How to ideas and pictures showing how to create open shelving in a kitchen without a remodel.
Do you like the look of kitchen cabinets with no doors? Have you thought about removing kitchen cabinet doors for open shelving so you can show off your pretty plates and bowls or to simply have easier access to them?
If so, I will show you step-by-step how you can have open shelves in your kitchen in an afternoon, as well as how to showcase and style the contents in your existing upper cabinets in new ways.
When removing a kitchen cabinet door for open shelving, no DIY skills or power tools are needed to give your kitchen a budget friendly kitchen shelving update. All you need is a screwdriver.
Why You Should Consider Open Kitchen Shelving
After living in the house for a few days, we found the counter microwave the previous owner left was awkward to use and took up way too much counter space.
In my search to find another place to put it, I looked up at an empty cabinet and wondered if the microwave would fit. I took out my tape measure to find out.
To my surprise, it fit! We even had an electrical outlet nearby to run the cord and plug out the side of the cabinet and into an outlet.
Another reason I liked this idea is when you remove one or more kitchen cabinet doors, you not only break up an overwhelming row of wood across the upper wall…
… but you also create more functional open storage that is easy to access.
I ended up removing 3 cabinet doors on the side of my kitchen in the photo above.
One single cabinet to place the microwave that was taking up too much counter space.
The other doors I removed were on a hard to reach double cabinet above the fridge.
In a few minutes, I had the doors off. I used the claw end of a hammer to remove the middle bar called the stile that separated the doors.
Once the doors were off, I created instant open shelving where I displayed my collection of white pitchers. Doing this, added interest to this section of wall cabinets.
How to Remove a Kitchen Cabinet Door
Taking a cabinet door off takes about 3 minutes, all you need is a screwdriver.
Depending on how your cabinets are finished you may need to do some touching up on the cabinet frame where the hinges were.
If the cabinets are stained, a DAP Blend Stick will fill in the holes and blend the color where the hinges used to be.
All you do is rub it over the holes to fill them.
What Other Products to Use to Fill Hinge Holes
These sticks come in many different shades from light to dark and are sold in packs of four colors so you are bound to find just the right color to match the wood tone you need.
There are also many other ways to do the touch-up… pens, markers, and even wood stain cloths.
I like the DAP Blend Sticks the best since they fill in the hole at the same time you are touching up the color.
If you ever want to put the door back on, the holes will be easy to find again to make re-hanging the door easy.
If your cabinets are painted you will need paint to dab over to touch-up where the hinges were attached.
Removing Even More Cabinet Doors
After painting all the kitchen cabinets, I removed two existing cabinet doors over an awkward corner.
The L-shaped counter made it hard to open the left door and swing it out enough to be able to access the everyday dishes in the cabinet.
I had to step back to stay clear of the door. Removing the door made this cabinet very easy to access – nothing to get in the way anymore.
More Reasons To Consider Removing Cabinet Doors
When the door to this cabinet was removed, it created a space to put the microwave and a few cookbooks that previously were taking up too much room on my limited kitchen counterspace.
Taking the time to experiment to see what the cabinet would look like allowed me to see that this was a good idea. When we painted the kitchen, the doorless cabinets looked even better.
If you want to change things up even further when you remove the cabinet doors to create open shelves, consider adding a colorful backdrop.
This is very easy to do and can be permanent or easy to remove when you tire of it or want a change of color.
You don’t even need paint to add color to the inside back of the cabinets – you can make inexpensive backdrops using cardboard or dollar store foam boards and fabric, wallpaper or gift wrap.
You can read how to do this in this post:
If you are a renter, removing cabinet doors will give your kitchen a trendy, updated look. When it is time to move, you can simply screw the doors back onto the cabinets – no damage done.
Should You Remove the Center Stile or Keep It?
When taking doors off kitchen cabinets where two cabinets meet, you will have to decide if you want to keep the center stile or remove it.
Single cabinet doors, like the one in which I placed my microwave do not have a stile in them, so they are ideal to use when you want to create open shelves.
This photo shows the stile removed. Before removing it, determine if it is needed to hold up the center of the shelves or is it just in place so the doors have something to frame them.
Cabinet Doors Removed With Stile in Place
The stile for this open wall cabinet with shelves was structural and could not be removed, so I left it and don’t mind it at all.
See later on in the post, how I style these open kitchen shelves in creative ways.
What Kitchen Cabinet Is Best to Create Open Shelving?
When deciding what cabinet or set of cabinets to create open shelving, choose a cabinet that is a focal point or where you need easy access to plates and glasses so they are in arm’s reach.
You will find that open shelving makes it easier to unload the dishwasher, set the table, and prepare food.
Do Open Shelves in Kitchens Need a Lot of Upkeep?
To keep upkeep to a minimum for open shelving, don’t choose top cabinets that are above a stove where grease and dirt can build-up.
Instead, choose cabinets away from the stove where a quick going over with a dust rag is all that will be needed to wipe the shelves clean.
How to Remove Kitchen Cabinet Doors For Open Shelving
Learn how to remove cabinet doors and then as an option – go a few steps further and install trim and paint to the existing shelving.
With a screwdriver and a small tub of wood putty, stain or paint you can easily convert kitchen cabinets to open shelving in about 45 minutes.
Time needed: 3 hours
How to: Removing Kitchen Cabinet Doors for Open Shelving + Painting The Inside of Kitchen Cabinets
- Remove Cabinet Door, Hardware and Hinges
Use a screwdriver to remove the doors and all hardware from the cabinet(s). Place the hardware in a baggie and mark where it was from just in case you want to put the cabinet doors back on in the future.
How to remove cabinet doors with Salice hinges, European or soft-close hinges: Find the clip or latch on each hinge to detach the cabinet door, then remove the remaining hardware from the wall cabinet with a screwdriver.
- Fill Holes
When you remove the doors from existing cabinets, you can see the hinge screw holes in the wood. This will look unfinished.
To fix this you can use wood putty and stain to fill the holes or putty and paint. Use a putty knife to smooth out the filler. Then let it dry. Once dry, sand the surface smooth with fine-grit sandpaper.
- Optional: Remove Cabinet Stile and Add Trim
If desired, remove the stile with a saw and then sand the areas to smooth. Leaving the stile in place will also allow you to reinstall cabinet doors later if you decide to return to closed kitchen storage.
Attach trim to this area as well as the front edge of the removed shelves with finishing nails. Then countersink them with a nail punch.
- Sand Surface
Use 100-grit sandpaper on a hand sanding block to rough up the laminate surface. You just need to scratch the surface to provide some “tooth” for the paint to grab onto. A 5-minute going-over is all that is needed.
- Caulk and Paint Inside of the Cabinets
Caulk any seams, holes or crevices with paintable caulk. Use a wet finger and a damp sponge or cloth to remove excess caulk. Let the caulk dry.
Paint the interior of your cabinet your desired color.
Use a 2 – inch angled brush to apply a light coat of primer to the inner corners and edges of the cabinet and a foam roller to prime the flat surfaces. Let dry.
Add a second light coat of primer. The let it dry for at least 8 hours.
- Seal With Water-Based Polyurethane
If you painted the shelves, apply 2 light coats of water based polyurethane on the top of each shelf. The polyurethane will seal the paint and so you won’t have that “icky-sticky” latex paint problem that happens when you place items on latex painted surfaces and remove them.
You don’t have to do the sides of the cabinet, only the surfaces on which the items will sit. One or two light coats will be enough.
Let dry for at least 24 hours before placing items back on the shelves. And if it is humid, wait even longer to ensure the paint and poly are fully dried.
Styling Ideas For Open Kitchen Shelving
Below are a few open kitchen cabinet ideas that I have created over the years. I like to make them especially festive for the holidays.
Add paper trim to the edges of the shelves to add farmhouse style. Find out how to do this in the post How to Make Christmas Tree Paper Chains
For a pop of Christmas colors, add paper doilies paired with gift wrap to accent shelves during the holiday season.
Create Country Kitchen Shelves
Even though this open wall cabinet is not an actual kitchen cabinet, I wanted to show you how you could style some of your favorite dishware in an open shelf cabinet, even adding decor items to the mix that will add interest to your kitchen.
Trend or classic? Even if having an open shelf cabinet in your kitchen seems too trendy to try, remember this open storage space can be easily changed by just putting the cabinet doors back on.
For more reading on the topic of open shelving, you may enjoy this debate: Open Shelves or Closed Upper Cabinets.
You decide, but I hope seeing these ideas gives you the inspiration to not fear trying it out in your kitchen. You just might love it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I remove the cabinet doors?
While there is no need to remove the doors, this simple change effectively creates a whole new kitchen layout, aesthetically and functionally. In fact, maybe I should just say change the doors. I could replace replace solid doors with glass front doors and change the knobs.
You can also rethink your entire kitchen flow. Shift infrequently used items to upper kitchen cabinets. Spotlight favorite pieces, long-neglected dishes, or other special items. Seeing them in the open will remind you to use them.
How about coffee mugs? Do you have favorite ones you’d like to display? Some cookware is beautifully designed. Show it off?
Can I add outlets?
Adding electrical outlets is still a DIY project but contact an electrician if you have any doubts. Once you have power, you can light up your cabinet. Then, you can also leave small appliances which are frequently used plugged in.
Note that a trendy alternative with closed cabinets is an appliance garage. This may not work in a small space but it is a great way to increase the functionality of your kitchen.
Won’t open cabinets look cluttered?
Well, it depends on how you do it but you can actually create extra storage space while reducing excessive clutter. The trick is to put the right items in the right place.
Frequently used or decorative, front and center. Infrequently used in the upper cabinetry. Then stage pots and pans down low and maybe behind those closed doors.
Also don’t forget the kitchen island. Can it be used to address a lack of storage? And will it work better open or closed?
How else can I make my open cabinets look good?
I shared some ideas above but don’t forget other options such as a white backsplash or white tile to highlight colored cookware.