Open to the Possibilities

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Carla Jordan is a professional journalist and nationally published home design and lifestyle writer. Her work has appeared in well-regarded magazines, newspapers and websites like:, House Beautiful SIPs, Coastal Living, Better Homes & Gardens, Woman's Day, The Dallas Morning News, Dallas Modern Luxury and (Showtime Network). 
One of the most stylish ways to change up the look of a kitchen is with open shelving. Tagged by Houzz as one of the top 25 design trends of 2016, this classic design element is brilliant in its simplicity and ability to adapt to any design point-of-view. And when paired with Wood-Mode cabinets, open shelving can infuse kitchens with a fresh, airy feel that's very on-trend.
"As a designer, I like how open shelving really opens up a space and adds a different dimension versus all closed-door cabinets. It's also a great way to display beautiful dishes and accessories that help add color and interest," says Michelle Carnes of Dorado Designs. "Open shelving was originally how kitchens were designed. It served a utilitarian function so cooks could access items quickly. Today, it's more for aesthetics." 
Carnes demonstrates the stylistic potential of open shelving in this stunning Tucson kitchen. "The homeowners wanted a Zen influence with sleek, clean lines that reflected the rest of their home," notes Carnes. Carnes began by anchoring the space with closed door cabinets with Brookhaven by Wood-Mode Vista Plus doors in a Matte Eclipse finish. Next, she added a variety of open shelving to create visual calm and direct attention to key areas of the space.
"The homeowners also love to entertain and wanted their kitchen island to be more than a place for sitting," says Carnes. So she gave the island added functionality—and a bit of wow—by filling its cavern with deep drawer storage and an illuminated display shelf. The island became an artful focal point as well as a practical preparation and serving area.
One end of the island features shelves that peek out from behind a decorative wood fly-over piece that wraps up and over the quartz countertop.  
Because the homeowners didn't like the idea of reaching up high for everything, all drawers were fitted with inserts for dishes and glassware. "To balance out the wall of lower cabinets, a long display shelf was added, purely for decoration, on each side of the vent hood," says Carnes. The shelves also mimic the clean tone-on-tone stripe pattern found throughout in the kitchen with the cabinetry, jute weave wall covering, porcelain wood floor tile and island fly-over piece.
In keeping with Zen design principles that revolve around simplicity and neatness, an extensive beverage center (dubbed by the homeowners as their "coffee bar") was built-in across from the pantry. It corrals everything from favorite teas, coffees and wines to beverage glasses, and includes a preparation and clean-up area for ease of use from start to finish.
A vertical bypass door offers a unique solution to a tight corner space where a traditional hinged door wouldn’t work. This cabinet helps keeps counters tidy and clutter-free, yet makes it easy for the homeowners to access appliances when needed. 
In the adjacent dining room, Carnes played up the architectural lines of an alcove by converting it into an artful display of beaded Namji dolls (purchased by the homeowners in Santa Fe) that seemingly float along the wall atop custom-designed shelf boxes. This minimalist approach syncs up nicely with the kitchen, creating an effortless flow between the two spaces.
A clever mix of closed door cabinets and open shelving, this kitchen serves up great style and more.  "At the onset, the homeowners specifically requested no upper cabinets because the wife couldn't reach them," says Carnes. “That's why we designed deep drawers around the island and kitchen perimeter." Now, not only do the homeowners love the look and function of their new kitchen but "they actually gained more storage space than they had before." For homeowners with a yen for Zen, that proved reason enough to let their kitchen dare to bare.
Looking for more design ideas like this to try in your kitchen?  Click here to see (and request a free copy) of Wood-Mode's new American Contemporary Lookbook.