Are Open Plate Racks Replacing Kitchen Cabinets? Here are the Reasons I Love Mine (and why I'd Choose it Again Every Time)

Kitchen plate storage is looking a little different these days, with many of us choosing to display our dinnerware instead of disguising it behind closed doors

A kitchen with pink cabinetry and black open shelves with open plate rack storage
(Image credit: Herringbone)

Despite a few fleeting trends here and there, kitchen designs have remained virtually unchanged for decades. Yes, the materials and colors might switch up more frequently with the changing tides of time, but the bare bones generally remain the same - classic shaker-style cabinetry, kitchen islands that double as breakfast bars, and subway tile backsplashes, for example. That said, recent years have marked a new era of kitchens, one where upper wall cabinets are a thing of the past. Instead, open shelving wears the crown in most modern designs, and with it comes an alternative option for storing your dinner plates.

Having just renovated my small kitchen, I toyed with the idea of an open plate rack for some time. Favored by many for their European farmhouse style and, more recently, as a staple of the cottagecore aesthetic, this open dish storage idea not only offers a stylish way to display your dinnerware, but a convenient one, too. With closed cabinet units well and truly on their way out, could they be the future of modern kitchen design? Here are three reasons why I think they should be.

1. They're more aesthetically appealing

A rustic kitchen with a range oven, a plate rack, and mugs on undermount hooks

(Image credit: Alamy)

There's been much debate around whether kitchen open shelving in a kitchen is a good idea, and the same arguments of course apply to plate racks for walls. If I'm speaking from a purely aesthetic point of view, I honestly believe these open units win every time. Of course, they look a lot better when used to house your best dinnerware set, and they will require considered curation if you want to avoid a cluttered look, but with a little thought and upkeep they make a really charming addition to your kitchen.

As interior designer Nina Lichtenstein explains: 'Plate racks offer an inviting openness that showcases cherished dishware, adding a personalized touch to the kitchen.' Even if you don't want a 'matchy-matchy' look, or aren't committed to a curated styling idea, these display racks work lend themselves just as well to an eclectic style where they have a certain vintage appeal.

2. They're more convenient

Who doesn't want a more convenient kitchen, conducive to more efficient cooking? I'm one of those manic chefs who likes to improvise in the kitchen, multitasking as I go and grabbing ingredients as I please. Kitchen shelving makes that easy and, when it comes to dishing up the meal, there's nothing easier than effortlessly reaching for a plate from a rack above your head.

'With this kitchen storage idea, plates and serving pieces are readily available, making mealtime effortless and encouraging regular use of beautiful tableware,' notes Nina. 'No more rummaging through stacks of plates — each piece is neatly on display and within easy reach.' The spindles of these racks make it really easy to slot your dinner plates back once you've finished clearing up, too, and saves you from contending with toppling towers inside your cabinets.

3. They're an efficient use of space

A country kitchen with a traditional plate rack painted in Devol's Refectory Red

(Image credit: Devol)

If you have a small kitchen, you should prioritize maximum utility when it comes to storage. You might see these plate racks and clunky and cumbersome, but they're actually a super efficient way to make use of vertical space and typically less deep than regular wall cabinets.

As Nina explains: 'Plate racks utilize vertical wall space efficiently, freeing up cabinet space for other kitchen essentials.' Take your dinner plates out of your lower cabinets and you'll immediately gain amble room for more food storage or less aesthetic kitchenware such as pots and pans.

What are the disadvantages of plate racks?

Of course, open plate rack units do have their downsides. For a start, they're exposed, meaning your plates can quickly become greasy and grimy if your kitchen isn't ventilated properly. 'Plate racks can also attract dust more easily than closed cabinets, requiring frequent cleaning,' says Nina. 'And of course, open racks offer less protection against accidental damage compared to closed cabinets, posing a risk in busy households.' If you are going to commit to this trendy way to store dishes in a kitchen, be prepared for a little more commitment and be sure to take extra care.

Why are plate racks in style?

A deep red traditional kitchen with vintage plate rack and pink kitchen skirt

(Image credit: deVOL)

With their vintage, old-timey aesthetic, you might be wondering whether plate racks are actually in style at all. But, as we know, what goes around comes back around.

'In our era of open-concept living and the rise of farmhouse and rustic aesthetics, plate racks offer a charming blend of practicality and style,' notes Nina. 'They evoke a sense of nostalgia, reflecting a desire to bring back elements of simpler times into modern living spaces. Moreover, plate racks encourage creativity in kitchen decor, enabling homeowners to turn functional storage into a visually captivating focal point.'

In recent years, there's also been a definitive move toward the kitchen as a convivial living space, rather than just a clinical, culinary one. Just like the rest of the home, these spaces should be an extension of our personalities, and with the opportunity for curative styling, this storage idea offers just that. 'This trend represents a shift towards kitchens that are not just functional, but also personal and expressive — a celebration of both culinary heritage and contemporary design sensibilities,' says Nina. 'As homeowners seek authenticity and warmth in their living spaces, plate racks are appearing as a quintessential element, bringing the heart of the kitchen to life.

The jury's still out on whether or not open plate racks will replace regular kitchen wall cabinets, but in my own home, they certainly have.

Don't forget the finishing touches

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.