How to Optimize Storage on Open Kitchen Shelves

Keep shelving tidy with these essential storage tips.

Kitchens are infamous for collecting seldom-used items, from bakeware that only sees the light of day during the holiday season to the popcorn maker that gathers dust in a base cabinet. And it can seem impossible to squeeze everything into one room. Ideally, if you have space, kitchen items you rarely use should be stored safely elsewhere. Or they can be donated if they're in good working condition. However, that's not always an option, and you very well may have to keep everything in the kitchen. That's where open shelves come in handy.

When styled, open shelving can serve as a pretty display for decor in your kitchen. But if you're short on space, they can also be put to use for storage. Fortunately, it's possible to have the best of both worlds when it comes to the heart of the home. Explore the following tips to learn how to store more on open shelving and make it look good, too.

built in kitchen shelving with spices and glasses
Edmund Barr

1. Sneak in Storage on the Side of a Cabinet

This open shelving solution works on the side of cabinetry or on a kitchen island. Add a simple wall shelf to the blank space and use it to corral smaller items. A matching set of spice jars, cookbooks, or serving platters fit nicely and stay put thanks to a piece of trim or dowel rod added across the center of each shelf.

blue kitchen with white open shelves for pantry items
Bryan McCay

2. Utilize Blank Space

If your trash can sits flush against a blank wall in the kitchen, consider using the area above it to install shelves. Before embarking on this DIY project, first decide what you'd like to store on them (perhaps your grandmother's tea set that you've been meaning to flaunt) so you can properly plan out the distance between shelves. Hang them as high as they will go, or you can reach, to make the most of the underutilized area.

built in kitchen shelving with microwave
Joe Keller

3. Use Baskets to Maximize Deep Shelves

Drawers installed in deep cabinet shelves are a good idea in theory. However, they can be an investment depending on the number of shelves you have and won't work well for those higher than your head. Consider the less costly and more practical approach of adding bins or baskets that fit the width, depth, and height of each shelf. This prevents items, specifically pantry goods that will expire, from getting lost towards the back. If you're not a fan of visual clutter, this also allows you to keep your things sorted by category and hide them out in the open.

kitchen island with built in shelf for mixer
Marshall Johnson

4. Opt for Adjustable Shelving

Open shelving that can be adjusted to fit your needs is a must-have for kitchens that need a little extra storage help. If you're looking to replace or remodel your cabinets in the near future, explore adjustable shelves as an option. Perhaps your current ones offer it already but you've avoided modifying them because they're older and difficult to maneuver. In this case, replace the hard-to-move pegs with new ones and tweak the holes as needed. Once you can easily move open cabinet shelves around, you'll want to play with the heights to see what configuration works best for the things you own.

airy white kitchen with wood open shelves above stovetop
Kritsada Panichgul

5. Stretch Your Storage

In addition to extending shelves up a blank wall up to the ceiling, you can also opt to increase the width of open shelves to gain more storage space. Extend shelving from one side of the kitchen to the other to make room for dishware or decanted pantry goods. With such a large quantity of things open for all to see, make sure to group like items to keep the look streamlined and tidy.

airy kitchen with wood cabinetry and floors
Jay Wilde

6. Install Floating L-Shape Shelves

Have an awkward unused kitchen corner? Give it a purpose and cover more storage ground by installing nontraditional L-shape shelves. After all, open shelving can be unique and easily customized to suit the dimensions of your space. Group items you use most often on the lower shelves, then decorate higher shelves with accessories that match the kitchen's color palette.

cottage style all white kitchen with marble counter top
David Land

7. Utilize the Space Below Shelves

Storage isn't limited to what's sitting on top of a shelf. Adding hooks to the bottom of an open shelf is the perfect way to display favorite mugs within reach. Ensure that the hooks are sturdy enough to withstand the weight of the cups before looping the handles onto them. As an alternative, look for an organizer that slides onto the top of the shelf and achieves the same effect below.

home bar essentials with hanging glass storage and wine bottle shelves
Brie Williams

8. Create Custom Storage

There's no shortage of ways you can store wine bottles in your home, and a fun open shelf in the kitchen is an instant invitation to enjoy a glass while making dinner. Keep bottles lined up on a diagonal so the cork doesn't dry out and you can see when your stock is running low. Bonus points if you implement the previous tip and hang wine glasses on a rack underneath a nearby shelf.

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