12 Open Shelving Ideas That Will Totally Transform Your Kitchen

Make your kitchen feel bigger and add personalized display space.

open shelving in a kitchen with plants

Erin Kunkel

Open shelving in a kitchen serves double duty—it provides easily accessible storage and allows you to display your favorite dishes, cookbooks, and frequently used items. It's also a great way to get creative and introduce a pop of color or new material. Besides the aesthetic and practical benefits of open shelves, they come with another valuable advantage—they're a budget-friendly alternative to upper cabinets.

If you're planning a kitchen remodel and looking for areas where you can save money without sacrificing style and function, open shelving is an excellent option. In addition, it's a clever design trick for making a kitchen feel more spacious since it eliminates the bulkiness of upper cabinets. Learn how to incorporate open shelving into your kitchen and follow our tips and tricks for practical yet beautiful wall storage.

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Update Existing Upper Cabinets

patterned wallpaper kitchen with white open shelving
Helen Norman

Give your kitchen a quick and inexpensive makeover by turning existing upper cabinets into open shelves. Simply remove the doors for a brand-new look. To add character, paint the back of the cabinets a different color than the frame. The unexpected pop of color will instantly spruce up tired cabinets and make them stand out.

02 of 12

Add Farmhouse Style

white vintage contemporary kitchen
Emily Followill

This white farmhouse-style kitchen is bright and spacious thanks to white cabinetry and shiplap walls, glass lighting, and open shelving. Three white shelves span from the countertop to the ceiling to provide ample storage and seamlessly blend in with the rest of the space. Take cues from this kitchen and place everyday items such as drinking glasses and plates on lower open shelves where they are easy to access, and store more occasional pieces on harder-to-reach upper shelves.

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Sleek Glass Shelves

open shelves in a blue kitchen

Nathan Schroder

Glass open shelves with brass brackets are a sleek and stylish addition to this sophisticated kitchen. The clear glass lightens up a wall of glossy black subway tile, while the polished brass accents stand out against the dark backdrop like a piece of shiny statement jewelry. The warm metal finish ties in the rest of the kitchen hardware and fixtures, including cabinet pulls and the faucet. When it comes to choosing what to store on open shelves, think about what's in close proximity. In this case, they hang directly above a wine refrigerator, so using them for barware, bottles, and glasses is a practical choice.

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Mixed Materials

open shelving in a kitchen

Jean Allsopp

A pair of wood and metal open shelves suspended from gray glass-front cabinets add convenient storage space and a stunning design statement in this elegant kitchen. The space boasts tall ceilings, an exposed brick wall, and wood ceiling beams that add charming character that's emphasized by the unique mixed-material shelves. The wood shelves warm up the surrounding white and gray color palette while complementing stone countertops.

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Open Kitchen Shelf Styling

open shelving in a kitchen with plants

Erin Kunkel

These open corner shelves prove that shelf styling isn't just for your living room bookcase. Use a limited color palette to maintain uniformity and an uncluttered look, then mix materials and textures—such as glass, pottery, and woven baskets—for an interesting, organic look. Finish open kitchen shelves with potted herbs or houseplants to liven up this utilitarian kitchen fixture.

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Create Contrast

blue island in a kitchen with open shelving

Annie Schlechter

Two-toned kitchen cabinets are an easy way to update a kitchen. Try the look with open shelving. Light wood shelves replace most upper cabinets in this modern kitchen and contrast the rich gray base cabinets and a navy blue island. Along with countertop-to-ceiling subway tile, the open shelving helps lighten up the room. Herringbone hardwood floors and backless stools tie in the wood shelves and add warmth.

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Modern Rustic Kitchen Shelves

white kitchen with white tile and traditional preparation table
Dane Tashima

Three floating wood shelves hold a collection of white and blue dishes and bakeware in his modern rustic kitchen. The chunky shelves tie in the dark-stained hardwood floors and beautiful turned-leg island, and provide a warm contrast to the white cabinetry and wall tile. To keep your open shelves from looking cluttered, group items by colors, theme, or collections.

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Go Minimalist

kitchen with hexagonal tile

Edmund Barr

A single live-edge wood shelf centered above the sink stands out against the hexagonal tile in this minimalist kitchen. Decorated with plates, houseplants, and vases, the open kitchen shelf is illuminated with two white and copper wall sconces. The storage unit ties in with sleek wood cabinets and breaks up the asymmetrical tile design.

09 of 12

Blue Cabinet Makeover

blue kitchen open shelving

Annie Schlechter

You can't get more classic than blue and white. These open shelves put an updated twist on the traditional look and add dimension to this elegant kitchen. Allow color to shine by refraining from a busy backsplash or small-scale pattern wallpaper. A slab of gorgeous gray marble keeps the countertop and backsplash uncluttered, allowing blue and white cabinetry to shine. Drive the color palette home by continuing it through the dishes you display on the open shelves.

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Ensure Easy Access

renovated kitchen with patterned rug
David Land

A working kitchen needs to be practical, allowing for quick and easy access to frequently used cooking tools. Two long open shelves hold everyday dishes in this contemporary-style kitchen, while a black metal rail above the stove stores cutting boards and pans. A magnetic knife strip nearby keeps chopping utensils on hand. White walls and mushroom-gray cabinets provide a neutral backdrop for the matte black hardware and lighting that complete the space.

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Bright Open Shelf Idea

home bar in kitchen with beverage fridge and herringbone subway tile

Ryan Bent

A herringbone subway tile backsplash forms the backdrop to two open shelves that hold an eclectic collection of drinking glasses and barware. The shelves balance a wine refrigerator, open storage for bottles, and Shaker base cabinets adorned with brass knobs. A striking black and brass double sconce tops the open shelves and provides ambient light for the perfect finishing touch.

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Create Color Continuity

pastel open shelving kitchen

Christina Schmidhofer

Three open shelves that extend to the ceiling add function and decorative detail to this cottage kitchen corner. While not large, they provide just enough space to add a pop of color through a collection of pastel pottery that forms a sweet vignette. To break up the look of plain cabinet doors, consider replacing them with glass-front doors or replacing a section with open shelving. To create continuity and help integrate open shelves with the rest of the cabinets, paint them the same color.

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