Lately, I’ve been on the lookout for projects around the house that don’t require tons of heavy lifting or bulky tools. Think: small scale updates that can be knocked out in an hour or two. I love that these types of projects make our spaces feel refreshed, but they don’t cause much stress or disruption to our everyday lives.

One such quick décor update that we made recently was in our kitchen. I think I was leaning back against the counter waiting for water to boil when I happened to look up at the cabinet over the refrigerator. That particular storage spot has always acted more like “no man’s land” than functional kitchen organization, mostly because it’s a little awkward to reach.

Ever since we moved in, the cabinet has played host to things like our to-go casserole holder, a reusable lunch box I use when I go to a winery and pack snacks, fabric shopping bags, a nice grill tray that we can’t use anymore because we sold our grill, and a few other odds and ends that are only used occasionally, at best. You can see the state of things in the photos above and below.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the lightbulb went off in my head while I was standing there pondering the cabinet, and I realized that we could make much better use of the space by removing the doors and turning it into a cool display for cookbooks and things. We can access it easily enough using our everyday kitchen stool, and I also thought that maybe opening the cabinet up would make our small-ish kitchen feel a little bigger. Extra depth equals more visual space, you know?

The first step, of course, (and practically the only step) was removing the cabinet doors. We did so just by unscrewing the hinges that held the doors to the cabinets, and then we carefully placed the doors (hinges, handles, magnetic door catches, and all!) in storage. I’m sure I’ll get a wild hair one day to close the cabinet back up, so we definitely didn’t consider trashing the doors. They’re safely tucked away on a shelf in the basement for whenever we feel like undoing this little project.

The only other thing we had to do, which you might be able to skip, was remove the old cabinet shelf liner. Our home was built in the 1960s, and the original paper was still going pretty strong on the shelves. How charming! Only problem is that I thought the shelf liner made the now-exposed shelves look like just an oddly placed exposed cabinet interior. That, of course, is what it actually is, but I wanted to do my best to hide that fact by removing the shelf paper to expose the nice stained wood shelves themselves.

I thought we were going to have a huge job on our hands scraping off the liner, but it actually got done in about 15 minutes thanks to an old razor blade we had and some wallpaper remover liquid spray that we also already had in the basement near our painting supplies. We started by peeling back as much of the paper as we could (it mostly came off in a big single sheet!), and then we sprayed the leftover backer paper and adhesive with our wallpaper remover solution. We let that sit for a minute or so, and then we were able to easily scrape away the last of the paper and paste residue using our razor blade.

After the paper was all gone, we were able to step back and appreciate the nice clean wood finish of the cabinet—or, should I now say, open shelves! We nicked only one tiny spot in the wood with our blade that had to be touched up, but I had some stain handy, and we were able to dab that on to hide it. You miiiiiiiiight be able to spot the tiny dot of missing wood finish in the middle of the center shelf in that photo below. Keep scrolling for close-ups of the fix. Now that the stain is touched up, you’d never know we accidentally cut into the wood.

And then it was time to style. Since the open shelves are a little out of reach on an hourly type of basis without the assistance of a stool, I didn’t want to load it up with things we need constantly. Instead, I chose to arrange our cookbooks up there, along with some decorative glassware, handmade ceramic mixing bowls we got for our wedding and use when entertaining, plus a few other occasionally used odds and ends. I never consider a surface “officially” styled without a plant, but I opted for a faux one in this instance since a live one wouldn’t be as easy to water.

So, there you have it! Our brand new DIY open kitchen shelves. It was a really, really easy, no cost project that has added so much style to our kitchen. I actually love it so much more than I anticipated! I couldn’t recommend this little weekend project more if you’re looking to mix things up in your kitchen. How would you style your open kitchen shelves?

*I earn a small percentage from purchases made using the affiliate links above. Affiliate links are not sponsored. Rest assured that I never recommend products we wouldn’t use or don’t already love ourselves.

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