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How to style open shelving in your kitchen

Traditional farmhouse dining room with open shelving by @IAMMEGLAM

WordsMaha Elley


Although it’s become increasingly popular over the last few years, open shelving is one of those design trends that has been around for ages, dating all the way back to the 18th century. It’s one of those design choices that you either love or you hate, but with the rise of Japandi interior style (a blend of Japanese design with Scandinavian decor) and minimalist kitchens, open shelving is a feature that looks set to stay on-trend.

So, what is open shelving?

Open shelving is shelving that isn’t tucked away inside a cupboard or a cabinet, meaning that everything you pop on the shelves is out for display. It essentially looks like a cupboard with shelves but no doors.

Now, it may not be for everyone, but there’s a lot to like about it, as it offers both functional and aesthetic benefits. And there are ways to work around any clutter concerns you may have. Read on to discover more about this ‘controversial’ interior design trend and how to best use open shelving in your kitchen.

Open kitchen shelving - why the buzz? 

So where do all the strong opinions on open kitchen shelving come from? Here’s the good stuff:

  • If well styled, open shelving gives you an aesthetically pleasing and Instagrammable corner of your kitchen. Search for ‘kitchen shelf styling’ or ‘kitchen shelfie decor’ on Pinterest and you’ll be served with thousands of chic ideas to get you started. Your open kitchen shelves give you the perfect place to show off all your cookbooks, indoor plants, and favourite glassware. More on kitchen shelving ideas later. 
  • Open shelves are convenient, offering you easy access to all your plates, pots and whatever else you choose to stash there. And you get a clear view of your kitchen items, which saves you having to root around the back of a dark cupboard.
  • If you’re working with a small kitchen, overhead cupboards can make it feel even smaller, while open shelving can help open up a space, making the room feel lighter and less enclosed. On the note of small kitchens, green kitchen paint is one of the best colors for a small kitchens.



All that sounds great, so what’s the issue? One of the main concerns that many people have with open shelving is the fact that all their clutter will be out on full display. But you could also say that having everything in open view would help eliminate clutter, as you may keep things tidy to avoid facing an unsightly mess every time you pop in for a snack.

Another point that open shelving nay-sayers bring up is that the shelves look slightly ‘unfinished’ without cupboard doors. But that’s also where you can really make use of styling to turn shelves into a design feature rather than just an old fashioned cupboard. Open shelving offers you the opportunity to tackle storage and style, with just a few slabs of wood.

Ideas for decorating your kitchen shelves

Once you’re sold on the idea of open shelves, the next step is figuring out how to decorate them. Check out some of our favourite kitchen shelf styling ideas below:


We’ve all got a hardcover cookbook or two lying around somewhere. Dust it off and display with pride on your open shelves. And hey, it may even inspire you to try a new recipe or two.


Modern farmhouse kitchen shelving decorated with books and potted plants via Studio McGee

via Studio McGee

Colored glassware and mugs

Your open shelf is only as stylish as what you display on it. Upgrade your glassware to a more eye-catching color and make your drinking experience a lot more pleasing to the eye.