How to create open kitchen cupboards

The kitchen… always an ever changing and evolving space over here it seems. But there is one thing we did when we first moved into this house that was a game changer in the kitchen. It involved the kitchen cupboard doors and paint.

kitchen cupboards

Slow Changes

Slow changes and renovations were pretty much the motto here when we moved in. Partly because of design changes and ideas that I got on a whim and partly because over the years we updated the kitchen to be as functional as budget allowed – rather than remodeling to achieve the style we would like. And you know what? I feel like in many ways that is the best way to learn about living in this space and listen to what the kitchen spokes.

marble counters in kitchen

I know that sounds odd. Listening to how a space speaks to you. Much like any decor element, if you pause and think (or listen) it might inspire you to look at something in a different way. Especially in a home, there are so many factors that you may not see at first glance. The way the sun dances through the windows during different times of the day and seasons. How the flow fits from room to room and what you might be lacking in the overall. That is what I call how a space speaks to you. You notice. You listen. You learn. And you make design choices and change factoring those things in.

Kitchen Cupboards

One thing that instantly spoke to me in the kitchen? The cupboards. They were tall, covered in creamy white paint and reached all the way to the ceiling. Something that didn’t speak to me? The ceiling fan and beer bottle pull. You take what you speak to you and change the rest.

kitchen cupboard and island

We kept the original bank of cupboards and they are the same cupboards even now. I’ll be honest, these are 1940 pine cupboards covered in paint. They pop open as the hot or cold in the house changes. The drawers are not on smooth gliding slides – just wood – so sawdust in the cabinet below is sometimes a thing. And the cabinet doors and drawer fronts wear the years proudly- though maybe not as pretty if you prefer the smooth look of today. If you were to come over- you would likely notice the quirks and imperfections in those things and more. Between you and me? I covet the quirks and imperfections. They are part of the personality of this house and I cannot imagine replacing the kitchen with the kitchen cupboards of today. It would not be the same.

But we did remove some things- including some original out of necessity. We removed the odd range that didn’t work, the added cupboards that were newer and not matching and that ceiling fan. And something that we changed that was not necessary because we wanted to – but more out of necessity – was the cupboard doors on the ends.

Cupboard Doors

The bank of original cupboards had 3 doors on both sides of the sink. A whole lot of beautiful cupboards to store all the things. But one of the doors at the end was cracked pretty badly. Enough so that we would need to completely rebuild the door. And so, one day while my husband was out of town at work- I took the cupboard door off to try to tinker with it. And when it came off, I paused.

Wild Hair

I paused and stared and felt that little squirmy flip flop in my stomach. I saw the shelves behind the cupboard door. 4 pine shelves against the knotty pine wall backing. The cupboards were built directly into the walls – rather than being a box like they are today. (if that makes sense) And when I saw the picture come together, I got a wild hair idea. I grabbed paint and a paint brush and painted the interior of the now open cupboard. And then I listened some more and took the opposite end cupboard door off too. Symmetry folks. I am a big symmetry girl sometimes and this was one of them.

Finishing touches

Once the inside of the cupboards were painted, I used a very technical way to trace an arch shape to a piece of 1×4 pine (ahem – the edge of a platter) and cut it out with the jigsaw. We didn’t own a nail gun at the time and so, I grabbed what I thought might work. My caulk gun- and I caulked it into place – propping it up with glasses until it dries. The funniest thing is- they are holding up now even. And the character and charm of those open areas bring is lovely even now. I have plate racks and large bowls stored on the shelves most of the time but you could put cookbooks, artwork or your everyday stack of dishes there too.

Creating Open Cupboards

So basically, if you are looking to do something similar- you can look at your cupboards layout in your kitchen and decide where you might want to create an open cupboard for display and then get started.

  • Remove the cupboard door
  • Decide if you want to add a planked backing. If so, use pine planks, headboards, or wallpaper for ease. Or if you like the inside of the cupboard box as is- you can simply leave that.
  • Add a detailed top to create an arch if desired.
  • Prime the shelves- including underneaths, sides, back and fronts of any exposed wood and then paint everything the same color as the rest of your cupboards. You can use a kitchen cupboard paint- or use a semi-gloss that will give you some good options for cleaning. Or leave the wood and stain to match if you have wood tone cabinets.

Before and After

Not the best before- I grabbed it one of the first days we were cleaning and getting the house ready to move into and literally didn’t even think about taking a proper photo but you can get the idea.

The After says ahhhh to me. A different space with such a simple change. Of course, a lot has changed since that first photo- the countertops, the painted walls, the windows, ceiling and floor- the flow of the room and the island addition. But those are all things that we changed after listening to the room and how it worked or didn’t work- and as you can see this is also an older photo- but it is the same view as the above so I grabbed it.

kitchen cupboards paint

You can see more about how it looks now with the long antique inspired kitchen island we added HERE

French country cottage kitchen

Styling the shelves

For styling those shelves – there are so many options. I will admit that I tend to be a tad lazy – I like what I like and so I don’t change the look too often. But I do have some basics there that work well. Large bowls, stacks of plates and plate racks. You could use hooks for coffee cups, platters, artwork or anything that speaks to you. The number one rule for me is to throw out the rules and go with what makes you smile when you walk in the room- that is perfect.

*some affiliate links