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Open shelves are so very cool, but what to put on them? A designer offers two solutions …

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The Modern Traditionalist - Old and new pieces—chosen with an eye for both form and function—co-exist happily in an arrangement that’s bright, fresh, and informal.


Interior designer Arden Nelson says that when clients request open shelving in their new kitchens, she first focuses on function. “Do they entertain a lot? Cook mostly for themselves? Is this a family with small children? Is wine important? Do they drink coffee twice a day?” she asks. “Every situation is unique.”

Once she has established a sense of the clients’ needs, she helps them decide what can be displayed on the shelves and what might be better stored in drawers, cabinets, and pantries. While an open-shelving project sometimes involves a few new acquisitions—the perfect glass canister for coffee beans, say, or a set of shiny new white cups—mostly it’s an editing job. You need to pare down, assess, rearrange, then pare down some more.
“Much of the time, open shelving becomes a messy area, to tell you the truth,” says Pari Darvish, a designer at Poggenpohl, who believes the trend is not for everyone. “You have to be disciplined.”

We asked Nelson to show us how she’d arrange kitchenware and food items (below, unedited) in a sleek Poggenpohl Plusmodo kitchen with two long aluminum and glass shelves along the sink wall and slide-out open shelves below the laminate countertop. She created two looks—one (right) austere, one (next page) even more so.


Photography by Nathan Kirkman


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