7 Tips on Styling Kitchen Open Shelves

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Best of two worlds: A contemporary living room in the foreground and a open plan kitchen in the foreground. Image: Sofology.
Kitchen open shelves, dramatic marble backsplash and an open living space concept in full design bloom. Via Sofology.

Contemplating kitchen open shelves? Imagine you could erase all of your upper kitchen cabinets. Would you go for it? In recent years, many people have succumbed to the kitchen open shelves interior design trend. But lately, many more are taking it a step further, by doing away with their upper kitchen cabinetry altogether. Suddenly, everything is stored in plain sight. So these 7 tips for styling your kitchen open shelves will help you add an edge and elevate your kitchen’s aesthetic!

Kitchen open shelves are not for everyone. However, it is surely a way to cut-down on the overall kitchen reno expenses. It is definitely a quick fix and far more affordable than built-ins. Sometimes, open shelves (especially floating ones) is the preferred choice, simply because they make the space feel larger and more airy. It’s also a trend that is totally in-line with the open plan space living experience (which is still a thing)!! Suddenly, a kitchen like that, feels a lot easier to live with and in many cases, far more eye-pleasing.

A contemporary trendy open plan kitchen with open shelves. Image: Fritz Fryer Lighting.
Via Fritz Fryer Lighting. Open plan kitchen and open shelves.

Having kitchen open shelves will force you to stay organized. The idea of ‘if you see it, then you’ll use it‘ is true, but also very much in line with a more minimal and perhaps, more sustainable way of living. This should not hinder your style though by any means. So, no matter what your interior style is, this is the time to display your kit and show it off.


Begin with a tight edit and curation your belongings, your keepsakes. Invest in neutral accessories and objects that tell your story or pieces with a nostalgia value. Everything needs to be up to scratch. These will be your star pieces that you may place on your shelves and a few on your benchtop, too. As the seasons go by, you could switch them around in new arrangements, in order to keep things looking fresh.

Anything that you haven’t used for the past 5 years should be added to your giveaway pile. Keep the things that bring a smile to your face.


Align your mindset with a simple concept: elevate the every day. Yes, every day is a brand new start to live beautiful and is full of potential to make it count. So why not use that silver cutlery that has been passed down to you by your beloved late grandmother, yet you choose to use only once a year? How about the rest of the days of the year, aren’t they worth celebrate living? Of course they are. Hence, consider such heirlooms that you may possess.

And if you don’t have any, do not worry. The key to elevate the every day is to display well whatever you own, no matter how inexpensive and utilitarian it may be. Any single material, like all glass or all wood or porcelain, when massed together can elevate the aesthetics of your open shelves. A pile of basic white plates looks impressive, because there’s lots of them, they are neutral and they create a sense of pattern and texture. Avoid creating a pile of different colored plates, because great chances are that will it not translate well as a curated look. Not every mismatch can be rationalized as eclectic. Hence, stick with neutrals and matching elements (i.e. china and glass).

A stylish and sleek industrial kitchen with open shelves. Image: Scavolini.
Via Scavolini. Industrial kitchens, like this Diesel Open Workshop kitchen by Scavolini, were well known for their kitchen open shelves, but even them have gotten more stylish over the years.


In a jammed-packed kitchen where every bit of storage space counts, I know it sounds a bit of a paradox to indulge in negative space. Yet, it is equally important not to overcrowd your pieces, as to display them well. I can’t stress this enough. Leave some breathing room – negative space for the eyes to rest – around each cluster you create. That way each pile, cluster, or collection will have the opportunity to shine on its own merit, without being overshadowed. In return, it will help create a sense of composition and a conversation between your pieces on your kitchen shelves, your impressive backsplash, lighting fixtures and benchtop. If you go for kitchen open shelves, then you might as well do it right.


Nail the scale or fail, that’s what I say. At the risk of stating the obvious, getting the scale of things right is of paramount importance. Large kitchens can showcase best large decor pieces. Medium-sized kitchens work best with medium-sized decor items. And lastly, small kitchens should have small shelves with small decor objects. It’s common sense, that simple.


Nothing new about the add on value of a good piece of artwork. It has the potential to set a mood, anchor a composition of various elements, or even establish a color palette. And kitchen open shelves literally beg for an art piece that can create a beautiful focal point; especially if your floating shelve runs over the kitchen sink and there are not enough windows. Naturally, go for something that you truly like and sings to your heart. There are no rules, but always, think of balance, composition and scale.

A stylish bright white kitchen with an organic vibe and a floating open shelf in the background. Image: Dunelm.
Via Dunelm.


The odd flower vase or herb pot can liven up anything; let alone a kitchen shelf. But don’t limit yourself to just those. Explore your green options and opt for plants that grow at your part of the world. No matter what plant you choose, it will add texture and a sense of depth to your shelves.


Getting rid of the upper kitchen cabinets leaves you with the opportunity to add some strategically positioned statement task lights. Seize it without a blink. They will brighten up your bench, but with the dimmers you will be able to create your preferred ambiance and styling note you always dreamed of.


The kitchen open shelves interior trend with no upper cabinets above waist level is certainly one of the key interior trends of 2022. Athena Calderone, interior designer, author, and creator of the Eye-swoon lifestyle blog, and her famous kitchen designed by Elizabeth Roberts Architecture echo this interior trend best. Her kitchen, features a veined Calacutta Paonazzo marble backsplash and a long floating shelf, creating some drama. However, not everyone can or should for that matter get on board with this trend. If you do though, know that styling kitchen open shelves can be a challenge. Thankfully, if you follow these tips, then it will be a breeze…

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