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Tips for Kitchen Open Shelving

It was about a decade ago that modern kitchen open shelving began to take its place front and center. I, certainly, took note of it and loved the casual and layered look of open shelving. I have created open shelves in both our current home and our previous home and today I’m going to share some tips for kitchen open shelving.

Almost 8 years ago, we moved into a ranch home that needed some major TLC. Everything was bright yellow, orange, and blue. It had so much potential, but it needed some help peeling back the layers.

The kitchen was the first area that got attention. We ripped out cabinets, painted, and swapped out linoleum for wood flooring. They were changes that made a massive impact.

One of the risky design decisions I made was to pull down cabinets and add open, floating kitchen shelves. I didn’t know how I’d like having open shelves, but I thought it was worth the risk.

So many people are hesitant about open shelving in their kitchens because they are worried about how to decorate them. Everything is out in the open and there aren’t cabinet doors to hide clutter. I’m here to share why having open shelving in the kitchen is one of my favorite design elements.

Is Kitchen Open Shelving going out of style?

Before you even think about installing open shelving in your kitchen, you are probably wondering if it’s going out of style. Most trends come and go in ten year cycles, so one might wonder if this is on its way out.

Open shelving is, actually, not a new concept. It has changed forms and fashions, but it’s been around for decades. In the early 20th century, open shelving took the form of hanging pot racks in a kitchen. By the midcentury, you saw a more modern hanging shelf showing up in some homes.

Even though the style of the shelving might change, the actual design element of kitchen open shelving is going to hang around for a long while.

Reasons you will love Kitchen Open Shelving

There are so many reasons you will love open shelving in your kitchen. I want to share a few of the main ones so you can see why it’s such a good choice for those who want to try it out.

  • Cost Effective– Open shelving is more cost effective than putting up full cabinets. If you are doing a new home build or kitchen remodel, open shelving can help cut costs.
  • Opens the Space up– Do you have a smaller kitchen? If so, open shelving does wonders for small spaces by opening it up and allowing your eye to scan the entire room. Even if you have a large kitchen, open shelving still helps the eye to be able to move and not get stuck on a big bank of cabinets.
  • Adds Texture and Interest– Being able to add dishes and decor to open shelving adds so much texture and interest to a kitchen. Instead of simply having walls full of cabinets, you get to showcase some of your favorite pieces on your shelves.
  • Easy Access– I love being able to access our daily dishes easily and quickly. I keep white dishes on our open shelves and clear glasses and it is so nice to be able to access them quickly. It also makes putting dishes away a bit easier, too.
  • Customizable– I know regular cabinets can be customized, too, but for a price. Open shelving can easily be made for large or small areas.
  • Trendy for a Fraction of the Cost– If you’re wanting to add a trendy element without spending oodles of money, open shelving might be a good choice. Several different open shelving styles have made their way onto the market- farmhouse shelving, urban, pipe shelving, midcentury-modern shelving, and more recently, English Cottage Shelving.

Is it hard to keep open shelving clean in the kitchen?

Many people get worried about having open shelving in a high traffic, high use area and keeping it clean. I was concerned about this, too, but it hasn’t proven to be an issue.

Regardless of whether you have open shelving, or not, you have the same amount of dust. Yes, your dust is now out in the open, but it’s still the same as if you had cabinets.

One way to keep the cleaning of open shelving down is to stick with one or two open shelves. If you have an entire wall filled with shelving, then it’ll be a pain to keep clean. One, or two, shelves isn’t hard to quickly wipe down occasionally.

Tips for keeping kitchen open shelving tidy

  • Keep it minimal– As with everything in our homes, keeping things on surfaces minimal makes cleaning those surfaces fast and painless..
  • Keep it neutral– Having neutral dishes and decor on your shelves will keep things looking tidy, even with them stacked.
  • Keep cleaning simple– At the end of the day, when you’re closing down your kitchen, give your shelf a quick wipe down. I like to run my dishwasher in the evening, which means a lot of my dishes are in the dishwasher and not on my open shelving. When this is the case, I take a rag and quickly wipe the shelf off. Then, when I put the clean dishes back, they are on a clean shelf.

How to decorate Open Shelving in a Kitchen

Once you have your shelving hung in your kitchen, you get to move on to the fun part- decorating! I have a few simple rules when it comes to editing any space in my home. These simple guidelines keep my home cozy, but not cluttered and messy.

  1. Stick to 3 colors– Everything works better visually if you stick with three’s. That goes for colors, too. I like to keep neutral colors in my home and each space repeats the same three colors. For my home, I like whites, wood tones, and blues. Other colors might make an appearance from time to time, but that palette is what I generally stick with. For your open shelves, you will want to find colors that are neutral and repeat those. You may also go monochromatic and use only one color, for example shades of white or cream.
  2. Edit down your collection– Layer your most used and favorite pieces on your shelves, but don’t overcrowd. The best part of open shelving is that the eye has negative space to explore. Don’t overfill your shelves. Add elements little by little until you get the exact look you’re wanting.
  3. Place your most useful items on bottom– By placing your most useful items on the lowest shelf, you keep your kitchen activity quick and easy. Place your decor and special items on higher shelves, or areas of your shelving that is in a more remote area of your kitchen.
  4. Mix up sizes of decorations– Texture and scale is important for open shelving. Mix up the sizes and scale of your decorations to keep things interesting.
vertical shiplap for kitchen backsplash

Quick Style Tips for Open Shelving

If you struggle with styling surfaces in your home, let me give you a couple of great elements to start with. The base layer needs to stay neutral, no matter what color your shelving is. If you have wood or white painted shelving, keep the base layer a neutral white or cream.

Add some height to the back of the shelf by adding in a piece of artwork or tall glass vase/bottle. The glass allows light to travel through it, but it draws the eye up at the same time.

Plants are a great add-in on open shelves. They always look good and the green fits in with any style of kitchen decor.

Metals are another element that you can easily add for texture on your shelving. Copper, brass, and silver give a depth and shine to the decor.

Think high and low. The point of open shelving is to give interest and space to your kitchen. Don’t forget to pay attention to items that help the eye to travel high and low.

Do dishes get dusty on Kitchen Open Shelving?

If you keep your most used dishes on your open shelving, you won’t have to worry about them getting dusty. They will be rotated through, at least, once a day. That means you will be washing them often enough that dust won’t accumulate.

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