How to Style Open Shelving in the Kitchen

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    Open Shelving in Your Kitchen

    open kitchen shelving
    Open Kitchen Shelving. Helena Schaeder Söderberg / Moment / Getty

    Removing kitchen cabinets in favor of open shelving is definitely a hot trend in kitchen design and there are several reasons to love it.  Some pros are:

    • Open shelving allows for easy access to everyday items, making food prep and emptying the dishwasher easier.
    • Removing bulky cabinets can make a kitchen feel bigger and brighter.
    • Shelves provide ample space to display a favorite collection, such as colorful pottery or vintage Pyrex.

    On the other hand, open shelving isn’t for everyone.  Some cons…MORE to the idea may be that rarely-used items can get dusty or grimy from cooking and that open shelves do require neatness and some styling.  In other words, they’re definitely not ideal for showcasing things like your kids’ sippy cups or dozens of mismatched, stained coffee mugs.  

    Luckily, there are a few tricks that maximize the practicality of open shelving as well as their beauty, ensuring that you can have the look you love without sacrificing function or your sanity.  

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    Maximize Space with a Shelf Riser

    Traditional Open Shelving. Juan Silva / E+ / Getty

    If the space between shelves will allow for it, add a shelf riser or two to double your storage space.  A riser not only adds surface area, it allows you to grab what you want without having to move other stacks of dishware out of the way first.

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    Add a Plate Rack

    Open Shelves with Plate Rack. Robert Daly / Caiaimage / Getty

    Adding a plate rack can also eliminate the hassle of too many stacked dishes, and it helps keep everything tidy, too.  Plate racks are also good for hard-to-store serving platters and even for displaying cookbooks.

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    Add Hooks

    Kitchen Shelves with Hanging Mugs. Katrin Scharl / Moment Open / Getty

    When trying to make the most of open shelving in a kitchen, don’t forget the under-utilized space on the bottom of a shelf.  Add a row of hooks to hang your coffee mugs or opt for an under-shelf basket to store linens or coffee station supplies.

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    Make Them Monochromatic

    Monochromatic Open Shelving. amanaimagesRF / Getty Images

    As far as how to make your open kitchen shelving more visually appealing, sticking to a monochromatic color scheme is a safe bet.  You can’t go wrong with a set of white dishes mixed with clear glassware.  To keep the look from feeling sterile, add textures and warm colors naturally found in wooden utensils, cutting boards, and woven baskets. 

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    How to Add Interest to Open Shelving

    open shelving with texture
    Open Kitchen Shelves with Texture. Home Made Modern

    Again, adding texture–such as this woven basket–helps add interest to an all-white or mostly neutral collection of dishware on open kitchen shelving.  You could also add a set of mugs or tinted glassware in a hue that coordinates with your kitchen as a safe way to incorporate pops of color that won’t overwhelm.

    Make kitchen shelves more dynamic by varying the height of your objects.  One way to do this is by propping up something such as a piece of kitchen art, a serving tray, or a platter. Or…MORE use things like a kitchen scale, a stack of cookbooks, a cake stand, or a footed compote to elevate other objects.

    Creating layers of items creates depth and interest, too.  For instance, a pretty but rarely-used serving tray creates a backdrop when propped behind a stack of everyday white cereal bowls.

    Finally, consider adding a whimsical touch here or there–like this owl vase–just to break up the monotony.

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    Pick a Theme

    vintage open shelving
    Colorful Vintage Open Shelving. Helena Schaeder Söderberg / Moment / Getty

    Are you more adventurous?  If you don’t want to play it safe with a monochromatic scheme or one with just small pops of color, then pick a theme or style for your open kitchen shelving and run with it!  The look of this cheery collection of polka dotted and floral dishware, for instance, remains cohesive despite its mix of patterns and colors because the theme is consistent.

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    Keep It Neat

    Eclectic Kitchen Corner. Jennifer Tabb / Moment / Getty

    In the end, just keeping your open kitchen shelving neat will go a long way.  If you don’t have all-white dishes–or even plates that match for that matter–you don’t have to run out and buy any.  Start by simply grouping like items together, putting things in tidy stacks, and trying not to overthink it.  This set of open shelves is a great example of an eclectic bunch of objects that look great together simply because they are neatly organized.