Open Shelving Ideas for Every Room

Find inspiration for incorporating airy open shelving into any room in your home, from the living room to the kitchen.

decorated built-in shelving

We've all had that spot in our homes where we think, "If only I could store something there." Luckily, there's an easy solution to those wasted corners and blank stretches of wall: open shelving. These adaptable home accents add practical beauty and, unlike some decor items, work well in many spaces such as kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Check out our tips for using open wall shelves in every room of your home.

Open Shelving for Living or Dining Spaces

open living room

Most living or dining spaces need storage that's decorative as well as functional. Open shelves work well in the following spots:

  • Bookend a doorway, window, or fireplace: Add shelves to the side and above the walkway from one room to another or around a window; it's a great spot for books or photos. The same is true above and around a fireplace. Try varying the spacing between the shelves, too.
  • Behind a sofa: Narrow open shelves work well for photographs or artwork. Mix and match placement and length of shelves for visual interest.
  • As a room divider: Secured to the floor, open shelves stretched from floor to ceiling work well as a room divider. Place accessories and decorative items to face both ways.

Open Shelving for Kitchens

white kitchen with open shelving

Look closely at your cooking, prep, and eating spaces and you're bound to see unused areas that could add to the function and charm of your kitchen. Think about:

  • Around and above a stove, or turned perpendicular to cabinets: Narrow spaces to the side of a vent or in a narrow niche make great spots for pretty utensils or cooking tools.
  • Above upper cabinets: Left open, these tip-top spaces in a kitchen offer pretty spots to display little-used items such as holiday serving trays.
  • The end of a cabinet: As a cabinet turns a corner, open shelves offer prime spots to store favorite cookbooks or bowls.
  • Above an island: For kitchens with very high ceilings, open shelves can help to fill what would otherwise be wasted space. Use them to store oft-used island items, such as glasses or small bowls.
  • Above base cabinets: Dress up open shelves above lower cabinets with trim and crown molding, and you've got the furniture-like look of a faux hutch.

Open Shelving for Bathrooms

White Bathroom Designs

Front-free storage in the bathroom can help to seek out little nooks and crannies for extra storage in what are sometimes space-challenged rooms. Try the following ideas for bathroom open shelving:

  • Break up a niche in a shower: Even a 6-inch spot allows you to divide bathing supplies—shampoo on one shelf, razors and cleansers on another.
  • Above a tub: A narrow open shelf here can be either functional or decorative. Use it to display a collection that accents your style motif—shells, for example, or photos—or to stash extra soap and rolled-up washcloths.

Home Office Open Shelving

home office

Home offices are filled with papers, books, and electronics that need storage. Keeping everything out in the open helps it all stay organized and on track. Set yourself up for success by installing open shelving in one of these spots:

  • Surrounding the desk: In many offices, the desk is pushed up against the wall. Keep all your work supplies within reach by framing your monitor with shelving units.
  • On the back wall: If you have a large desk centered in the middle of your office, make your workspace look grand by stretching open shelves across the entire back wall. Fill it with a mix of books, storage boxes, and professional awards to show off your achievements.
  • Converting existing cabinets: If your home office is already equipped with a cabinet storage unit, take advantage of its frame. You can easily remove cabinet doors to make open shelving and will love how accessible everything is.

Open Shelving for Home Bars

kitchen sink

Freshen up your refreshments station with open shelving for your glasses, shakers, and beverages. The new setup will have your average bar cart looking like a swanky cocktail corner. Try one of these open shelving ideas for home bars:

  • Above the countertop: For a wet bar, create tiered shelving above the sink. Keep most-used glasses or spirits on the lowest shelf and the rarely used items on the top.
  • Behind the bar: With a fully-functioning bar, there are many open shelving possibilities. Consider lining the wall behind the bar with long open shelves. Use hidden rope lighting to illuminate the bottles and glasses for the bartender of the night. Leave a gap in the shelves for a TV or custom neon sign for late-night or game-day entertaining.
  • By a bar cart: There's a reason bar carts are so trendy these days. They keep everything you need for an impromptu party in one place. Expand your get-together potential by hanging open shelves above or around a bar cart.

Open Shelving for Bedrooms


Your bedroom is the most personal space in your home, so it makes sense to have personalized storage for your belongings. The best way to show off your favorite pictures, mementos, or books is with open shelving. Here are our favorite ways to incorporate them into your bedroom:

  • Behind the bed: There is often empty space on the wall behind your bed. Fill that blank space with rows of open shelving stretching from wall to wall. If you don't have a headboard, be careful to not install shelves too close to your bed, so you can sit up without hitting your head.
  • In a reading nook: If your bedroom has a cozy corner, dress it up with open shelving. This storage solution will give you a stylish place to display your most recent reads and could even hold a small reading lamp and reading chair.
  • Between windows: It's hard to decide what should go in that strange gap between windows. You don't have to pick just one thing when you have open shelving to display multiple knickknacks.
Was this page helpful?
Related Articles