Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration

Open kitchen shelving visually expands a kitchen space and provides handy storage. Clients often ask how to accomplish this look. A popular kitchen trend is to remove existing upper cabinets and install open shelves in their place. The shelves can be in the form of floating shelves or shelves supported by decorative brackets. Another way is to just remove a few of the cabinet doors. Once they’re removed, fill in the holes, touch it up and voila! You have open shelving. With open kitchen shelving the items are always visible, so you want to keep them as organized and attractive as possible. Here are 10 tips to help you make your open kitchen shelving aesthetically pleasing and functional.

Open Kitchen Shelving

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: White floating shelves over tiled backsplash with long, narrow tiles installed horizontally

1 Keep the shelf design simple, so that it doesn’t compete with the items set on it. But make sure the design coordinates with the style of your kitchen.

2 Display only those items that you love and find attractive. Don’t display food boxes unless you store them in attractive containers or baskets. Baskets are great for containing small items. Besides function, they also bring texture to a display.

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: Contemporary stainless shelves with black iron brackets, white subway tile backsplash

3 Group like things together either by color, shape or function. For example, you might want to display your collection of pitchers or all white mixing bowls. For everyday dishes, keep each type of plates or bowls together.

4 Store what you use in a way that is functional and works for you in the kitchen. But to keep it visually pleasing, put the heavier items (e.g. plates and serving bowls) on the bottom shelves and the lighter items (e.g. glasses) on the top.

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: White upper cabinets with the doors removed to create open shelving, robin's-egg blue beadboard backsplash

5 The items you place on the shelves will be seen everyday. Artfully arrange each piece or grouping just as you would decorative items in other rooms. Allow plenty of space between things, so the display doesn’t look crowded or messy.

6 For added impact, highlight your dishes with a contrasting background. For example, with light dishes use a darker background and for dark dishes, use a lighter background.

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: White open shelving on blue beadboard

7 A mirrored background will reflect light and open up the space even more. Accent it with some overhead lighting.

8 Lean a decorative plate against the wall behind a stack of everyday dishes. This way when the stack is being used, the shelf will still have a finished look and not an empty space. Keep it from falling by attaching double-sided tape to the back or using a plate hanger.

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: White shelving with curved brackets on a tile backsplash

9 Open shelves can collect dust. For those items you don’t use on a daily basis, make sure they are kept free of dust. You’ll want to move everything off the shelves at least once a month to give the shelves a good dusting.

10If you have a large collection, you don’t have to display everything at the same time. Keep some things tucked away in the cabinets. Then when you get tired of the look, freshen it up by switching things out for items that you have stored. Even if you don’t have extra items put away, you can change it up by moving things around.

Open Kitchen Shelving Tips and Inspiration: White open shelving with contemporary metal brackets, chartreuse lower cabinets

Open kitchen shelving can make a small kitchen feel larger. Just remember to keep things neat and organized. There are lots of great options for kitchen storage that would look great on open shelving.

Do you have open kitchen shelving in your home?


All images via Better Homes & Gardens

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  1. 1


    All of these pictures are beautiful Peggy! great inspiration! 🙂 my pantry is now on bookshelves and I love keeping it tidy! before our kitchen renovation we were going to go with open shelving but when designing the kitchen with designer we loved the look of the cabinets again!

    • 2

      Peggy Pardo says

      Thank you, Ingrid! It was fun finding pictures for this post; so many fabulous ideas out there! 🙂

    • 4

      Peggy Pardo says

      Hi Adele! I agree wholeheartedly. Open shelves need to be dusted regularly (see #9). This is especially important in the kitchen. Thank you for stopping by and commenting! 🙂

  2. 5

    Anna says

    Do you have any links for the original sources of these pictures? I’m looking for some open shelving and I’d like to email the original authors of some of these posts.


    • 6

      Peggy Pardo says

      Hi Ana, the links are listed at the bottom of the post. They’re all from Better Homes & Gardens. 🙂

  3. 7


    This weekend we got rid of the microwave that is wall mounted and I plan on putting some shelving in that spot eventually. For now I just put a print in that spot and I’m enjoying the openness.

    I like the idea of the towel holder in the first picture but I think I might add pegs for cups instead. 🙂