Open kitchen shelves are an interior design trend that people tend to either love or hate. It’s honestly something I’ve admired in photos but never felt was a practical design choice in real life. That changed when we started designing our beach house kitchen.
While the reasons for choosing open kitchen shelves over traditional cabinetry may vary greatly by situation, for us it was purely about keeping our small kitchen feeling open and airy without sacrificing storage. I was nervous about keeping them looking clean and organized but knew that I had to find a way to make them work if we wanted to continue with our kitchen design plan.
What I realized as I began setting up our kitchen is that open shelves aren’t’ that scary or hard to keep looking good if you maintain a few simple rules.
Scale back on what you plan to store on your open shelves.
Ok, so this one thing may make it the reason to not use open shelving in a kitchen if you have to find storage elsewhere for the rest of your stuff. If not then go for it.
Remember that open shelves are more like display shelves so it’s as much (or more) about looking good than serving as storage. Keep your items to only what you use regularly which allows you to mix in pieces that are more for looks to balance your shelves better.
Mix your dishes and glasses with other, more display worthy items.
Your kitchen floating shelves decor should be a balanced mix of function and pretty. With your scaled back dishes it’s now time to start mixing in decor pieces. Consider color, scale and balance.
For our shelves, while still a work in progress, I used a mix of the dishes we use everyday with more decorative pieces, baskets and beach themed cookbooks.
Almost all of the items on my shelves were either things I already had, thrifted or picked up at estate auctions. While they don’t all match, it all goes because I stuck to a theme. If it wasn’t for us not being here full time, I’d love to mix in some real plants to add some greenery and softness to my shelves. Because that won’t work for us, I’ve kept it to things that require no maintenance.
Organize the items on your shelves according to use.
This may go without saying but I’m going to say it anyway. As you are laying out the items on your shelves, keep in mind their placement vs. how often you use the items.
For example, we use our places everyday at every meal. The same is true with our glasses and mugs. Those items I purposely kept on the lower shelf within easy reach. The mugs are near the coffee maker, the glasses are on either side of the sink and the plates and bowls are closest to the stove. On the upper shelf I’ve put things that are more decorative or pretty bakeware that I don’t use everyday.
Don’t forget the space under your shelves.
What you choose to have out on your counters on a daily basis is a bit personal. Some people prefer their counters to be completely bare and free of clutter. Others don’t mind having useful items that also look nice and add character.
Because we don’t use the beach house kitchen as hard as we use ours at home, I feel like we can get away with a little more “stuff” on the counters here. We still have plenty of space to spread out if cooking a big meal and because we don’t have closed cabinets to stuff full of stuff, it provides some added storage for most used items like our utensils and canisters.
Follow a consistent theme and remember color, scale and texture.
The last point to convey is all about maintaining a consistent theme but balance color, scale and texture. It sounds more complicated than it is. Our kitchen is mostly blue and white with subtle pops of red as an accent. I kept everything in htat color palette and mixed in natural elements to balance things out and add texture which makes the entire display more interesting.
I also did my best to place the items and layer in a way that created different heights within my display. This also adds interest and keeps the shelves from looking flat and boring.
Open floating kitchen shelves aren’t for everyone and they do require a little added effort. While not practical for every situation, they can add a lot of interest and character to a kitchen while also providing storage.
I always admired open shelves in photos of other kitchens but never felt they’d work for me. Now that we have them in our beach house kitchen, I’m so glad we went with our gut. They are beautiful, provide the storage needed and they help our small space feel more open which was our goal.
They do require more disturbing to keep things clean and ready for use but because I’ve paired down my items, it takes just a few minutes.
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