Give plain cabinets a new look by converting them to open shelving. This easy kitchen project can be completed in a weekend and doubles as storage and display space.
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With plates and glasses within arm's reach, open shelving makes it easier to unload the dishwasher, set the table, and prepare food. However, ripping down cabinetry, patching walls, painting, and paying for new shelves can be cost-prohibitive (and not to mention, a lot of work). For an affordable open shelving option, convert an existing cabinet into a stunning kitchen storage unit. We'll walk you through the steps so you can have open shelves in your kitchen in just a few days.

How to Convert Cabinets to Open Shelving

Learn how to remove cabinet doors, install trim, and paint existing shelving to create open shelving in your kitchen.

What You Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Double-edge pull saw
  • Tack cloth
  • Putty knife
  • Quick-drying putty
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Trim
  • Finishing nails
  • Nail punch
  • Caulk and caulk gun
  • Damp sponge or cloth
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush

Step 1: Remove Cabinet Doors and Hardware

First, grab a screwdriver and remove the doors and all hardware from the cabinets. For cabinet doors with soft-close hinges, find the clip or latch on each hinge to detach the cabinet door, then remove the remaining hardware from the cabinet box with a screwdriver.

Step 2: Remove Cabinet Stiles and Repair Holes

Next, cut out the middle stile of your cabinet with a double-edge pull saw. This step is optional and will depend on how wide you want your open shelves. Leaving the stile in place will allow you to reinstall cabinet doors later if you decide to return to closed kitchen storage.

Remove shelving and set aside. Next, use a putty knife to remove splinters and loose wood from where the hinges were. Wipe away any sawdust with a tack cloth.

Fill holes and any dings with a quick-drying putty ($11, Lowe's). Use a putty knife to smooth out your work, then let dry according to package instructions. Once dry, sand the surface smooth with fine-grit sandpaper.

Step 3: Add Trim (Optional)

If desired, attach trim to the front edge of the removed shelves with finishing nails. Countersink them with a nail punch. Fill holes with putty and let dry.

Step 4: Caulk Seams and Paint Open Shelving

Caulk any seams with paintable caulk. Alternate using your finger and a damp sponge or cloth to remove excess caulk. Let the caulk dry.

Paint the interior of your cabinet your desired color. For extra impact, paint the back of the cabinet with a contrasting color or line the back with wallpaper. Let dry. Reinstall the shelves and fill your new open shelves with plates, bowls, and accessories.

Comments (5)

Better Homes & Gardens Member
June 8, 2019
Wish there was a section on what to do with an upper CORNER cupboard- so much useless space!!
Better Homes & Gardens Member
September 6, 2018
my top cabinets were the ones all the way at the ceiling so I did this with just the row at the very top. I could put all my display items up there out of the way and still have my regular cabinets to cover my daily stuff and work great! I love it!
Better Homes & Gardens Member
April 30, 2018
Doesn't the center stile help support the cabinet?
Better Homes & Gardens Member
April 25, 2018
Most of us need our cabinets for everyday usage - which isn't necessarily pretty. If you are lucky enough to have maybe one cabinet you can use for pretty dishes/tableware, that would be the place to have open shelving. Otherwise, cabinet doors save us from looking at everyday familyware.
Better Homes & Gardens Member
April 25, 2018
Sounds like a full time job dusting shelves and display items