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Open Up A long counter of drawers with no upper cabinets allows the owners of this sunny kitchen to prep and cook with a clear view into the living and dining area. Design by Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Ltd. Coordinate the Trim By trimming the windows in the same wood that was used for the cabinets, the designers at Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Ltd., gave this kitchen the same unified look that matching upper and lower cabinets would provide. Hanging Shelves The Brooklyn-based design firm General Assembly hung shelves anchored into a steel plate in the ceiling joists in this 300-square-foot duplex to provide extra storage while maintaining a connection to the upstairs. Open Display Shelves "Open shelving works great as a mediator between functional kitchen storage space and display space," says General Assembly designer Sarah Zames. "Items that you might keep on your living room mantel can easily nest into your kitchen storage." Take A Recess In place of upper cabinets, certified kitchen designer Elina Katsioula-Beall uses recessed, open cubbies inside a pebble-rock wall to showcase glassware, for a sleek, modern look. Pretty in Pink The open shelves in this kitchen allowed designer Judy O'Neil Labins to make the most of the salmon-pink color she chose for the walls. Pretty shelf brackets add to the kitchen's cottage charm. Mix It Up If you can't decide whether to install upper cabinets or not, consider a combination. The mix of glass-front cabinets and open shelving in this kitchen by designer Laura Robbins provides visual interest as well as plenty of storage space. Continental Charm This kitchen originally had upper cabinets, but Wilson Kelsey Design felt they were ruining the French Provincial look the client desired – and making the kitchen appear to work too hard. Post-renovation, the space has a romantic, French feel but incorporates plenty of modern technology, all well hidden from view. A walk-in pantry compensates for storage space that might normally be found in a second row of cabinets. Take the Doors Off The open shelving in this kitchen by designer Lisa Kanning takes up as much wall space as cabinets would but instead of hiding plates and glassware behind doors, the shelves keep everything on display and easily accessible. Higher and Higher A soaring cathedral-style kitchen is left open on top to draw the eye upward and maximize the sense of lofty sunlight. Built-in closets offer additional storage and open shelving lends a place to keep things on display and at hand. Design by Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Ltd. Bold Backsplash In a kitchen large enough to forgo upper cabinets, the backsplash becomes a major design element. Designer Nathalie Tremblay of Atelier Cachet chose to stack white glass tiles in neat columns for an eye-catching, graphic look. Consider Functionality In this boathouse kitchen by Albertsson Hansen Architecture, Ltd., windows above the counter open to a matching counter on the outside so this area can easily be turned into a pass-through for serving food when entertaining guests. Preference for Pantries "I didn't want to cram my kitchen full of cabinets," says kitchen designer Jodi Gould, CKD. "I really want it to feel just like another room of the house." The built-in pantry Gould designed was much less expensive than cabinetry and holds all her food and dry goods. "The more floor-to-ceiling storage you can pack in," she says, "the more open upper space you'll be left with, giving any kitchen a larger feel." Simple Shelves In this kitchen by Albertsson Hansen Architects, simple, linear shelves echo the lines of the subway tile that go all the way up to the ceiling. The black of the shelves pop, adding visual interest to the otherwise mostly white kitchen. For shelves that blend in, choose the same color as the walls – or go with glass. It's All in the Editing When a client had Bill Fry Construction convert an old garage into a guesthouse, she chose open shelving to showcase books and art. Because the space isn't the home's primary kitchen, less storage is needed. In a busier kitchen, careful editing is the key to making open shelving work. Vive le View With a stunning view of the Plum Island Salt Marsh, it seems a shame to obstruct it with cabinets. In this kitchen by Andrew Sidford Architects, all storage is below counter and island height with the walls reserved for windows. The Sky's The Limit It might be tempting to pack a high-ceilinged kitchen with cabinetry but keeping the space spare will give you a more elegant kitchen. This large kitchen by designer Ines Hanl provided enough storage space down low, so the room could be kept open to maximize the beauty of the skyward-sweeping walls.

Natural daylight without upper cabinets. One of my favorite kitchen design moves is the elimination of upper cabinets in exchange for more windows. I avoid conventional upper cabinets because the space below them — even with undercabinet lighting — is often dark and less usable. Without upper cabinets in this kitchen, the full depth of the perimeter counters is more usable and the work surfaces are bathed in natural light during the day, meaning light fixtures can be comfortably kept off.

Jill Najnigier of Boston-based JN Interior Spaces worked with her clients for more than six years before they tackled the most important room in their Westborough home — the kitchen. “The space was very, very dark, with hulking cherry cabinets and green granite countertops,” Najnigier says. “There was no question we would eventually gut it.” The homeowners wanted a light, bright space, but not a classic white kitchen. Najnigier responded with a wall of cabinetry with a custom metallic finish that adds a subtle, unexpected sheen. As for the layout, Najnigier reconfigured a jagged arrangement of cabinetry and appliances along the side of the room that holds the sink. By relocating the fridge, pulling the sink away from the window, and removing bulky cabinets, Najnigier created a clean, straight line from the sink to the end of the wall. The result is a much sleeker and more functional design. 1. The main wall of cabinetry from Venegas and Company, made from hand-scraped mahogany with a metallic finish that blends silver and gold tones, was a splurge. Advertisement 2. Najnigier refreshed the Goodman pendant lights, by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort & Co. — installed several years before the renovation — with large paper shades. 3. Horizontal cabinets along the ceiling look like soffits but are actually storage space with touch-latch doors, perfect for seldom-used items like party platters. 4. Katie Acorn sconces with seeded glass globes by Thomas O’Brien for Visual Comfort & Co. have the same bronze finish as the island pendants. 5. Najnigier used floating shelves to fill the shallow wall space next to the sink. “It looks great, and the kids can easily grab glasses,” she says. Get Today's Headlines in your inbox: The day's top stories delivered every morning. Sign Up Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here 6. For the cabinets on the sink wall, Najnigier used a less expensive line with a painted matte finish, also from Venegas and Company. Advertisement 7. White Rhino marble countertops from LeaMar Industries in Marlborough have buttery, golden veining. 8. Palecek Palermo synthetic wicker stools with vinyl cushions, designed for use outdoors, are comfortable and durable. 9. Handmade ceramic tiles from Discover Tile laid out in a herringbone pattern make up the backsplash, which adds interest without distraction. Michael J. Lee 10. An appliance garage hides the coffee maker and toaster. 11. The bay window allows for a 12-inch windowsill behind the sink, perfect for kitchen herbs. 12. An apron-front farmhouse-style sink was on the homeowner’s must-have list. Adding to the vintage feel is the Kohler HiRise bridge faucet.Send comments to

But even a small kitchen can benefit from cutting the upper cabinets. Why? It makes a space feel so much more open, and it leaves the wall space free for something just as important: Windows. This is why I decided to go without upper cabinets in the new kitchen I am building right now. It's not a huge kitchen, although it is more generous than an urban apartment kitchen usually would be. (It's in an old house in the Midwest.) I wanted yards of windows for light and breeze.

I also adore your kitchen. When we renovated ours, there just wasn’t enough room to forego the upper cabinets, but in an ideal world, I would do as you have done. We did put in nice deep substantial drawers all down one wall and beside the sink which are fabulous. I love having all my pots in a drawer as well as baking things, pasta things. We don’t have a walk-in pantry but we did install a “pantry” unit to match the kitchen with pull-out drawers and that holds a ton of things. When we have visited England (which we have done 8 times in our lives) we noticed that they design their kitchens, for the most part, without the upper cabinets also. Our friends who live there, in the Yorkshire Dales, had no upper cabinets and I loved the look and the space it gave them. It’s definitely a good way to do, if you have the room. Bex recently posted..Shout-Out Sunday No. 9 – Hummingbirds