Beautifully styled open shelving is a great way to add an interesting design element to almost any space, particularly in the kitchen. In my years going into people’s homes as a professional organizer I have come to realize that, as humans, we tend to fill the space we have. That habit unfortunately doesn't lend itself to achieving the goal of clean, beautiful and functional shelving. If you have a tendency towards cluttered counters and cabinets, then moving into a home with a bigger kitchen won’t necessarily change that fact. A bigger space doesn't solve the problem. It is our nature, our instinct, to fill our space. I’ve put together a few tips to help you fight that impulse and make those open shelves work for you.

How to style kitchen shelving

Let it Breathe

One of the worst things you can do when attempting to achieve that perfect #shelfie is stuff as much as possible onto your shelves. Yes, of course the shelves are there for storage, but not for all of your storage. Leave some space in between your items, try not to crowd things too close together and don’t be afraid to show some wall. When your belongings have space to breathe, they will be easier to both access and to appreciate.


Be Intentional

Throwing your items haphazardly onto a shelf just isn't going to cut it when it comes to open shelving. Neatly grouping together a few elements with varying shapes and sizes adds interest and style. For example, a rustic wood cutting board leaning against the wall with a colourfully filled glass jar and a cute plant shows that there was thought put into it and looks much nicer than had you shoved your old plastic cutting board on the shelf and topped it with a bag of rice and a cereal box.

Styling kitchen shelves

Show Off Everyday Items

One of the biggest concerns for a lot of people when it comes to open shelving is that the items can get dusty and dirty. A great way to prevent that can be to store the stuff you use everyday on the shelves. This is the time to show off those beautiful dishes that grandma gave you, or the eclectic set of bowls that you picked up at that yard sale. Storing the things you use daily means that you are constantly taking it down and washing them and they don’t have the chance to get dirty. Of course you’ll want to add some items on the shelf that are just for display, but feel free to let most of what's on the shelves be for function first and style second.



Keep Colour In Mind

Everyone’s colour palette preference is going to vary slightly, but putting thought into the amount and variation of those colours is going to be key when it comes to items on display.  Maybe you’re more into whites and neutrals, or perhaps you prefer a more varied colour scheme. Either way, it’s important to keep those choices in mind when choosing what items you’ll have out on display.

Open shelving in the kitchen

Contrast Shapes and Sizes

As a home organizer one of my rules is to keep like with like. In your closet this would mean having all of your white t-shirts together, in the kitchen this rule would translate to grouping all your pasta into one bin. However, this is a great place to break that rule in order to add visual interest and contrast. Most stylists will tell you to stick to the rule of threes, as our eyes tend to be drawn to odd numbers, so don’t be afraid to bring in the unexpected to achieve this; add a live element with a plant, a sleek enamel pitcher, a rustic wood sign. Play around with varying heights, shapes, textures and sizes. 


Contain It

Sometimes we can all use a little help setting limits, and having some sort of containment on your shelves can definitely help with that. Especially if you are storing food items such as oils or sauces. A cute wire basket, a stylish turntable or a small tray can do double duty. It both sets a limit to how much you can place there and can help keep your shelves clean by containing oily drips and spills.

Cooking a delicious meal is not im-pot-ssible when you use the right cookware.

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Allison Weigensberg

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