Do you think shelves instead of kitchen cabinets suck?
August 1, 2011 4:49 PM   Subscribe

An open shelf kitchen. Will it give my resale value the kiss of death?

I have a tiny little kitchen. I have no money. When I moved in the 1963 cabinets were in poor shape, especially the doors that I just tossed rather than try to salvage. For the last three years, I have been living with open cabinets. The arrangement is poor and really doesn't give me much storage. I don't have the money to replace all the cabinets. I can replace the doors with a lot of elbow grease getting layers of paint off of the wood laminated cases and then painting the new doors to match. I could increase my storage by demolishing the empty cabinet soffit and making open shelving all the way to the ceiling, possibly putting in new closed cabinets around the range.

I am already living with open shelves so I don't mind them and actually prefer them. I may be moving within the year and will rent it out, possibly selling it within two years. I really want to do shelves. Is this a really shitty idea? Anybody have any experience?
posted by Foam Pants to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you open to the idea of purchasing new doors to place on the existing cabinets? We did this through Home Depot about 5 years ago; I assume they still have this. We had to measure every opening, the doors were custom made, and we got them bare and painted them ourselves. Still cheaper than replacing the cabinets and probably worth looking into if your kitchen is tiny. Personally, I think open shelves might be a tough sell.
posted by puritycontrol at 4:59 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Is there any way we can get a photo? The total storage available and the condition of the current cabinets as is would be helpful to see.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:01 PM on August 1, 2011

Probably depends a lot on where you are (geographically) and who's likely to want to buy your place.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:03 PM on August 1, 2011

I'm anti-open shelving, but I live in earthquake country and that really influences my judgement -- the idea of everything just tumbling down all at once.

However - I think that in your case it depends on how you execute this project. If you make it look like a specific aesthetic choice -- ultra-modern, or cute & vintage, or whatever you're going for -- then it will probably look really nice and be an asset. But if it looks half-assed, like "these are just cabinets missing their doors" that would be a bummer.

On the other hand - Is the entire place just itching for a remodel? 'Cause then maybe that's just a part of setting your price point as a fixer-upper.
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:07 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Photos. Why didn't I think of that? Here you go.

Yes, it really is that big. I am standing in the living room while taking those shots.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:09 PM on August 1, 2011

It depends on what your market is. Magazines and design blogs are chock full of hip, adorable kitchens with open shelving. If that's what people in your area and price range are into, then it could be a selling point. I know when we were house-hunting three years ago we preferred the kitchens with more open shelving than cabinets. We did end up buying a house with cabinets, but we immediately tore most of them out and replaced them with open shelving made from reclaimed floor joists we stained and coated with spar varnish. (I know, I know, that's like disgustingly urban hipster, but they look great!)

However, if the market for your house is more traditional and less urban/hip/design-bloggy than it is here in Portland (and I'm guessing that may be the case in Juneau), my experience doesn't really apply to your situation.
posted by dersins at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

As I stated in the initial post, I am open to replacing the doors but the arrangement offers little storage. It would also require a lot of elbow grease to get the frames in shape enough to replace the doors. Home Depot doesn't offer doors in my area. Shipping here is outrageous.
posted by Foam Pants at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2011

Looks like cabinets without doors - not shelves.
posted by Flood at 5:11 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

You could leave some open and re-door some others. I have some ugly stuff I wouldn't want seen.

We also live in earthquake country, so we only put non-breakables on the open shelf we have. However, if you look at some SF places on ApartmentTherapy, lots of people have nothing but open shelves. It's a popular look in certain areas (obviously we have not been having much in the way of earthquakes lately). That may or may not be the case in your market.
posted by oneirodynia at 5:14 PM on August 1, 2011

My kitchen is basically that small - a functional L with overhead cabinets. When there is that little room, the key is TIDY, complete with clear counters and little clutter. This significantly increases the visual sense of space. I can't cope so I have doors.

I think you either need doors or to move to open shelving with baskets and racks rather than a bunch of incongruous items crammed onto shelves. Currently, it does look like you're just missing the doors :( If you opt to open shelve (which I totally think you can make work and I'd go for it) I would urge you very much to put the work into doors for the under-counter cupboards. You can get really inexpensive MDF doors milled locally and just paint them a slightly darker green.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:32 PM on August 1, 2011

If you're fortunate enough to live near a salvage yard, you could find doors for pennies on the dollar and cut them down to the appropriate size if necessary.

Alternately, you could buy cheapo bamboo shades to cover the openings. Just make sure the strings don't dangle onto the hot surface of the stove. Perhaps not the most glamorous solution but it will keep everything covered.
posted by contessa at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2011

My sister has something similar in her house (which is near the beach in Florida, if it matters), and what she did was to paint the inside of the cabinets a different color than the outside - specifically, she's got white on the outside (and the rest of her kitchen), and a happy yellow inside the open cabinets. She also got a few nice square baskets to fit in the cabinets so you don't see all of her tea and Bisquik and junk food just hanging out there in the open. And like DarlingBri said, she really focuses on keeping everything very tidy and uncluttered.

Before I saw the results I'd had mixed feelings about open cabinets, but between the "pop" of color, the baskets, and the overall lack of clutter, it actually looks super open and nice. Maybe something similar could work for you?
posted by DingoMutt at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I agree with DarlingBri--this could look really cute with more basket/rack-type arrangements. If you're handy with a saw, I'd also suggest Craigslist as a source for doors.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:50 PM on August 1, 2011

Yes, you should rip it all out and put in shelves. But then you have to be super uncluttered with your 'stuff'. Baskets, boxes, tins, etc. If you have it looking all tidy and functional and cute, that's what people will notice. (and I know from small kitchens. you have way more cabinet space than I do.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 5:54 PM on August 1, 2011

I think it looks pretty good, given that you were forced into the open shelving. However, it doesn't look like you did it on purpose. Which is to say, that people who actually prefer open shelving are usually way more fastidious about organization and clutter (as others have noted). And the shelving is usually more uniform than yours, etc.

As for resale, you could get a price for the absolute cheapest cabinets (or just the doors) in town and offer that as a discount for prospective buyers.

This happened to me when I bought my house. The house had some atrocious carpeting that clearly needed to be replaced. The owners went to a local place and got a quote of a few hundred dollars to replace the carpet. (Of course, the quote was for the very cheapest carpet.) So, they said "We can replace the carpet or knock that cost off the price and let you replace it with whatever you want." I took the discount because I didn't even want carpet.
posted by oddman at 5:59 PM on August 1, 2011

I think your kitchen looks nice and with your paint job the cabinets look better than I imagined. Purpose designed open shelving is not the kiss of death and if done with care and kept super uncluttered will make your kitchen look larger.

You're asking a lot of questions, though. Rental? Resale? Cheap DIY? What's your top concern?

If it's "can I do this? It will make me happy" then the answer is "yes!"
posted by amanda at 6:01 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd put doors on the bottom but leave the tops open. Do a little Martha Stewart arranging thing on the top ones, and just paint the new (cheap) bottom doors to match what you have. Add cool drawer and door pulls and it will look a lot more expensive than it is.
posted by puddinghead at 6:23 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not clear what your priority here is: do you want to make this the place you want to live in (ie, put in shelves), or do you want to make the place easy to sell? The fact that you may be moving within the year suggests the latter should be your priority, but it sounds like the former is.

I'd say that if you want to sell the place, don't do anything. I think the kitchen looks nice as it is, and whatever you do, it may not be what the buyer wants. When I was house hunting, I can't tell you how many places I looked at where the seller had put money in to spiff the place up, but in a way that I knew I'd rip out if I bought the place. I don't know. A realtor might tell you that you need to do XYZ to make the place show well, but that was my experience.
posted by adamrice at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sell it to somebody who's serious about cooking. We jump at open shelves.
posted by LonnieK at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

What LonnieK said. All of the shelving in my kitchen proper is open; I wouldn't have it any other way. And I am about to rip the doors off of the cabinets in my scullery to make open shelving there, as well. Accessibility is key for someone who really cooks.

It would only be a plus to me if I were considering renting or buying the place.
posted by trip and a half at 7:48 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I want to do the shelves for me. I don't want to do the shelves if it will make my place unsellable in two years.

My kitchen works very hard. Also, nothing matches and I have everything under the sun like canning supplies, brewing supplies, steamers, stockpots, etc. However, like other people who are seriously cooking, I like the ability to survey my domain without having to open every damned door. Caveat about replacement doors: The only place in town that makes replacements is a custom cabinet maker who is pricey. Craigslist in my area is also very small so it is a no go. Any door replacements will have to be ordered online.

I'm really starting to lean towards replacing these crappy doorless cabinets for purposeful shelves. I live in downtown Juneau which is surprisingly bohemian. I think they would appeal. Perhaps wire baskets for the pantry items?
posted by Foam Pants at 8:21 PM on August 1, 2011

i'm not a fan of open shelving (i'm not neat enough to have everything on display) & i really like the look of your kitchen now. that wasn't the question, though, was it? open shelving is really quite a trend right now, i think, so i can't imagine it would really hurt the resale value in the long run.

the thing i'd definitely do, though, is remove that whatchamacallit above the cabinets--the part of the wall that's built up so the depth of the cabinets are flush with the "wall"? yeah. that thing. that would immediately give you room for brewing, canning, and large pots & pans, which would be easily on display. also easily out of reach, but this is being written by someone who has 1 and 2 -step stools in the kitchen & hallway, respectively, and a 6-foot stepladder propped against the wall in the back bedroom, so take any advice from me with a grain of salt.

of course, if you decide to pull down the whatchamacallit (soffit, maybe?) then it might be easier to just pull down the cabinets at the same time. ugh. renovations can be pretty exciting but they're also messy & inconvenient. but you already know that.

good luck with it. and by the way: i scrolled through some of your other pics, & i LOVE the pigcow. is that available commercially?
posted by msconduct at 9:52 AM on August 2, 2011

« Older Is this study on MRSA inhibition by essential oils...   |   Finding Web Nerds in Northern California and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.