How To Make Open Shelving Look Good


So, The Mama-In-Law is re-doing her kitchen, and is graciously allowing me to help her come up with ideas. And I’m super excited about it…I love decorating, and think I have some good ideas, even though you would never know it looking at my house.

One idea that she is entertaining is the concept of keeping her cabinet doors off and going with open shelving. Since she has a smaller kitchen, I think it would be awesome, and really make the room look bigger. But the problem, as with any open storage, is how to set it up so that it is usable and pretty.

So I decided to hit the intraweb and see what I could see. I thought other people might be interested in some of this, so I’m sharing it here. Plus, since The Mama-In-Law reads the blog, I can just be like “go look at the blog,” and she’ll be able to see what I mean without having to read out a super long link to her over the phone. See? Win-win.

Open Shelves in Kitchen

(Left to right, top to bottom: Coastal Living via The Inspired Room, Country Living via The Inspired Room, Kitchen & Bath Ideas via The Inspired Room, HGTV)

Open Kitchen Shelving

(All: Country Living)

As you can see, there are many gorgeous inspiration photos out there, but there is one major problem with all of these.

That shit ain’t gonna be functional. If you can keep your shelves looking like that all the time, either you A) are really rich B) never use your kitchen C) have some large pantry somewhere holding all of the stuff that you actually use.

Since none of these situations apply to The In-Laws, I had to look harder to find lived-in open shelving. Thankfully, I found these:

Real Life Open Kitchen Shelving

(Country Living, The Inspired Room)

Livable Open Kitchen Shelving

(Both: Kitchen & Bath Ideas via The Inspired Room)

Basically, it seems like, in order to have open shelves that are cute and utilitarian, you just need to organize. Here are some ideas that I came up with, and a few that I read.

1. Include a few items on your shelves that are pretty, and tie in with your decor. Just look at these as accent pieces.

2. Have the entire rest of the shelving dedicated to things that you actually use, and preferably things that you use regularly. Not only is it practical, but it helps to ensure that you won’t have a bunch of crap sitting up there collecting dust, which will just look bad and make you stressed out about how everyone can tell that you dust like twice a year.

3. If you’re going to put your standard, every day pantry items up there, like canned goods and boxed dinners, take a tip from the grocery stores…move everything to the front of the shelf, so that they are all aligned. It will look much neater and less cluttered if it looks like there is a method to your madness.

4. Use cute containers (old tin boxes, wicker baskets, canisters, etc.) to hide some of the clutter of the not-so-pretty items you have to have. Maybe put all of your coffee stuff in one basket, put your sugar and rice in their own canisters, and all of your condiments in an old hat box.

5. Anything that you have that is cute and large, put it up front. You can hide the less pretty stuff behind it, and can get to it easily by moving one large item, rather than having to move a bunch of little stuff.

6. Most importantly, just make sure it works. The good thing with taking the doors off your cabinets, though, is that in the case that you decide it is not going to work for you, you can always just put the doors back on. I guess you’re just SOL if you go buy cute shelving and it doesn’t work out. In that case, it would be an uncomfortable break up for your wallet and your walls, so maybe wade in before diving head first into the whole “open shelves” thing.

And, here are all of the articles I used for reference (fyi – they contain some great tips on kitchen organization and decorating):

The Inspired Room – How to have open shelving in your kitchen (without daily staging)
HGTV – Kitchen Cabinet Styles
Country Living – Kitchen Storage and Organization Ideas
Country Living – Efficient Kitchen Pantry Ideas
Kitchen & Bath Ideas – Kitchen Pantry Ideas
Country Living – The Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Decorating

**I yoinked the images from the above listed sites without permission, so if the owners (or their lawyers, as the case may be) see this and want anything removed, just let me know**