Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Beautiful Open Shelving

Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Beautiful Open Shelving

Do you hate the way your kitchen looks? Do you feel it needs a makeover?

Most people don’t realize that the cabinetry – the cornerstone of any kitchen – can be replaced or repurposed pretty easily. It does require some time, effort and patience, of course, but it’s a project that you can certainly do yourself.

If you would like to turn your dull, boring cabinets into beautiful open shelving, you’ll need the right equipment and a good step-by-step guide. As fate would have it, that’s exactly what I’m offering.

DIY Guide to Creating Open Kitchen Shelving

You’ll likely be sanding, stripping or repainting the cabinets, which is tough to do when they’re full. So, step one is to empty them and take off all of the doors. Pay attention to the way the cabinets were constructed and fastened, and disassemble them carefully if you’re planning to repurpose them.

The tools you’ll need for the job include:

  • Flat-head, Phillips and square-bit screwdrivers to remove screws
  • Drop cloth to protect the floors from paint
  • Hammer to pull nails and for miscellaneous tasks
  • 1 1/2-inch paintbrush
  • 180- or 200-grit sandpaper
  • Putty knife to pry the backsplashes
  • Electric drill with proper attachments – flat-head, Phillips and square bits
  • Rubber gloves and safety goggles
  • Utility knife to cut the caulking and molding

You may or may not need all of these tools to complete the task, but it’s better to have them available beforehand then to have to stop and go looking in the middle of a project.

DIY open shelving in kitchen

Take the doors off the cabinets first and then strip any leftover hardwar. I recommend laying a protective cloth or sheet over the resting surface so you don’t ruin anything – just in case.

Sand, Prime and Paint

Start by sanding your cabinets down where you plan to paint. I did not sand them all the way down, however. I did just enough to smooth out some of the uneven surfaces and to get a good scratch on the paint underneath for better bonding.

painting open shelving in kitchen

I decided not to prime the cabinets for this project because this is merely a temporary fix for me – the cabinets will only be used for a year or so before I do a full remodel in my kitchen. If you are doing this for a permanent solution then you should prime, and you should probably do at least three well-sanded coats – which we’ll get to in a minute.

Next, place masking tape on the outside of the cabinet edge to keep a clean paint line around it.

The paint I chose for my cabinets is Ace Cabinet and Trim, which is a harder enamel then normal wall paint. It takes about twice as long to dry but gives a lot of extra durability without the stickiness on cabinets.

I painted two cabinets – both about 10 feet tall – using two coats each of paint on the shelves and the outside surface. All told, I used about half a gallon, because it was a very thick paint and it covered well. With lighter paint, you may have to use more and apply more coats.

Also, between each coat of paint after it dried I gave the surface a light sand – with 180- or 200-grit paper – to smooth out any brush marks or imperfections. This is a small trick I’ve learned over the years, and it ensures you end up with super smooth, glasslike surfaces. Believe me when I say it will make your cabinets look that much more attractive when you’re done.

Open Shelving Kitchen DIY project

Once the final coat of paint dries, you can apply wallpaper to the interior – like I did – or leave the cabinets be. The wallpaper I used is York Wallcoverings Bistro 750. You cannot tell in the pictures, but the wallpaper is a silvery color with a high gloss. A pattern like this works really well for cabinets because you don’t have to match the pattern perfectly, and it looks natural. It took me about a roll and a half to do both cabinets. However, there’s a lot of waste left over due to the sheer number of small pieces you need to cut. The good news is you can save that stuff for future projects, or to replace the cabinet liner in the event of an accident.

Originally, I took the doors off my cabinets with the intention of painting them and putting them back on. Once we placed some dishes inside, however, my wife and I decided we liked the open-face style and ended up leaving it that way. It definitely gives your kitchen a more modern and open feel.

open kitchen shelving ideas

Decorate and Enjoy Your New Open Shelving

Once you’ve refinished your cabinets it’s time to fill them with dishes, food or whatever you choose to store inside them. We also added non-slip matting under the dishes since this is an open-faced cabinet.

open kitchen shelving

Afterwards, take a step back and enjoy your hard work! I’ll bet it looks fantastic, doesn’t it?

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