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Open Shelving in the Kitchen: Here’s How to Make Them Look Great

If you’re wondering where the open kitchen shelving in the kitchen trend came from, look no further than your favorite watering hole. What would the modern bar be without backlit rows of bottles with colorful labels?

For a bartender, having all those bottles within easy reach is practical and convenient. And seeing all exotic spirits from around the world makes people sitting at the bar curious – it’s like a billboard that inspires FOMO (fear of missing out) and makes them ask “ what’s that?”

Brooklyn Sisters bar by @heydavina
Photo credit: Brooklyn Sister by @heydavina

Open shelving makes sense in your home kitchen too for many of the same reasons: it’s convenient to have plates, salad bowls, and glassware within easy reach without having to open a cupboard. It put visitors at ease to know where the essentials are and invites them to help themselves. Plus you get to show your personality with your favorite kitchenware or an artful vignette. Putting stacks of plates and bowls on display elevates cereal vessels to everyday art.

But how do you add open shelves to your kitchen without having it look like you forgot to put the dishes away? What should you put on those shelves?

I’m so glad you asked. Here are a few ways to win with open shelving.

Float Them Over Tile

We love the popularity of floating shelves over tile. It’s a great way to break up a wall of white subway tile, and having such a pale uniform background makes the shelves really pop. For her home kitchen, our own Sarah Robertson chose shelving in the same finish as her island to tie the look together.

open shelving wall by studio dearborn
Photo credit: Adam Kane Macchia for Studio Dearborn

Match the Kitchen’s Color Scheme

We love pretty much everything about this sweet country-style kitchen by designer Rachel Halvorson. The sophistication comes in the color scheme of white and natural wood with weathered copper accents. The shelves are plenty practical, yet they look composed and neat because the objects are all grouped by color and they’re in the same colors as the kitchen.

Create a Kitchen Gallery

Hanging fine art in the kitchen is one of our favorite trends this year, and it dovetails nicely with open shelving. The design team at deVol Kitchens paired this deep green wall (another 2018 kitchen trend) with a chic marble shelf that’s an extension of the backsplash. The delicate brass rail. It’s the ideal place for displaying flea market finds or the work of your own budding Picasso.

DeVol Kitchens green marble backsplash shelf
Photo credit: deVol Kitchens

Display a Kitchen Vignette

You probably have some pretty things vintage or handmade treasures tucked away inside a cupboard. This tiny single shelf by interior designer Cordelia Fox creates a lovely way to admire your favorite heirlooms and handmade pieces and elevate them into art. This ledge is a perfect place for a vignette of vintage platters, and pitchers with great shapes. Items on open shelves are often stacked, but this is a good reminder to take advantage of the horizontal display. And the blowsy urn arrangement that mimics the painting takes it to another level.

Cordelia Fox blues kitchen shelf
Photo credit: @cordeliafox1

Fill a Corner

It seems like every kitchen has a corner that’s awkward – too deep to ignore but too far from reach to use for cabinets. Lucy Rose of @birdie_farm shows open shelves is a beautiful solution. She used leftover maple beech flooring to make the shelves and hung them up with floating brackets by @walnutwoodworks. Again, she sticks to a black and white color scheme, so the shelves look tidy. And she stores practical items like bowls white plates and glass canisters on the lower shelves while saving the upper ones for displaying beloved rustic pieces.

Photo credit: @birdie_farm

Make it Top Shelf

There’s so much focus on what to put on the shelves, that it’s easy to forget that the shelves themselves can be a work of art. We love the way the dark stain shows the grain on these reclaimed pine shelves by @nycityslab designed by our own Sarah Robertson. The pretty brass brackets and deeply hued wood beg for equally beautiful pieces like this pyramid grater and the hand-lettered salt and pepper vessels.

Studio Dearborn kitchen with @nycityslab shelves
Photo credit: Studio Dearborn

How have you been winning with open shelving in your kitchen? Follow @studiodearborn on Instagram and tell us!