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

    It will look great!

    My top tip with open shelving – only store things on it that you use often eg. dinner plates and water glasses. Keep thing that get used less often (eg wine glasses, large platters) in cabinets, or they get a fine layer of grease on them, and then a layer of dust that sticks to that. Or, that’s what happens in my house at least :)

    The stuff that gets used often is just fine though because it is rotated out so regularly.

    • gk says

      this is my thinking on the matter, too. i think open shelving looks great and granted, i’ve never had it…but when i leave a cute platter out by the stove for a little while, it eventually gets greasy and dusty – way more so than it would get in the cabinets. the top of my coffee maker, so covered in cat hair. i personally don’t think i have enough dishes/glasses/kitchenware that i use on a regular enough basis to fill up a whole wall of open shelving. but, that’s me and we’re just a two person household and don’t entertain every week or anything. to each their own! it really will look pretty, esp with all that tile. looking forward to seeing the finished product!

  2. Carrie says

    I looooooooooove! open shelving, that is going to be amahhhhhzing(heheh, do you watch that new show “happy endings” one of the character says that and it is hilare, she also says that (-: ). And that Sara Richardson kitchen is gorgeous and one of my all time favorites! Whoo hoo, I love tile and that soft aqua/blue tile makes me swoon. Good luck with your choices! Can’t wait to see what you pick!

    -Carrie and Finn

  3. Tejal says

    I really like the look of open shelves, but how do you keep it from looking messy on a daily basis? Also, I’m in love with the modern countertop in the first picture. Do you happen to know what type of countertop that is?

    • says

      So sorry- I wish I knew what those counters were. Maybe white corian or silestone? Anyone else know? As for keeping them from looking messy, I think we’re just going to go for the casual approach (grouping like objects like plates and bowls and cups together). Perhaps if the items themselves are pretty (colorful glasses, classic white dishes, patterned bowls) it can look decorative and sweet instead of messy? We’re not sure yet though, don’t have them yet!


  4. Jenny says

    For 25 years I have wanted to dispense with upper cabinets altogether and only have open shelving. I absolutely despise upper cabinets and always have. Unfortunately hubby is not on board and I always kinda worried that it would affect resale value, as not everyone seems to share my hatred of staring at a door as you prepare food.
    But now open shelving seems to be a new trend, so perhaps there is a chance I will get my wish without worrying about resale :-)

    (and the heck with dust, I just don’t care!)

  5. says

    I have always loved open shelves and am thinking about doing some in our kitchen over some base cabinets that have just a big ol’ open wall above them. This sounds crazy, but I am always thinking, “Well, that looks nice in so-and-so’s house, but can I pull it off? Are my dishes/glasses nice enough to be displayed?” Plus, where they are in the kitchen is not at all within my cooking triangle, so I am wondering if the shelves would wind up being used for nothing. Anyway, with all my hemming and hawing (sp.?) I, too, went to Layla’s page and decided on her version, and will just use existing cabinets that I have that already hold such items. But now, what to do with the big, giant open wall above the base cabinets??

    Oh my gosh, so sorry for this crazy out of control rambling comment. Any ideas for the open wall?

    • says

      I’m a huge fan of looking at rooms you love until you hit on an idea you can adapt for your space. Maybe try trolling and and even google images to see what you find that inspires you? Good luck!


  6. Tabitha says

    I absolutely LOVE Layla’s kitchen… I’ve been a fan of that room for a while – I’d love to incorporate some of their ideas into my kitchen.

    I never realized Sherry had such manly arms… you hide it very well!!!

  7. says

    Oohh, your kitchen is going to look awesome!!

    But you know, now you should considering accessorizing with San Pellegrino bottles. They’re in 3 of your inspiration images. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the bottle colors ARE in Sue the Napkin…

    • Marcy says

      I noticed that too. I was trying to guess if the water is just that popular or if they are there for the pictures.

  8. Ashley says

    Bahahahhhahaha! So glad I didn’t have a mouth full of coffee when I scrolled down to “ShamWOW $herdog”. You got those buff arms from all that stenciling, right?

  9. LuLu says

    You know I LOVED the look of our open shelving but items on it did get greasy and dusty so we tore it down and put in closed cupboards with glass windows. I think if you put things on open shelves that you use all the time it could alleviate some of that build up. But you are right when you say each to their own.

    I can see us someday incorporating a bit of it back into a future kitchen reno. But just a tiny bit because I do love how it looks.

    Good luck with yours!


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