Controversial Kitchen Design Decisions That People Love to Argue About

July 31, 2017
by: Nancy Mitchell
May 30, 2017

Mentioning the word controversy in connection with home decor may seem a little silly, but if you read the comments on pretty much any Apartment Therapy post, you will learn that decorating decisions can be very contentious indeed. People have strong opinions, and nowhere is that more true than in the kitchen. We’ve rounded up four elements of kitchen design that people tend to have especially strong opinions about, and debated the merits of each. Where do you fall?

Open shelving

One of the biggest trends for the modern kitchen is also one of the most controversial. Open shelving looks great, sure, if you only own carefully curated dishes in exactly the same shade of white. (Case in point: this kitchen from Desire to Inspire, whose dishes look so lovely in the exact spots they’re placed that I would be afraid to ever more them.) For more plebian kitchenwares, things get a bit messier. Fans of open shelving love the airy look it gives to a kitchen, and the ease of accessing things stored on the shelves. Naysayers, presumably, would rather hide away their unsightly kitchenware, but the concern I hear most from the anti open shelving crowd is that dishes sitting out in the open would gather dust and grease.

No upper cabinets at all

An even more dramatic change than trading your upper cabinets for open shelving is not having any upper cabinets at all. People have very strong feelings about this — I once overheard an architect saying that he consented to add upper cabinets to the kitchen of the home he designed for his parents only after his mother cried. On the pro side, leaving out the upper cabinets can really transform the look of a kitchen. It opens up the space dramatically and allows for uninterrupted stretches of windows you could only dream of in a more traditional kitchen (like in the kitchen above, from Interior Magasinet via Planete Deco). The drawbacks are pretty obvious, which is that everything in your kitchen has to be stored below counter height, and you’re going to be squatting. A lot.

(Image credit: The Everygirl)

Open kitchen vs. closed kitchen

This is a controversy that I didn’t even realize was a controversy until I started reading the comments on our Sweeten posts. In these projects, many of which are remodels of apartments that are 60 – 80 years old, lots of homeowners choose to tear down the walls surrounding their kitchen and unite the space with the living room. I love to entertain, so I’ve always taken it as a given that it was a good thing to be able to interact with your guests while you cook or make drinks. Something like this kitchen from the Everygirl, open to the living room and with a big island for friends to gather, would be my dream. But many of you disagree, preferring for the kitchen (and its associated messes) to remain hidden from sight.

Marble countertops

It’s easy to see why marble countertops are popular: they’re timeless and cool to the touch and just so, so pretty. (Case in point: the classic kitchen above from H2 Design + Build.) But marble countertops also have a lot of haters, mostly because they’re so high maintenance. Forget about having a party and leaving the cleanup to the next morning. Forget about drinking red wine or squeezing citrus without worrying about staining or etching your countertop. But then, that white marble is just so beautiful. And some folks of a more relaxed disposition think that the wear that marble inevitably accrues only add to its charm.


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