Open Up & The Chicago Tribune

A couple of months ago, during our renovation whirlwind, I was contacted by a writer, Elaine Markoutsas, who wanted to interview me about the choice to do open shelving in my kitchen and living with it.  We had a good chat about open shelves in the kitchen and about why I love it...  Things have been so busy that it totally slipped my mind & I was so surprised to see an email from my friend Debra this morning congratulating me on being mentioned in an article in the Chicago Tribune yesterday!

{The photo used in the Chicago Tribune of the kitchen in our last house... That's Christian, who's now 5!!}

I'm originally from the suburbs of Chicago (I moved to Virginia with my mom when I was four) and I have lots of family and friends there (most importantly, my Dad!! :) so it's really cool to have an article mentioning me in Chicago.

Open shelving in the kitchen is a concept I feel strongly about (not a joke, though it should be ;) and I feel like it really changed my view and outlook on other rooms in a home too.  The notion of functional beauty is one that I've now taken all over my home (and clients' homes) and just seems so natural to me.  There are things I'm okay hiding and things I like displaying, and I sort of draw the line here: 
1)When things functionally make sense in a room and 
2) When things have some aspect of beauty to them or can be displayed in a way that makes them beautiful

...that they may as well be exposed for me and others to see.   

In our new (old) house, I've opened things up pretty much everywhere I can.  In a small hallway leading from the garage to the house, we're in the process of creating a mini-mudroom out of a 4 foot wide coat closet.  We've removed the doors and taken down the closet rod.  We're adding hooks for coats and bags, a shelf up top for baskets, and a storage bench.  We now see our "junk" every time we walk in the house, but it's displayed in a way that looks as good as it can and it makes life more functional...  Now, my 3 year-old can hang his coat up by himself instead of needing us to hang it for him.  I COVET a mudroom like this:

{I looove these cubbies...  we don't have enough space for any in our house.  Image from here.}

Ours will look more like this:

{Except without the pretty sunshine streaming in ;) ;)  Image from here. }

The same goes for our loft family room...  We're in the process of lining the entire room with shelving for books, toys and randoms stuff.  I'll leave the books exposed and then do baskets for the not-so-pretty stuff like toys and games.  Here's the loft before we moved in:

Right now, the loft is a MESS...  It's half-pinkish-beige from when we moved in and partly primed and exposed studs from where we tore out the paneling and desk you see in the pic.  I have BIG plans for this room and will be sharing soon. BUT the biggest feature in the room will be its open shelving.  I'm so excited to be able to be surrounded by our books (We've been living with them in the garage this whole time and I can't even tell you how many times a week I want to grab a book to reference it or read it to the boys or whatever and I just can't.  I am so excited to be able to have any book we need at our fingertips.)  Most of my books aren't very pretty so I'll be working on some creative ways of displaying them to make them look better.  (wish me luck ;)  I love a mix of vertical and horizontal stacks like in this picture:

{image from here}

In our dining room, I follow the same line of thinking and have more open shelving for serving ware and our nature finds.  I love the simple utilitarian stacks of dishes in this dining room below:

{image from here}

In my office, I display my fabrics, magazines and client binders on large open shelving.  Don't get me wrong, I love cabinetry and hidden storage too- but- I reserve the cabinets and drawers in our house for the ugly stuff, trying to minimize it as much as possible,  and use open shelving for the useful pretties.

The concept of opening up and surrounding myself & my family in the things we use on a daily basis is one that fits the way we live.  We're very casual people, and in this new house, my main goal- besides making it something I love to look at & be in- is making is incredibly functional and easy to live in.  Opening up our storage and seeing the stuff we have is so freeing.  It forces us to ditch the stuff we don't love or use all the time and keeps us disciplined.  (And now I just need an empty room in my house to hide all the other stuff ;)

Anyway, I know it's not for everyone...  what are your thoughts on opening up and exposing your stuff?

To read more about my thoughts and readers' comments & experiences on open shelving, go HERE.

To read the Chicago Tribune article, Full Exposure, by Elaine Markoutsas, go HERE.

If you'd like help creating a home you absolutely love, contact me about our design services.


Sharon de Jager said...

Hi I'm a new follower and love your blog! I personally love open shelving and my home in South Africa had open shelving very similar to your first picture which I loved, however living in the UK with homes being much smaller we have less space to play with, and even less storage so it's tucked away, although I agree with your principle of display the beautiful and hide the ugly! Great post! Sharon

Kristen said...

I love the idea of open shelving as well. What is the point of having so many pretty things if they are never seen?!

LiBi said...

I prefer everything out in the open because it helps with organization. If I'm able to close something away in a cabinet and forget about it I will....of course until nothing else will fit.


How exciting Lauren!! Congrats :) Love open shelving
Happy Monday :)


redbrickbuilding said...

I'm a fan of open shelving in certain specific instances. I think it's particularly great in the kitchen, because you're using the things all the time. I am less a fan of it where the items being stored/displayed get little use: like some of those dining room sideboard-type shelves you show. For me, those spaces get dusty too quickly and I don't want to keep taking everything off the shelves, cleaning and putting them all back. My compromise when I want easy access but don't want to look at what's being stored (for example, in an entryway, where I think coats and shoes look messy and busy rather than gracious and elegant) is a long curtain, from ceiling to floor, that can be swept aside and reached behind. We have a symmetrical pair of these in our absolutely microscopic foyer and it keeps things a bit more elegant but is also functions just fine.

Sue O'Connell Architectural Color Consulting said...

I love the concept of open sheliving and love the fact that you will line the loft with shelves for your books. Books are something that really personalize a space and I can relate to wanting to grab your favorites to refer to when you want. I fear sometimes that in this digital world we live in that bookshelves will become obsolete and we won't keep spaces to shelve some of our favorite stories, and in turn,our favorite memories. Can't wait to see your loft when it is finished!

Jill Seidner | Interior Design said...

Love the open kitchen shelving concept...and the mud room pics too! Congrats on the feature!

Liz said...

I LOVE THIS! having pretty things that dual-purpose as utilitarian is such a treat, it's a shame to hide it away. Thanks for the inspiration!

Amy @ Five Kinds of Happy said...

Mm organization is so good. Looking at your house and reno plans is so exciting! I agree that it forces you to be disciplined and not hoard things - we have hardly any storage space and being forced to be ruthless is amazing!

Jennifer said...

I love the idea of open shelving also, why hide all our pretty things?

On a side note, it's been so interesting to me to read about your new house. My husband and I have a son just a little older than your youngest, (he just turned 1), and we bought our first home at almost the exact same time y'all bought your new home. We're in the process of redoing it too, (though not to the extent and awesomeness that y'all are!), and I seriously miss our books more than anything!! We finally decided on a paint color for our built-ins and I priced the materials this morning. I cannot wait to get our books out of the garage, I miss them so much!!!

Catriona Lewis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kristy @ I Design Love said...

How exciting!! Your career is really taking off :) You have such a unique and distinct design style. I love everything you do!

katiedid said...

Thumbs up to open shelves. Love them! Can't wait to see your house all finished.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

I love open shelving! Sadly I do not have too much of it my own home. I have always loved what you did in your old kitchen!

As for the mud room, it is the best things in my house! I do have open shelves and baskets and it is wonderful to throw stuff in there if I am in a rush and shut the door.

I hope you have a fabulous week. Congratulations on the Chicago feature. I too have a lot of family in Chicago and Wisconsin and it is always nice to visit there.


Barbara Hochstein said...

Open Shelving - love the look but I have to say I'm not up for the maintenance - requires way too much effort in the dusting department. And if I only dispayed the items I used on a weekly basis, it would be a pretty bare shelf. I think at least, I cook every night for the famly but still think it would be baren. I love to be able to hide things behind cabinet doors - now my books is another story love them all around. And I believe you have sparked a desire in me to line our basement in open shelving!

Amy Vermillion Interiors said...

This is so great Lauren! And even greater that it's my beloved Chicago Trib :)

alison g. said...

I think my favorite aspect of "opening up" your home is that it does in fact force you to pare down a bit. Buy and keep what you really love, and will USE!
Congratulations on the article!!!

Little Cottage on the Pond said...

We have open shelving in our cottage kitchen and love it. We did it in the last kitchen as well. I open up shelves wherever I can- including the bathrooms :)

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Diane Haynie said...

Not a big fan of open shelving (jusst not my style but your kitchens always look great) but do enjoy open cabinetry i.e. glass doors. I recently remodeled my kitchen (see pics on my blog) and chose to have all three sides of my cabinets glass and place everyday items in the cupboards and received lots of raised eyebrows. But I agree with you that functional items should be visible.

Lynford Rozario said...

Great idea of opening shelve...
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jb4012 said...

I have been looking to buy some rugs lately.. anyone know any sites?
I've heard about Any experiences there? :)

Also very lovely room.

Loretta Fontaine (APPLESandRUBIES) said...

Lauren - I really enjoyed the article! You put things in words so well!

This is the FIRST time I am forwarding an article to my husband Andre for him to read.


DCarroll said...

The kitchen photo is great! Would you be willing to share the green paint color you used on the cabinets? I love it!

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