How to Style Kitchen Open Shelving

how to style open shelving it the kitchen

It’s kind of amusing me to that both of my most favorite parts of my new kitchen – the faux marble island and the open shelving – are projects that were not in the original plan.  The open shelving was a total add-on because I just fell in love with the brass shelf brackets from Rejuvenation and thought that I should really try and fit some shelving somewhere in the new kitchen design.

Once the shelves were up, however, I was in love.  Not only do they add so much more space for me to store everyday items, but they add a vertical element as well as just an additional area to showcase the simple, turn-of-the-century-farmhouse style I was trying to capture in my home.

It’s interesting that in the short time I’ve had these shelves, I’ve had multiple people come over and say, “Ugh, those would be a mess if they were in my house” or “I don’t know how you keep them looking neat”.

I thought to myself, that the process to style them and the process to keep them neat (even when I use the stuff on them everyday) is easy with a few simple tricks.  So today, I want to offer you these tricks and a full shopping list (!!) of all the goodies lining my shelves and how you yourself can tackle styling kitchen open shelving. 

kitchen open shelving styling


First, aside from the art and the plants, every single thing on these shelves is functional.  I cannot stress that enough.  If you’re using something daily or weekly, it is far less likely that it will just become ‘clutter’.  You can’t access something regularly if it’s not clean and simple.

I kept the groupings purpose based, stacking groups of 4 of some of my often used dinnerware and glassware on one shelf, canisters with coffee, couscous, granola, and tea on another shelf, and lesser used casseroles and cake stands on another shelf.  These functional items take up the majority of the space on the shelves.

I even have a low bowl (in front of the longhorn photo) that is purely a catch-all.  This bowl hides keys, sunglasses, a mini flashlight, and other random items that come out of Matt’s pockets.

color palette

I am notoriously color-averse and this serves a very practical purpose in the kitchen.  When I entertain, I like to switch up my themes and all of the themes go with white. I use white and the great equalizer, then pile on colorful linens, placards, or flowers.  This means that most of my dinnerware and cookware is all white, and this came in quite handy when it came time to put it on display. Don’t fear though!  If you don’t have an arsenal full of white ceramics, then choose pieces that are all one color (stainless? wood? stoneware?) and use just those pieces, while keeping the others hidden away in cabinets with doors.

Aside from the white dinnerware, I did want SOME variation in color, but I wanted it to be very cohesive.  Think about it this way.  The more variable you have in your scenario, the tighter your palette should be.  If you’re only using glassware on all shelves, then you can totally play with the color a bit more.  Since I have glassware, dinnerware, serve ware, canisters, cake stands, art, and plants, I kept the palette in the Black/White/Clear/Green family with a little punch of color coming from the terra cotta planter (white ties in with the rubber seals on my canisters).

varying heights

The heights of the items on your shelves should be varied.  You can do this through stacking (like I did with the bowls on the lowest shelf) or by adding in art (as on the middle shelf) and also by using things that are varying heights (like canisters, cake stands, and plants).

Try to have just 1 or 2 tall things on each shelf which are supported and surrounded by medium and low height objects.


Styled shelves can look really boring without a little punch of nature.  Just removing the plants from my shelves makes the whole thing look a bit blah. I used a faux fern all of the way on the top (because goodness knows, I’m not watering that) and some easy clippings from my yard on a lower shelf that can swap with the seasons.  Other ideas are fresh flowers, a topiary, some nice succulents, or even a few herbs!

Shop the Look

open shelving products

No. 1 Mercer Dinnerware | No. 2 Fleur de Lis Hobnail Glassware | No. 3 Canning Jar Canisters | No. 4 Rosé s’il vous plaît art with black frame | No. 5 Stand off art with black frame | No. 6 Faux fern in stoneware planter | No. 7 French Terra Cotta Planter | No. 8 Martha Stewart Cast Iron Enamel Casserole (the ONLY one I use and I love it) | No. 9 Ceramic Canisters with Wooden Lid – Large or Small | No. 10 Revol French Chicken Roaster

I wanted to give you all the complete list of what items I not only used to style these shelves with, but also use daily in my kitchen.  The only exception here is that the ‘Live Every Day’ print is no longer available, so I subbed it out for an equally beautiful (and equally B&W) rosé print.

I hope you guys got something useful out of these steps I took!  I’d love to know what hurdles you deal with when styling shelves, so if you’d like to share, go ahead and comment below with the ONE roadblock you have when shelf styling… GO!


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