiling accent wall of backsplash tile with open shelves and a range hood going on. This Sarah Richardson kitchen is especially appealing to us when it comes to the tile choice (we love white subway tile, but we’re thinking we might do something a little less white since our cabinets will be going white and we don’t want to completely whitewash the whole room).

Now I will read your mind in a move I like to call “David Blaine-ing” you. You are thinking the following things:

  1. What type of tile are you going to use?
  2. What type of range hood?
  3. What color will your shelves be?
  4. Will they be floating or have brackets?
  5. Won’t open shelves get dusty and full of grease?

Allow me to address those questions below:

  1. Not sure yet
  2. Not sure yet
  3. Not sure yet, but most likely white like the cabinets
  4. Not sure yet, but for the moment we’re leaning towards floating
  5. We’ve asked friends who have them and their short answer is no, but it’s just one of those to-each-his-own things. Allow me to elaborate:

We’re not going to have open shelving everywhere and zero cabinetry with doors. We’ll have plenty of base cabinets and some closed uppers to stash not-so-pretty stuff out of sight. As for the one eight foot wall that we’re excited to smack with a range hood, some open-shelving, and counter to ceiling tile, we did a little “research” before committing. We know two different couples who both have one wall of open shelves above their stove with a range hood… and they both love it. When we asked them if they got greasy or covered with steam they both looked at us weirdly and said “we have a range hood.” Apparently up-to-date range hoods have better suction than over-the-stove microwaves (which we should know since we had one in the last house but never actually stopped to think about it). So if you use them when you cook they should suck up the steam and grease and all that stuff without any issues of it somehow migrating up and to the left or right around the hood and mysteriously landing on the cabinets.

We also asked about dust. Again they had similarly no-biggie answers. One couple said they use their shelves to store items they use so frequently that they don’t have time to sit around getting dusty (ex: plates are used and washed and then stashed back up there and used again in rapid succession – so they don’t sit for weeks on end without getting touched thereby becoming furry). The other couple said they just like the look more than they hate dusting, so they don’t mind wiping things down with a duster every few weeks for the trade off of a light open look and easy-access to items that aren’t tucked away behind closed doors.

Then we headed over to Layla’s blog since she has open cabinets and read what she had to say about them. Here’s a big post all about it, but this quote at the end pretty much summed up her take: “Think you can’t have open cabinets because it’s too dusty where you live? It’s dusty in Alabama too! (cough, cough) We use the dishes in our open cabinets every day though, so they usually don’t have time to grow sweaters. If something does happen to collect a little dust, we just give it a quick rinse before we use it.”

And because we’re complete weirdos who don’t know when to stop, we also heard from readers who have open shelving in their kitchens and this is what they had to say:

  • “We installed open shelving last September and I don’t regret it one bit. I only get up there and dust about once a month and I just crank up the music and make the most of it. In fact, we’re working on building a third row of shelves because I have so much pretty stuff to put out!” – Betsie
  • “We have three cats and some open shelving. Hasn’t been a problem.” – Caroline
  • “I have open shelving by default, but I’ve come to like it. It shows off how your dishes match your kitchen, and keeps you accountable to only having what you NEED.” – Carrie
  • “I only have open shelving in the kitchen and love it. It doesn’t get as dusty/greasy as you might imagine. I love being able to display all the nice kitchen things I have. I have a separate space for the not so nice stuff. “- Debe
  • “I have open shelving with regularly used items and closed cabinets with rarely used items and the rarely used items in the cabinets are the ones that get the most dusty and need a rinse before use. So it’s not like cabinets keep things that sit around from getting dusty!”

All of a sudden this post is sounding like an infomercial, huh? Before you know it I’ll be trying to show you just how much water my Super Shammy can hold (picture my head on that dude’s body trying to sell you an amazing liquid holding cloth).

But really the point of sharing our “research” on the subject of open shelving isn’t to convert anyone (we just babble about the choices that we make along the way, DIY-diary-style). So if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing. I’m sure there are folks out there who hate their open shelving, we just happened to hear from a ton of people who had nothing but great things to say. In the end, when it came down to figuring out what we wanted to do with our kitchen, we just had to… do what we wanted! Haha. So some open shelving and some closed upper cabinets fit the bill. But we hereby solemnly vow to keep it real with you guys. If after a month of use (or a day or a year) we start to hate the choice of open shelving (or anything else for that matter) of course we’ll tell you! And we’ll share whatever we decide to do to change things. Oh and when we make any final decisions about the backsplash tile and the range hood we’ll definitely spill those beans.

Pssssst- This morning I’m over on BabyCenter keeping you posted (as promised) when it comes to how our house is changing thanks to Clara. Let’s just say we’re adding storage galore for all those toys and blocks and books and balls…


  1. says

    I don’t know why people get so worked up about open shelving and dust. We all have dust – we even have dust inside our cabinets! I love open shelving and think it will be awesome. As for grease, get a high-powered stove hood and most of the grease will be gone. I’m sure you’re not frying up big vats of fried chicken every night anyway. We love our built-in stove hood insert. Let me know if you need the deets.

  2. says

    I absolutley LOVE the look…and i wouldn’t mind a few little rinses or dustings for it. My only reason why we can’t do it in this house is that we only plan on being here for a VERY short while and it’s a total downer for sales in the kitchen. I design kitchens and baths for a living and the majority of homeowners in this area would look down on it when buying a house…they can’t wrap their heads around no doors. Obviously you guys are going to be there for awhile…so it’s no biggie! GO FOR IT AND DO IT AND KEEP INSPIRING ME! :)

  3. mimi says

    I bought backsplash tile from Susan Jablon Mosaics a couple years ago and I love it. They have lots of sizes, but I went with 1″x3″ subway tiles. The tiles come in a 12″ square stuck to a backing, and you can do a solid, or a pre-selected pattern, or you can design your own pattern. I designed my own and it is amazing (if I do say so myself). You should definitely check it out. (the tile installation pictured here is actually from my kitchen:

    • Tracy says

      We did the same exact thing a couple years ago, tile with open shelving. We wanted to tile all the way up the wall, but we chose a bold color and thought it might be a little nuts and the tile was kind of expensive. So we just did it below the bottom shelf. I love it so so so much! But to get to my point, we used Susan Jablon Mosaics to buy our tile and I cannot say enough good things about them! So many choices, and $13 a sq ft was so much cheaper than the local $25+ places. Also, I bought the sample bag first:×3+Subway+Glossy+Sample+Bag and was so glad that I did. We ended up picking this perfect green that wasn’t on their website, but when I called, they looked it up and discovered that it was a custom order that they happened to have leftovers of – and more than enough to complete the area we wanted to do! They are such a great company, you wouldn’t be disappointed.

  4. says

    I love open shelving! Maybe it’s all the inspiration I’ve seen on Pinterest, or maybe the trend has just permeated enough magazines/design shows, but it’s a clean and contemporary way to update your home. Your kitchen is going to look great. I have a teeny, tiny kitchen and literally just added 1 shelf – but now I’d like to figure out how to open up some of my other cabinets. It just feels lighter and brighter (and I love seeing everything organized!)

  5. says

    So many pretty kitchens, and only one can be yours! Numero uno even has beams like yours, if your beams decide to go au naturel… with all the white some natural wood could look nice.

  6. jess says

    I love the super shammy picture of Sherry… OMG! So funny. I am personally not a fan of open shelving because I think it can look cluttered… but I prefer it more than cabinets without doors (looks unfinished IMO). I could def. see it working in your kitchen though- you have plenty of other cabinets to hide dishes, etc. LOVE white subway tile- I have it in my kitchen- but I adore the marble subways. Are yall going to tackle the backsplash?

  7. says

    I love the idea of open shelving for the uppers, especially with tile behind. I think it will look fantastic. We thought about open shelving in our new kitchen, but I think it looks best in a large expanse. Sadly, we’ll have less than two feet on each side of the window to use. However, we might add shelving above our range. We’ll have to see how it looks. I can’t wait to see what you guys do. Oh, my hubby and I are planning to use marble tile ( for our backsplash and our HD carries subway sized tiles for about 60 cents each. I think that was the price…

  8. says

    Ok, that Shamwow picture was juuuust creepy enough to make me want to ask you to refrain from putting Sherry’s head on another long-armed man hocking a infomercial product (but hilarious enough for me to hope that you do it again soon!) And, I agree with Melissa–I store some of my rarely used dishes in a buffet (with doors that look like they close tightly) and whenever I go to use one, I ALWAYS have to wipe it down…dust is everywhere. Go with the open shelving–it will look amazing :)

    • says

      Haha- thanks Kimberly! It’s true, I have definitely found dust on rarely used items in cabinets and drawers and buffets too- dust really is everywhere.


  9. Rachel says

    So exciting! I think it will look great! And on a totally selfish note I’m looking forward to your post about installing the backsplash because I have plans to install my own tile backsplash here at some point before next summer (I don’t move as fast as you two do!) and I trust your DIY posts more than others. :)

  10. Karen says

    Okay… the man hands and hairy arms are a little creepy… but the kitchen plans sound fabulous! LOL

    I love open shelving. I’ve got dishes in the tops of my cabinets that are rarely used and when I take them out, they somehow manage to be dusty and greasy even tho they are behind cabinet doors. The open shelving isn’t an issue for me. In fact… things might stay cleaner because it’s used more often and if it’s in plain sight, you’re going to stay on top of the cleaning.

    • says

      Ooh good point! I love that it’ll keep us from collecting/displaying anything extraneous. It’ll “keep us honest” as my mom likes to say. So yes, we hope it’ll inspire us to stay on top of the cleaning/organization thing more than we would with doors!


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