Cabinets versus Shelves: how to choose

It’s the ultimate debate in kitchen and bathroom design: cabinets or shelves? We take a look at the pros, the cons – and the possibilities.


Shelving has had a renaissance recently, due to its casual, authentic look. And shelves can be very convenient. They’re easy to access, and quick to dust or wipe down.  Depending on style and materials, they may also be more affordable than cabinets.

However, sometimes an “authentic” look just means… messy. And surprisingly enough, shelves are a less efficient use of space than cabinets. If you have a lot of things to store, then shelving may just clutter up your design.


Cabinets offer more bang for your buck in terms of storage. If you want to maximize storage space, then they are the obvious choice.

Cabinets also offer lots of opportunities for creative design. You can choose from a wealth of different materials – such as painted or varnished wood, glass or steel – and decorate with accents such as handles and hooks.

With cabinet doors closed, your kitchen or bathroom space will look neat and well-designed. Plus, the doors offer protection against dust and humidity.

Combine both for a modern look

You can get the benefits of both cabinets and shelving by mixing them together in your design.

For example, glass-fronted cabinets with shelves inside are a great compromise with a very modern effect. You get all the benefits of cabinet storage space, with the fresh, open look of shelving on display.

Consider a “statement shelf”, as well. You could install a single shelf that bridges the gap between cabinets, or stands out on a statement wall. It makes for an elegant display, while you can fill in the rest of the room with space-saving cabinets.

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