For centuries, folks who had gorgeous china and silver flaunted them in huge open-shelved cupboards or glass-windowed breakfronts. Even the bourgeoisie in France displayed their countryware on fruitwood shelves, and in this country, right through the 19th century, many homes had "plate rails" for displaying their finest.
In most homes where I've designed storage walls in family rooms or dining rooms, open shelves have been an integral part of the plan, and the shelves were designed to store dishes used daily in that room.
In one home, for instance, where only one wall was large enough to house a storage unit, I designed a small but practical built-in lacquered white. It holds everything from table silver to dishes in closed-storage cupboards on either side of the piece. In the center, above and below the serving counter are open-class shelves to show off the owners' collection of cup and saucer sets, used daily for coffee and tea at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In another home I designed an open bar at the end of a short hall separating the kitchen from the dining room, but near enough to the living room to be practical. Closed storage below the black-glass counter conceals bottles of liquor. Above this are many shallow glass shelves with polished edged to hold glasses of all sizes. The three walls surrounding the shelves are morrored and a recessed light over the bar combines with mirror and shelving to make the glasses shine like the jewels in the Topkapi Palace.
In a family room the owners had a smashing collection of blue-and-white English china in many different patterns, shapes and sizes. They liked it so much that they wanted to use it every day. To show it off and make it even more convenient than it would have been in the adjoining kitchen, I designed a three-section storage wall. Roomy cabinets below hold place mats, table cloths, baskets and other bulky items. The center section has a set of drawers to hold table and serving silver and odds and ends. The counter is a handy place to set up casual buffet dinners. Built-in electrical connections above counter level made it possible to plug in a variety of plate-warmers as well as a generous-sized television set for family viewing.
Above the counter is a set of adjustable shelves to hold the blue-and-white china. Dinner plates, salad plates, cups and saucers, gravy boats, pitchers, cream and sugar, and large serving platters all have their own spaces, as well as covered casseroles and glasses. using the blue and white as a springboard for the color scheme, I used natural pale white ash for the cupboard doors and shelving, painting the back wall navy blue, a color I continued on the wall around the windows. There is a pedestal table, seating four to eight, with a plastic laminated table top of this same navy blue. Its four large wicker chairs are sprayed in glossy white. Hanging baskets o fplants and a couple of big tree-plants in blue-and-white Japanese cache-pots look crisp and cheerful against the white ceramic tile floor.
The final effect was that of a contemporary room where the daily dishes are the crux of the color scheme as well as a dashing display.