Creating your perfect kitchen space and making your project budget work effectively. Part 2

Part 2 Cupboards on the walls, cha-ching!


I am often teased about a classic kitchen designers statement that I once made to my partner. It went something along the lines of:

“On the walls in our new kitchen, I really would like to have a collection of cupboards, you know, open ones, without doors.”

For which he then fell about and asked if I meant shelves?

Ha Ha!


Yes, I did mean shelves but not those floating, no brackets underneath ones that were very in 10 years ago (and which now people appreciate are only good for greetings cards, fairy lights and the odd egg cup due to the lack of weight they can take) I wished to include framed shelves with different heights and cubbyholes for organising my everyday kitchen essentials within (and limit dusting).




Open shelves are very on-trend and available in a wide variety of customisable styles. Exchanging some fitted wall cabinets for shelves can save £100’s per cupboard and therefore come in as number two on my designing a kitchen to a budget series.


image: Justine Brown Joinery



As illustrated above, it is easy to get carried away with placing wall cupboards above your worktops that fill each wall, although they do balance the overall kitchen style with matching door styles and handles. Some cupboards are made of melamine covered furniture board in plain white or replica timber; these will be exposed at each cupboard run endpoint unless they butt to a wall. Exposed cupboard ends will need additional décor panels to match your wall cupboard frontals, adding to the cost of wall cupboards, not forgetting the extra cost for cornice and fascia that some companies insist upon.


So, will shelves be right for you?


You may save some money or indeed repurpose funds to something else on your kitchen wish list but first, consider how you could store your kitchenwares effectively and if you can exchange some wall cupboards for shelves where things that can be shut away behind a door will now be on view for all to see.


Second, your shelf choices need to match your use, so think about how your kitchen functions.

Is it a clean and dust-free, tidy place where you can manage simple open shelves with artfully arranged, colour coordinated and classically grouped dishes and bowls, like Plain English?


Or are you head honcho of your kitchen, maintaining a busy space with free-falling (fairy) dust and the fielding of many kitchen manipulators who want ready access to condiments, dishes and teapots. In this case, enclosing your shelves at the top and sides would be advisable. Here are some lovely examples where painted colour has been added to the bright white kitchen cubby hole shelf style and again with subtle grey with violet backing boards and a very 2020 grey and jute colour combination.

Obviously, I love this idea as it can be so easily updated and refreshed with Kitchen Cupboard Paint and my twenty-four colours are selected for natural colour combining.

Top Tips

Linking worktop colours to shelf material and bracket finishes with handles create a sophisticated look that you can then arrange your kitchenalia upon.


In some instances, placing glass shelves in front of a fake window or window with no view is a great way to create a bright focal point and useful storage area too.


Robust cast-iron brackets, like the ones here, are available From The Anvil.



Shelves are readily available from a variety of craftspeople and micro businesses with a mixture of textures and materials with many types of wall-mounting brackets such as hidden ones, painted plain or decorative corbels and simple steel frames with wooden slatted shelves. Don’t forget about ceiling suspended shelving as this can be used very effectively as a dividing point in an open plan kitchen diner or as a useful feature above a fixed island unit.


Wentworth Kitchens have been fantastically creative with the scheme below. Incorporating mirrored walls and an extractor hood with ceiling suspended shelving above the island. Perfect for all the prettily decorated bottled cocktail ingredients.


You will see fantastic styling by luxury kitchen cabinet makers who place wall-mounted shelves directly above dramatic tiles or simple backboards. Not only does this keep the project costs for cabinetry lower, a smart kitchen showroom sales tactic that also suggests that the possibilities are endless. Do not feel you have to completely fit out your space with cupboards, leave a blank wall for adding a feature shelf at a later date and thereby spreading out your project costs.


So to sum up, using shelving instead of fitted wall cupboards can save you money if you buy wisely and you can customise your kitchen with unique materials and pops of colour too.


Ask me about my kitchen design and specification services, with 1000’s of designs completed and installed; I can provide an exemplary service not fixed to any particular maker but just right for your needs and budget.


Until next time, best wishes from Charlotte.


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