When it comes to kitchen storage, three main options emerge – wall units, shelves, or nothing at all. Which works best depends on your needs, style and budget. We break down the pros and cons of each to help you decide.

Wall Units for Maximum Storage

Wall units provide closed storage with doors to hide everything inside. This allows you to stash all your small appliances, cookware, dishes, food items and more behind closed doors.


  • Maximize storage space vertically.
  • Keep kitchen looking tidy by hiding items.
  • Flexible configurations with cabinets, open shelves and drawers.
  • Can hold heavy-duty small appliances like mixers.
  • Provides dust-free storage.


  • Can make kitchen feel closed in if overused.
  • Doors and drawers add cost.
  • Must be installed properly to hold weight.
  • Accessing items requires opening doors.

Wall units shine in small kitchens needing hidden storage. But leave some open shelving to prevent a closed-in feeling.

Open Shelving for Display and Access

Open shelving skips the doors and drawers for complete visibility and access. This allows you to display favorite dishware and decor while keeping items in easy reach.


  • Visually lightens the kitchen.
  • Instant access to everything.
  • Inexpensive and easy to install.
  • Allows you to display decorative items.


  • Provides no hidden storage.
  • Exposes clutter if disorganized.
  • Requires frequent dusting.
  • Weight limitations for heavy items.

Open shelving works best in laidback spaces. Prevent clutter by limiting displayed items. Use below counter height for most access.

Nothing for a Minimalist Look

Skipping wall storage altogether creates a super clean, minimalist look. This puts all the focus on great design elements like:

  • Statement backsplashes
  • Bold colors
  • Textured materials
  • Specialty lighting


  • Creates light, airy, spacious feel.
  • Draws attention to other design elements.
  • Allows more windows and natural light.


  • Limits storage significantly.
  • Forces reliance on freestanding furniture.
  • Highlights any clutter.

The nothing approach needs meticulous organization and alternate storage solutions. But offers the ultimate minimalist aesthetic.

Key Considerations For Your Kitchen

Choosing the right wall storage style involves weighing priorities:

  • Maximize Space: Wall units provide the most storage.
  • Accessibility: Open shelving is most accessible.
  • Style: No wall storage has the cleanest look.

Also consider:

  • Kitchen size – Wall units suit smaller spaces best.
  • Windows – Balance storage with natural light needs.
  • Clutter tolerance – Open and no storage highlight disorganization.
  • Favored appliances – Wall units can hold heavy mixers, etc.
  • Budget – Wall units cost more than basic shelves.

Take time to analyze your kitchen and lifestyle before deciding. Mixing unit styles can balance storage, style and function. With smart planning your kitchen can be both beautiful and highly functional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best wall units for kitchens?

The best wall units for kitchens are solid wood cabinets with soft-closing doors and drawers. Opt for adjustable shelves, slide-out trays and other functional features. Stick to standard cabinet heights and depths for the most usable storage.

How much space should be left between kitchen wall units?

Its best to leave 15-30 inches of space between kitchen wall units. This creates a good balance between storage and an open feel. But in small kitchens units can be placed just 6-12 inches apart if needed.

Should I include open shelving in my kitchen design?

Open shelving works well for frequently used items you don’t mind displaying. Limit it to 1-2 shelves of your most visually appealing cookware and serving pieces. Avoid open storage for small appliances and food items.

What kitchen items should not go on open shelves?

Avoid storing small appliances, glassware, perishable foods and valuables on open shelves. The lack of doors makes these items prone to grease buildup, dust, breaking and theft. Reserve open shelving for decorative cookware and dishware only.

What’s the best height for wall shelves in a kitchen?

For maximum functionality, install wall mounted shelves 15-18 inches above counter height in the kitchen. This allows easy access without excessive reaching or bending. Lower shelves 12 inches from counters hold frequently used items.

How do I decorate a kitchen with no wall cabinets?

To decorate a minimalist kitchen with no wall cabinets, use bold backsplashes, granite countertops, accent lighting and high-end appliances. Add architectural details like crown molding, pilasters or arched entries. Ensure remaining storage furniture is high-quality and streamlined.

The Bottom Line

When tackling kitchen storage, carefully consider your needs and style preferences. Wall units provide abundant closed storage, but can overwhelm small spaces. Open shelving creates visibility and access, but requires careful organization. Eliminating wall storage altogether achieves a super minimalist look, but limits functionality. Balance trade-offs by mixing unit types to get your dream kitchen.