Cabinets vs. Floating Shelves

Categories: Kitchen Decor, Kitchen Interiors
Posted: December 12, 2023

Have you ever wondered whether to choose cabinets or floating shelves for your home? If so, you're not alone. This is a common question among homeowners and interior designers alike. There are pros and cons to both options, and the answer ultimately depends on your personal preferences. Keep reading to learn more about the differences between cabinets and floating shelves. By the end of this post, hopefully, you'll have a better understanding of which option is right for you.

We asked Kirsten Waston, a lead designer at Discount Kitchen Direct, how she helps her clients determine how much cabinet space they need, or don't need in their kitchens ...

"The most important part is making sure that the functionality is there and they have everything they will need in the long run. Usually, when I meet with a client, we discuss what is important to them; their needs, their wants, their loves and hates. Then, when we draw out our designs, I give them a rendering and I recommend that they write down in each cabinet what they would put in there. And then from there, they can determine if they have the right doors, the right drawers if they need larger cabinets or floating shelves somewhere we can be sure to implement those in their design and maximize the functionality of their kitchens."


If you're planning a kitchen renovation, one of the first decisions you'll make is what type of storage to use. While floating shelves have garnered popularity in recent years, opting for cabinets opens up a realm of possibilities in terms of style, finish, and design. 

Then a question that comes up a lot - should I extend my cabinets to the ceiling or leave a gap? 

Taking cabinets to the ceiling creates a grand and cohesive look, adding an element of sophistication to your kitchen. This design choice also maximizes storage space by utilizing every inch vertically. Bringing cabinets to the ceiling is common in Modern European and Scandinavian Kitchen designs. 

kitchen Cabinets vs. Floating Shelveskitchen Cabinets vs. Floating Shelves

On the contrary, leaving a gap between the cabinets and the ceiling introduces a touch of openness, providing a perfect spot to showcase family treasures or decorative items. This design option makes reaching the top shelves in your cabinet more convenient, eliminating the need for a step stool. 

Beyond the aesthetic considerations, cabinets offer hidden storage spaces that floating shelves cannot provide. Hidden appliance cabinets have taken off in modern kitchen design and help to keep countertop clutter at a minimum. Additionally, when it comes to cleaning, cabinets are easier to keep dust-free than their open-shelving counterparts. 

Floating Shelves

When it comes to kitchen design, floating shelves are a popular choice for many homeowners, especially those with a modern or minimalistic design style. On top of the sleek and contemporary appearance, floating shelves offer a way to display treasured kitchen items. They become an organized haven for daily kitchen essentials, ensuring that the go-to utensils, spices, and cookware are within arm's reach. However, with the constraint of space and often limited weight recommendations, homeowners will have to be more selective in what is displayed, promoting them to showcase only the most aesthetically pleasing and frequently utilized items. 

On the flip side, cabinets, while offering concealed storage and a clutter-free appearance, can sometimes make small kitchens feel more confined. The enclosed nature of cabinets can contribute to a sense of confinement in limited spaces. Floating shelves on the other hand present an intriguing alternative by visually creating an illusion of more space in your kitchen. The open and airy feel they impart can be a game-changer for smaller kitchens. 

Floating shelves' minimalist design and the absence of bulky supports contribute to a clean and uncluttered look, aligning well with modern, sleek design trends. Whether aiming for a curated display of your favorite kitchenware or seeking to visually expand a smaller kitchen, floating shelves are a stylish option for any kitchen. 

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Can’t Decide?

Kitchen storage can be a tough design decision. Do you want the clean lines of cabinets or the airy feel of open shelves? Or maybe a combination of the two? If you are stuck between the two, there are a few routes you could take. 

One option is to install traditional cabinets with glass doors. This gives you the storage space of cabinets while allowing you to display some of your favorite items. If you want more of a mix between closed and open storage, you could install both cabinets and floating shelves. This way, you can hide away some items while still having a place to display your decor or family treasures. 

Whichever route you choose, make sure you keep your kitchen design and lifestyle needs in mind. 

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