Styling Open Shelving in the Kitchen

The following is a guest post from regular contributor, Shannon at AKA Design.

One thing I’ve always wanted in my kitchen is open shelving. Okay maybe not always, but certainly for the last few years.

We are not fancy people; we have one set of everyday dishes. Granted, it’s a really large mismatched set of all-white everyday dishes.

But then again we often have a large number of people over for meals.

We also have many white mugs, plain wine glasses and good old drinking glasses. Again because we love to host friends and family.

There was nowhere to put open shelving in our last kitchen, unless we wanted to rip out some of the cabinets we installed just a few years ago. For some reason I couldn’t convince Hubby that this was a good idea!

However, this new house’s kitchen is another story! A blank slate, if you will.

But open shelving can become an eyesore, a virtual clutter beast. How do you organize and style open shelving then so that it remains a design beauty?

aka design kitchen restaurant style shelves

Here are 8 tips for beautifully styled kitchen shelves.

  1. Don’t use too many colors. White dishware and clear glass keep the look very simple. Neutrals like wood and metal are good too. Add pops of color if you like, but be sure to keep it visually balanced. A little here, a little over there. Some up here, some down there. Just sprinkle it around.
  2. Group like with like. Dinner plates in one stack, salad bowls in another, glassware in yet another grouping. If your shelves are for multi-purpose storage like mine, keep the dishes separate from the dry foods, for example.
  3. Keep frequently used items within easy reach. The cake stand that rarely gets used can go on the top shelf along with the gravy boat and the bowl Aunt Martha gave you for your wedding anniversary. But the everyday plates and glasses should be easily accessible. Makes sense, yes?
  4. Avoid installing open shelving too close to your cook top to prevent splatters. You don’t want to have to deep clean your shelves every other day because of stray stir fry oil.
  5. Add lighting to really bring some sparkle to your display. You could always go all out and have lighting installed, but there is a plethora of gorgeous clip-on, plug-in shelf lighting available if you don’t want to splurge on an electrician.
  6. Hide the ugly stuff. There’s no nice way to say it; no one needs to see your mismatched, chipped coffee mug collection or even your 20 year old bread maker. Put those away behind closed (cupboard) doors. Save the pretty stuff for the open shelves.
  7. Play with it. It’s not likely that even a design professional would get it “right” the first time. Style your shelves and then live with them for a couple of days. And then move a few things around.
  8. Add dusting the shelves to your weekly chore list. Unfortunately there’s no way around it. Dust will accumulate. Keep it at bay with a gentle dusting regularly. Swiffers are great for this job.

We’ll be employing these tips on our industrial restaurant style shelves and our soon-to-be-installed open wall shelving as well.

Do you have open shelving? How do you style it? Any other tips out there?

shannon acheson Shannon Acheson is a passionate interior decorator, frugal DIYer, sometime graphic designer, wannabe writer, homeschooling momma and adoring wife. She is the co-owner (with hubster) of AKA Design and the main writer/designer for the blog of the same name. Shannon recently moved from a war-era bungalow to a cozy backsplit in Oshawa, Ontario with her husband and their three children, and during spare moments can be found scouring local shops for decor bargains, rearranging the furniture again, or scrubbing paint off her hands.

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Kitchen


25 Responses to Styling Open Shelving in the Kitchen

  1. 3
    Making Our Life Matter says

    That is awesome advice! I need more storage in my kitchen, especially for pots and pans. I could use something similar to this, and then use the empty cabinet for pots and pans. Thanks!

    • 3.1
      Shannon aka design says

      That was exactly our problem at the house we just moved into…lots of upper cabinets but no lowers. I rearranged, added the shelves and voila! More storage!

  2. 4
    Susan says

    I don’t understand why anyone would want open shelving on purpose. It looks messy and everyone will see all of your boxes of food and dishes etc. It looks very organized in the photographs but give it a month and there will be extra boxes spilling out of the baskets.

    • 4.1
      Shannon aka design says

      I fully agree it’s not for everyone. I’m just one of ‘those’ people who loves to organize, so it’ll stay tidy!
      (The baskets are likely going to have liners soon – we just moved and I haven’t had time to get to them yet!).

  3. 5
    Crystal says

    I’m not a fan of open shelving….I had it for about a year then we redid our kitchen. Now everything is tucked away in cabinet. One of the reasons I didn’t like open shelving is because we have two big indoor dogs that shed black fur daily. I got tired of having to always wipe out/dust. I have seen open shelving that looks good though…just not practical for our family.

    • 5.1
      Shannon aka design says

      Yes, the fur would get annoying! Open shelving is totally not for everyone!

  4. 6
    Portable Storage MD says

    Your open shelves turned out really well. I think adding some color of even some mirrors to the shelves could be a great idea to spice things up.

    • 6.1
      Shannon aka design says

      Thanks for the ideas! I’m a bit of a neutral girl…but color splashed about is fun!

  5. 7
    Sabrina says

    I love the wire baskets on the shelves. Great tips. Thanks for sharing.

  6. 8
    April says

    O-M-G moment here people! I just looked at your en-suite bathroom pic and am loving the wire basket on the right hand side door! I am so totally going to do that! My bathroom cabinets are in the worst way right now! Thanks.

  7. 9
    Katie B. of says

    Oh, I love the look of these shelves! Wish I could put some in my kitchen, but every wall that doesn’t have cupboards has windows. 🙁

  8. 10
    MyKidsEatSquid says

    Love the shelving unit. Did you make that yourself or did you find it somewhere? I like the industrial look and the open shelving.

  9. 11
    Jennifer says

    I absolutely love the shelving! We are opening a small market in Providence, RI with all local foods and this is exactly the look we are going for! Did you make the shelving units yourself or are they ordered from somewhere? We’ve been searching everywhere! Thanks 🙂

      • Jennifer says

        Thanks so much for sharing! Can’t wait to try these out! Much better price option! Thanks again!

  10. 12
    Ashley says

    I love those shelves- I”ve been looking around everywhere for the perfect ones but still havent found one I like- where did you get these?

  11. 13
    Virginia Acheson says

    I was just gifted two shelves from my sister in law and using these ideas for updating them. Excited to add to my dinning area!


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