How to Love Open Shelving in Your Kitchen

Open shelving has been a major kitchen trend in recent years. If you are new to open shelving, it can feel a bit daunting to design the shelves, marrying form and function to make them work for your lifestyle and your design aesthetic. To help, we have put together some of our favorite tips to get you started.

“Test Drive” the Style

Open shelving is a love-it-or-hate-it design. If you have never had open shelving in your kitchen, test drive the look by removing the doors from your cabinets before fully committing. Take a few weeks to see if you enjoy the look or if you find keeping the shelves looking good to be an annoying chore. It is much easier to reattach your cabinet doors than it is to rewind time after a major renovation project.

Avoid a White Background

All white kitchens have been all the rage, but with open shelving they can cause the space to lack dimension. Consider a more colorful, textural background, like:

  • Wallpaper with a high contrast pattern
  • Beadboard
  • Tile
  • Bold accent color

Consider what you plan to put on the shelves as you choose the background. Avoid a scenario where decorative elements have to compete with the background, and instead go for a high contrast to create the most visually appealing design.

Don’t forget you choose something that is easy to wipe down. Your future self will thank you.

Blend Practical and Beautiful Items

Your open shelves should be aesthetically pleasing, but not purely decorative. Design the shelves with a blend of practical items you use regularly and decorative items that add value to the overall feel of the kitchen.

We recommend choosing practical items that are used on a daily, or at least weekly, basis. Anything that is stored on open shelves will end up interacting with more dust than it would in a closed cabinet. Rather than having to wash dishes you rarely use just to keep them dust-free, choose your everyday plates, favorite coffee mugs, or glass jars with bulk items you use frequently.

Some good candidates for glass jars on open shelves might be:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Pasta
  • Oatmeal
  • Flour, sugar, and other baking supplies
  • Spices
  • Oil and vinegar

Sometimes it can be a challenge to determine what decorative items to include on the shelf. After to decide which practical and functional items will find a home on the shelf, make note of how much space is left. Aim for a nearly even mix of decorative and functional pieces; in a perfect world, your functional pieces will be just as beautiful as the decorative ones.

Choose decorative pieces that add variation to the design, with a variety of color, texture, density, and height. Color and texture are pretty self explanatory: look for a balanced array of colors that suit your design and select items with different textures (think some pottery, woven baskets, dimensional vase textures, and other items that both feel and look different even if they are the same color).

When looking for a variety in density, think about how much visual space an item occupies. For example, wispy greenery in a glass vase “weighs” less visually than a picture frame of the same size. Selecting items of various heights will allow you to balance the design by varying the shelves and avoiding a uniform look.

Make the Shelves Work for You

The best way to make sure you love your open shelves is to be sure that they not only look beautiful, but actually work for your lifestyle. One of the best ways to do this is by keeping functional items on the lowest shelf or two. Avoid needing to pull out a step stool to reach things you will use on a regular basis to make sure you don’t end up annoyed with the design.

Contact SK Home Design for all remodeling work to create your own place of zen and remodeling in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Hollywood and surrounding areas. Exceptional home renovation and remodeling experts in Los Angeles County.


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