SUNDAY MAGAZINE: Home
Can your kitchen come out of the cupboards?
Open shelves (Photo by Helen Norman / March 8, 2013)
Thick floating shelves of satiny walnut or stone. Gleaming stainless steel that channels industrial loft or minimal chic ? the appeal is easy to see.
Open kitchens get a thumbs up from design cognoscenti, who love how sleek shelves open up space. In Europe, they have been a staple for decades.
But no matter how design-forward you think you are, imaginging an ever-present view of the plastic mixing bowls and errant boxes of Cocoa Puffs that lurk behind your cupboard doors might give you pause. Truth: If you'd like to try ditching your uppers, first you'll have to face the fear factor. And lose the cereal boxes. The question is, do you really need that stuff?
Martha Stewart, an icon of maximalism, famously referred to the open-shelf display in her summer home in Maine as "the great wall of China" because she put up every white dish she owned. But Martha's longstanding creed has been one of owning beautiful, useful things only. (Hey, she needs that china!) And it's that maxim that can move you past the existential dilemma presented by open shelves, to a kitchen that's open, airy and more functional than ever.
It was one of Martha's kitchens that designer Lauren Liess tucked into her memory. And when she first laid eyes on the kitchen in the '70s split level she and her husband, Dave, purchased in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., she knew what to do.
Liess, who was born in Schaumburg, is a 30-year-old interior designer, blogger, creator of a fabric line and mother of three sons, 5, 3 and 7 months. She describes her personal style as "laid-back, casual, comfortable, with a mix of old and new.
"I like spaces that feel clean, light and airy, but I do like little points of chaos. Not too perfect."
The inherited kitchen was big enough, with decent bones. But an angled ceiling above dark-stained maple upper cabinets created a harsh line. Appliances didn't match. Add to that "a yummy fluorescent light fixture and dirty linoleum floor." And no budget for a total redo.
The first weekend, the couple ripped out the uppers, put up shelves constructed from Home Depot finds and painted everything white. For less than $150, the space immediately felt open and airy.
As she began filling her shelves, Liess had an open-kitchen epiphany: It's not so much a trend but a lifestyle decision. But it helps you focus on what you really need at hand. (Those icky plastic bowls? Nope.) "I was excited because I had all white dishes and some neat pieces to create a nice display. I knew I had to edit. You can no longer shove a jumble of stuff into a cabinet to hide it."
Which, as it turns out, can be a good thing.
"Open shelves feel warm, hospitable; Liess said. ??You see where everything is. Guests can just grab glasses or dishes off the shelf. It's relaxed, casual. The way we live."