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. Keri Beth says

    We just bought a short sell and im wanting to do a backsplash i love white subway tile but i am also worried it will be to white on white.

    Let me know what tiles you find you like.

  2. says

    I have that second photo in my ‘kitchen inspiration’ folder too. For another infomercial we have a couple open shelves in our kitchen and it hasn’t been a problem. I also love being able to see what in dry storage, and I think the glass jars all look pretty cool sitting out all the time.

  3. Corie says

    We have open shelving. It’s so pretty… and my kitchen is ugly. :) And when we renovate, we’re keeping the open shelving.

    When we first moved in, I had the idea of using it like Monica on Friends, you know, storing food and random pots, jars, cans, etc. And yeah…. no. I liked it at first and then it was just weird, probably b/c we don’t live in a TV show and exposed food is just awkward. Now, I store white plates, bowls, glassware, pitchers, a vase with flowers, a few jars (anything white or glass basically) and it looks soooo pretty. The stuff we use consistently is on the lowest shelves and they never gets dusty. The higher shelves house things like a coffee service, some stemware, a serving platter and that stuff gets dusty but, um, wouldn’t you wash that stuff if you stored it in a cabinet but didn’t use it frequently anyway? B/c that’s the stuff you’re using for guests and it would gross not to rinse something that’s been in any kind of storage for a while.

    I guess my point is that whether something is in open or closed storage, if you don’t use it all the time, it’s gonna need a rinse. It’s not like you’d see a nice layer of dust in a bowl, dump some pasta in it and eat it. :)

    I’m liking the kitchen plan so far!

    • says

      Such a good point! We totally rinse off rarely used items before setting them out for guests (which got dusty even in the new cabinets at our old house).


  4. Megan says

    I have an itty-bitty kitchen so I brought a book shelf in to keep my dishes and cookbooks on and I’ve noticed that it makes me wash my dishes a lot faster. I hate having dishes sitting in the sink because my shelves look so naked and lonely without them!

  5. sara says

    Love the open shelving. I can’t wait until I own a house and can display all my pretties everyday! But I have to say, Sherry, if you really want a successful career in an info-mercial you MAY want to look into waxing those arms of yours ;)

  6. says

    I still am a little skeptical about the open shelving (though I know you guys will make it look awesome- I am just a total clutter-phobe), but you managed to sell me on the hood over the range as opposed to the over-the-range microwave! I have to say though, we rented a house at the beach this summer with open shelving and it was SO convenient having all of the everyday dishes RIGHT there.

  7. says

    Open shelving in the kitchen rocks :o) I built some shelves just a few weeks ago and they make me happy every time I walk into the kitchen! I cook home-cooked meals every day and haven’t noticed a grease problem so far …

  8. Firesparx says

    OK, I know this post is about open shelving but I’d thought I’d throw in my 2 cents about your range hood. (Qualifier: I’m a Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Engineer and we just built a new house last year). Yes, any range hood you buy will be infinitely better than the over-the-range-microwave. Even a hamster running in a wheel over your stove would be better (though not as hygienic).

    I recommend you buy the QUIETEST fan your budget will allow. No sense having a good air-moving range hood if you never use it because it’s noisy (I can speak from experience at our old house here!) When you buy range hoods the fans can either be located inside (most common) or outside (puts the noise outside too). Our new house is open concept so we put our fan outside. There will be some extra electrical work if you go to an outside fan (need wiring from the fan to the controls above your stove). If at all possible, I also recommend adding a silencer to the ductwork. It’s like the muffler on your car. We didn’t and I wish we did. Our fan is pretty silent because we mostly use it on low speed, but when the bacon gets away from me and I need high speed it’s louder than I would want. I’m kicking myself over not getting a silencer.

    Sorry to get all Ventilation Nerdy on you there!

  9. says

    Ha – you stopped me before I could even open my mouth about dusty shelves. I stand corrected. *sweeps off hat and bows* Couldn’t happen in this house thanks to severe dust allergies (we have to dust everything early, often, and thoroughly so ease is the name of the game) but I’m sure it’ll look great in your house! So fun to make plans for a new room!

  10. says

    I love the open shelves. The hubby doesn’t. bummer. We have a dusty house(we leave the doors and windows open most days) and we need a lot of storage for our small house. So I’ll give up the look I love for something more practical.

  11. says

    I LOVE THIS! I do wonder if it was my own kitchen that is if this will hugely date it. Ya know like big poofy sleeves on a wedding dress automatically dates that marriage. Not a huge issue but I wonder if open shelving with white tile is the “it” thing and will change in 5 years.

    • says

      I think if you only did open shelving it might be an issue, but out of a U-shaped room, as long as you have two walls of upper cabs I think one wall of floating shelves shouldn’t be too specific or dated looking. I have tear sheets from Elle Decor and House Beautiful from ten years ago with open shelving! So I guess they’re a fairly classic choice if you go with classic colors/materials.


  12. Jane says

    Open Shelving definitely depends on the kind and amount of cooking that is done. For us Indians we cook every single day and it a lot of spices /oil like mustard seeds popping. So there’s no way in hell we could do open shelving. Even with closed cabinets the outsides gets greasy once in a while have to keep wiping them down. This kind of shelving will only work with kitchen that don’t do too much “Cooking”. Just my two cents :)

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