Open Kitchen Shelving Do's and Don'ts |
Open Kitchen Shelving Do’s and Don’ts

Open Kitchen Shelving Do’s and Don’ts

How to style those open shelves

Written by – Team
on February 19th 2018
Our team create original content, from home tours to DIYs each piece is created especially for readers.

Are you thinking about whether open shelving is the right choice for you? Kitchen cupboards allow us to stack things away for a calm and uncluttered look, but there is definitely an upside to open shelving.


Firstly, well designed open shelving means having the things you need at hand. A busy chef knows what they use regularly, so having these things on a shelf means you can see what you want and get it without embarking on a hunt through the cupboards.


Secondly, your beautiful homeware can be admired at more than just mealtimes. Those delicately crafted bowls you picked up on your trip to Japan deserve the admiration. By putting them on display, you are able to enjoy the beauty in the craft and design of your carefully selected items. So with this in mind, here are the do’s and don’ts of kitchen open shelving.

Do Group Similar Items Together

Sticking with a cohesive color palette creates a cleaner look. Placing items of similar types together makes it easier to find them when you’re looking for them.


Display glasses on open shelves like in this Australian open plan kitchen. Consider using a mirror behind the shelves to reflect light. Put items together in colors, like the white and pastel eggshell blue mugs that balance nicely in this kitchen inspired by Gilmore Girls.

Blue and white kitchen with coffee mugs on shelf |
image source
History of Spring Cleaning: White farmhouse kitchen with open shelving and rustic accents |
image source
Open plan kitchen and dining area | Interwar Heritage Home Turned Multi-Generational Space for Modern Living |

Don’t Be Scared to Mix Things Up

Once you have your basic color palette sorted, it’s fun to throw a curve-ball into the mix. Also consider blending functional and decorative items together. As well as shelving you can hang frequently used items.



Open displays of your stuff allows you to display your favorite pieces |
image from Gail's Apartment home tour
Open shelving unit shows off cohesive color palette with the room |
image from Skygarden home tour

Do Put Your Favorite Pieces on Show

You welcomed these items into your home because they appeal to you, so don’t be shy about showing them off.

Wooden boards as wall decor - Bohemian home tour |
image from Delirium Decor home tour
Black and white kitchen and pantry with hints of ceramic blue |

Don’t Be Scared of Change

You can re-arrange your shelves and display items easily. Take the time to test out your kitchen and discover which items you keep coming back to. Bring those ones closer to your workspace so they are at hand.


For an example of how kitchens can be modified in different ways, check out this Amsterdam home that used to be a school house. This Spanish vacation home’s kitchen is pretty in pastel, with a flexible storage shelving unit.

Standard Studio designs open plan kitchen featuring built-in shelves |
Retro pastel pink kitchen with SMEG refrigerator and open shelving |

Do Keep Things Tidy

One of the biggest drawbacks to open shelving in the kitchen is that it’s all there for you to see. It means you need to stay vigilant. If you need help keeping on top of things, try keeping a cleaning tracker to remind you when it’s time to clean the pantry.


Using reusable glass containers for your ingredients is a beautifully tidy alternative to rows of packaging. Check out our zero waste article to learn more.

White kitchen with open shelving and organized food jars |
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Open-shelving unit within the rustic farmhouse-style kitchen of an Italian country house |
Kitchen with bright and bold red decorative ceramic floor tiles and a farmhouse-style apron sink |
image source

Don’t Forget That Things Get Sticky in a Working Kitchen

A working kitchen means things can get messy. If you’re keeping your glassware next to the hob, consider they are likely to pick up grease or be affected by the steam from your cooking creations. When you’re designing your open shelving space, consider which areas get dirty faster, and remember to give these an extra wipe down after you finish cooking. Items that you use regularly will also be washed regularly anyway so they may be more suitable in these areas.

Open shelving in this London kitchen |
image from Vorbild home tour
Mix & Match of yellow and gray in the kitchen |
image source Roomed
Quirky wall decor and kitchen entrance shelf |

Do Think About the Background

White background walls will really make your items pop. So think about which items you want to show off. If you want some items to blend in more subtly, pick items that are the same color as the background wall, or made of glass.


Whether you opt to pick bright colors against a white wall, or neutral colors that create a cozy hygge vibe,

Colorful kitchen equipment becomes a focal point |
White and blue tableware in this bright white kitchen |
image source
Greenery in cottage kitchen interiors |
image source

Don’t Overstuff Shelves

Consider that sometimes you can allow your collection of spices to grow slowly, rather than filling shelves from the get go. Be comfortable in minimal design.

Tidy and minimal kitchen apartment |
Open shelving in Tribeca loft |
image from Tribeca home tour

Do you have open shelving at home or prefer to keep your cupboards closed? Let us know which kitchen is your favorite, in the comments below.


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