Studio Options – Open Shelves, Bookshelves, or Closed Cabinets

My mom and I are still working away on her kitchen. I hope to have some progress to show you very soon. But as I’ve been making new cabinets doors for my mom’s kitchen, I’ve been thinking different ideas for finishing my studio. I’m in desperate need of storage in that room, because until I have storage, everything will just continue piling up on my work tables and in stacks around the room.

Right now, this is how the room looks…

studio progress as of 10-25-2019 - 6
studio progress as of 10-25-2019 - 1

I have plans for cabinets to the left of the cased opening between the back entry and the studio, behind the desk, and then along the wallpapered wall. My plans are pretty nailed down for the desk wall and the cabinet to the left of the cased opening. But the wallpapered wall is the one that I’m not quite sure about.

My original idea was to build bookcase-style open shelves, with solid sides and backs that would be painted the same color as the cabinets.

studio plan - NE (front) wall - receptacle plan

That original idea would look something like this on the mail wall, with painted walls on either side.

Since doing that drawing, I’ve gone back and forth between those open shelves and closed cabinets with doors.

But lately, I keep seeing more and more open shelves on wallpapered walls that are inspiring me. It all started when I saw this office from Kathryn Baugher on Instagram.

open shelves on wallpapered wall from Up To Date Interiors
Source: Up To Date Interiors

I LOVE how that looks! I like that there’s not a whole lot covering up the beautiful wallpaper. So I went searching for other examples — specifically examples that didn’t have the wallpaper on all of the walls, but just on the wall behind the open shelves like mine would be.

open shelves on wallpapered wall from Organizing Made Fun blog
Source: Organizing Made Fun

The more I see examples like this, the more I like it. And I’m also a little bit hopeful that if I have open shelves, I’ll be more likely to keep things organized. Is that wishful thinking? 😀

I didn’t even consider this option before because, as much as I love color and pattern, I think having that whole long wall filled with crazy colorful pattern kind of intimidated me. I was counting on the solid color bookshelves or cabinets to bring some calm.

But the more time that passes, and the more I get used to seeing that long wall covered in my happy colorful flowers, the more I get used to it. And the more I dislike the idea of covering it up.

Of course, if I go with open shelves, I’ll need to buy two more rolls of wallpaper to fill in the areas that I had planned to be hidden behind the bookshelves or cabinets.

studio progress as of 10-25-2019 - 6

Open shelves will also give me quite a bit more countertop space. I have no idea why I need that 😀 , but I guess you can never have too much in a studio space, right?

Anyway, this is just something I’ve been contemplating over the last few days as I’ve been working on cabinets and cabinet doors. And the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of more wallpaper and open shelves.

Regardless of the direction I go, I’m so ready to get some storage in this room so I can get some organization in here!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


    1. This is off subject but I want to add a fireplace. I need a freestanding and I vaguely remember you talking about the kind of logs you have. Could you tell me the brand and type you have and how you like them?

  1. It really depends on what the items are that you need to store and how they would look on open shelving vs closed cabinets – and if that’s the look you want. It’s your studio!

  2. I would wonder how closely two new rolls would color match the existing paper. Not sure how costly two additional rolls are, but you might consider the possibility that they might be unusable to you.

    I like the open shelves with the wallpaper in general. But either way would look nice so I don’t know that one is much preferred to me.

  3. Open shelves are very pretty, but I would spend serious time thinking about what will be on those shelves. Even open bookshelves (like in the music room) seem to be mostly about decorative displays. Is that what you want/need? Or more places to keep supplies and ‘stuff’? Maybe full cupboards on each end and a few open shelves in the middle?

    1. Karen, I had a similar thought. Solid backs on the ends, open in the center; or at least some in the center.

      1. Agree with this. Supplies aren’t that decorative and you need some place to store them. Do you really want to be cleaning sawdust or fabric lint off of those shelves all the time too?

        1. Kristi, I think a mixture of both types of shelving would be good. As some commenters have suggested, much of your stuff may not be displayable – opened paint pots, left over materials, various tools etc.

          So I would have closed cupboards for those things, and open shelves for pretty binders holding your sketches, plans etc., some finished works and other pretties, perhaps.

          I just know from experience by eing a patchworker, that no way could I cope without some closed cupboards for my fiddly bits 😊

      2. What are you storing? Will there be bins that hide the wall paper? It might be easier to have shelves with doors instead of bins upon bins that hide the pattern anyway. Will you have sample books for clients? I like certain items at my disposal in my studio like templates, tools& books. But I want my paper, canvas, leather tools, fabric, jewelry, paints & brush supplies where they are hidden. When I want them I put them out on my studio table. Too much out/ in sight distracts me from my projects. I did a couple of display shelves filled with things that were visually interesting or special to me as inspiration spots. Hope that helps!

        I love that wall paper!

    2. I thought the same thing as Karen. Sometimes supplies are not that pretty, and it might be nice to just put them in a cabinet and close the door. Almost always those open shelves seem to be more decorative than for function. I think cabinets on the ends and open shelves in the center is a win win! And, you don’t have to order more paper! Might look very neat in the end, and you get both options in one room!

    3. Karen, I was thinking the same thing as well – closed side cabinets with open shelves in between the windows. I think you make a really good point about Kristi’s wants/needs since this is a working studio used almost daily vs. something like the living room or music room that is more formal but used less often.

  4. What do you think you will be storing on those shelves? If things that may inheritantly not be prettily organizable, open shelves may not be ideal. I, personally, like the idea of the open bookshelves, but that’s just me.

  5. How well do you keep the pantry open shelves tidy the way the after pics are? Do you find you toss things in there or you always put it back where it goes? Being a “messy person” I know I can like the idea of open shelves, but reality is I am just awful at keeping it the way I started out. My other thought is will the colors match perfect if you buy two new rolls of wallpaper? If it doesn’t you won’t be happy and either have to go with closed shelves or buy all new for the whole wall. Just thinking…. I am sure whatever you build will look amazing.

  6. In my experience, open shelves are great for decorative items but horrible for actual working storage. I recently took down the shelving over my work station for that reason. It looked great when I first installed them but once I put it into use it quickly became a cluttered mess. It was just not practical for me.

  7. I really like your original plan. Living in Minnesota with our cold winters where working in the garage is not possible for much of the winter, we end up doing “projects” in the house. Lots of dust, lint and project residue make for big time cleanup after each use so give me all the closed and not necessarily tidy storage possible. Plus, I’d say for me that I wouldn’t want to think I’d have to “decorate” shelving in a dusty work space. Ha! I know however, from following you for years, that whatever you do will be smashingly attractive!

  8. Since the entire reason you built the studio was for utility, my vote is to keep the storage closed. A wall of closed storage looks great almost all the time, as long as you are a door closer, but open shelving might be a constant dust-catcher and eye sore. There’s something luxurious about a wall of cabinets! And they hide so much junk!

    1. I agree that the open shelves would look great against the wallpaper. But this will be a workroom. Who knows what type of weird dust or fumes you will create in the future. I would hate to have to keep clean the shelves AND the items on the shelves. You have more fun things to do with your time. So I vote for closed cabinets. Sorry.

      1. If you look at those photos the items on the shelves are “pretty”. What you like and what is practical are very different here. Take stock of everything you have that you want to put behind doors add 20%, compare that to the cabinets you plan to build and have doors on. That should tell you if you can afford to have any open shelving

  9. CLOSED cabinets! You are going to be doing a LOT of wood cutting, sanding, carpentry, etc. in that room and the dust will be a disaster on open shelves. Remember – this is your work shop not a den. Keep as much behind doors as possible – that my two cents 😉

  10. I love the look of open shelves but it requires consistently keeping things organized. Do you want to put your time and energy into keeping them tidy and neat or using your energy to create?

  11. It’s painstaking and boring, but I would recommend measuring and piling up everything you are going to want to store, and begin working out where it all will go. Are you going to have paint cans, brushes and rollers? Those all need deep shelves or drawers, and will never look decorative! Some goes for tools, fabric and upholstery supplies, miscellaneous office items, etc. I know the plan is to ultimately close in the carport, but I would design as you are living now, not for where you hope to be in 5 years, otherwise it will just frustrate you that you cannot create a system. I have learned this the hard way SO MANY times, sadly the organization has to come first, for me anyway.

  12. Please don’t cover up that stunning wallpaper. It’s going to be covered enough as it is. Why can’t you build cabinets/bookshelves over the Non-wallpapered areas on the right and the left of the wallpapers, put doors even to enclose books, etc and just put up the open shelving and use clear plastic storage boxes(with lids) that fit perfectly. It will enclose the stuff so it doesn’t get dusty and you can tell what’s in it. Nothing worst than those solid boxes leaving you guessing all the time. It will leave spaces to see the wallpaper and still keep things clean. I agree with you; it’s gorgeous, cover it up as little as you have to.

  13. This is a workspace so it is likely to get messy and stay messy. The reality. If you can tolerate visual clutter, then open shelves might work, but they would also be laden with dust. Closed cabinets win for that reason alone in my book. But, then again, it is your book we are considering. Form or function?

    I cannot imagine you would want to monitor how neat or not open shelves look all the time. If clients come in would you find yourself apologizing if they are not so neat?

    I love your wallpaper and to my eye, there is quite enough visual excitement in the space already. As soon as you start using the room for its intended purpose, there will be a lot going on. Surfaces will be filled with whatever you are working on.

  14. My thoughts re open shelving: 1) gorgeous; 2) how much dusting will I have to do?? And will I do it? 3) Can I keep it organized with baskets, etc. and WILL I put stuff up when I am through with it.?

    For me: Beautiful open shelving but just not practical. I’d rather create than clean any day of the week.

  15. It all comes down to Your needs. I have too many different artsy crafty things I’d use the closed cabinets for. But oh…. so pretty to display with open shelving.
    But most importantly…… BEST decision for your floor stain!!!! It still makes me soooo happy 😊

  16. Since this is truly a “working studio” I think you might like cabinets to store things in. I like open shelves for decorative stuff but I am thinking cabinets might be more practical for your set up. I think you would still have plenty of your beautiful wallpaper showing.

  17. Unless you can have the carport enclosed by this winter I would keep with the original plan of closed cabinets due to the dirt created by your projects. None of the pictures you’ve shown have windows on the papered wall and the wallpapers all have lighter backgrounds so I can’t really visualize it.

  18. Instead of buying more wallpaper which might not be a perfect match, build floor to ceiling cabinets on the ends. Put the open shelves where you already have wallpaper (and invest in pretty baskets to help keep everything neat.)

  19. If you want to keep it pretty, I would say that if you are going to put books on the shelves, then go for it. Otherwise I would keep doors on the shelves so that you aren’t worried about keeping it neat. A contrary thought, based on my husband’s practices, is if you are a “I don’t know it exists if I can’t see it kind of person”, leave it open shelving and just don’t worry about the lack of beauty when it is messy as it is a work space. It’s not like it is in a social area of your house. Baskets never work for the hubs either as “he can’t see his stuff” is still an issue!

  20. In our kitchen and office, we have a combination of both closed cabinets and open shelving, and I highly recommend it. There are some things that really need to be behind doors, but open shelving is awesome for decoration and for the things we use most often. My vote is for both.

  21. Closed. I have one shelf in my studio and it gets dusty and cluttered. It does keep a few things off my counter but you have plenty of counter space.

  22. Will you have enough closed cabinets to store your supplies and things you want out of sight? If so, the open shelves would be nice.

    I have all open shelving in my studio and am planning to install closed cabinets in the future. It’s too distracting for me to look at all of my supplies, tools and stuff. It inhibits my creativity. I find myself working outside the room and using the studio as a storage room.

    Good luck!

  23. I would do closed shelves on both sides on the wallpaper wall
    Im not a fan of open shelving to me it’s just a dust collector and your going to be working in there so there’s gonna be dust all over the stuff on the shelves
    If u want open shelves do them in between the windows

  24. I personally like your original plan and the photo with the blue casement shelves the best. I do like the ones in the photo with the green cabinetry but in general the other floating shelves just have an unfinished look. I guess it depends on what you’re planning to put on them and how busy that will look. With the exception of the office with the binders, boxes, etc that are the same color as the paper, the others are sparse so of course you see the paper.

  25. I like the idea of open shelving on your wallpapered wall so you can see the pretty paper. There are many organizational tools you can get to keep them orderly and neat. That said, I do think you will need some closed storage somewhere in that room for project components, ‘future’ projects and other things. Have you thought about a rolling tool chest (or maybe you already have one) for your tools and smaller items? It is a ‘work’ studio after all. I’m sure whatever you decide it will look amazing.

  26. Why not a combination of both! I use bins to hold sewing stuff and small stuff. My office I do the same thing. If I don’t want to look at it, into a bin it goes!

  27. All the comments above are right imho, as for this area the storage is more important than the decoration (I shudder to think of the cleaning involved). But something else: in your inspiration pics the decoration was done with the photo shoot in mind so everything is there only to look nice, not to make much sense; a lot of the decorations seem to be chosen for matching colours! That is something I will never really understand (other than for the purpose of taking magazine pics), but in a workroom this would be even more of a hindrance, I’d think. I love you original idea with the shelves (and would definitely add some doors to them :)) and guess that the middle portion of the wall will show enough of that wallpaper to still have that gorgeous effect…

  28. Here’s my 2 cents! That may well be all it’s worth! I suggest you build the book shelve as you originally intended to. And order more paper, to paper the backs of your selves[before you put them together, of course]. and leave off your Face frames and doors on the top part. If you find you need doors, you could fairly easily finish them out, at a later date. I’m for easy. Could be a win win.

  29. Go for the open shelves. They won’t cost a whole lot (except for the additions wallpaper rolls, of course) and, if you should find they just don’t work for you, you can replace them at a later date. Your wallpaper has always been a very important part of the decor. Seems a shame to cover up so much of it.

  30. Somehow I knew you would want to not cover the wallpaper, but I would stick with the original plans. Actually, I would also have doors on the shelves on the ends, to keep things less dusty. You still have the area between the windows if you want a couple of open shelves for decorative things or everyday use items. I know you will mostly be working with fabrics and “portable” crafting, and not necessarily big woodworking projects, but fabrics release a lot of “fuzz.” And also, the hope of having your paper match after all this time is not good. Even if the dye lot is the same, the existing paper probably has some degree of fading from light. I don’t know what it cost you for the paper, but I doubt you would want to strip off all of it and redo just for those two strips! Stick with the plan.

  31. I think a combination of open shelves and closed doors will satisfy you. Doors below the counter top, a few open shelves, then closed doors on the top. Keep your reference books on the shelves, along with interesting baskets to hold paint chips, swatches, etc. I wouldn’t add any more wallpaper…I think you have the right amount. If you were designing for a client, the first thing you would ask is “how do you plan to use this space?” …(insert your answer here) Sometimes it’s best to follow your initial plan and not overthink it…IMO. Good luck!

  32. I actually really like open shelving for ease of access and because I like the idea of organizing things in nice-looking baskets, totes, jars, cups, etc. In kitchens, I really like the “every day dishes” …the 4 or 6 plates or bowls you use all the time…being right there and easy to grab.

    On the other hand, there’s something to be said for being able to shove messier or not-as-easy-to-organize stuff into a cabinet, closet, or drawer.

    Moral of the story: Some of both! 😉

  33. I’ve been scrolling Pinterest looking at open shelves. What I’ve come to realise is that they are not for me because all those lovely pictures have one thing in common: the shelves are not used for -storing- things.

    Instead, they are decorative. All they have on them is object d’art (and maybe a few books. But even then the books are usually matched to the decor). If you just want pretty shelves, you will need pretty things to put in them, and you will need storage space elsewhere. If you actually need to store things in that location, I’d go with closed doors.

  34. I agree those selves are more for displaying things than storage I suggest you do all your other walls first and then decide what you need more of storage or displaying ideas both seem like they would be helpful in your line of work
    I love the wallpaper and think both would look beautiful!
    Another idea is open shelves do look like less work in the long run and may be a great interim idea until you have time to build all the cabinetry for that area

  35. for me, the more horizontal space I have, the more spaces for me fill with STUFF, so I would opt for closed cabinets. But if I had a place for everything, perhaps not.