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How to Style Open Shelving in the Kitchen

I’m so happy that many of you found my post with honest thoughts on kitchen open shelving useful.  Since then, I’ve rearranged my open kitchen shelves many times, so today I wanted to share some tips and inspiration for styling and using kitchen open shelving.  Basically share some ideas for how to style open shelving in the kitchen so it’s functional and beautiful.  In addition to worries about keeping open shelves clean, a major obstacle to opting for open shelving seems to be concern for showing off less attractive kitchen wares.  It’s definitely a bit of a challenge to organize open shelves so that they’re functional and also attractive.  In the beginning of my open shelf journey, I literally just displayed totally matching turquoise, white and clear glass.  All of my dinnerware was white, and I collected vintage turquoise Pyrex and glassware.  I loved the cohesiveness, but I was criticised for it, lol.

Later on, I loosened up and added some wood tones and more relaxed mixing and matching:

Eventually my open shelving was featured in Better Homes & Gardens magazine – and hardly anything was changed on my shelves (just a few things were switched because they didn’t photograph well) – so I must have done something right, haha!

These tips I’m sharing are just meant to help – not shame anyone into buying or hiding any kitchen ware!  By all means, put whatever you want on your kitchen shelves!  But if you’d like it to look more like what you see in the magazines, here’s some tips to help and enjoy the process.  This is also what worked for me – as a household of two, I didn’t need a ton of plates and glasses, so I had room to also display entertaining stuff, like candles and vases.  I also love thrifting pretty things to use every day, like pottery bowls, vintage Pyrex, mid-century walnut pieces, and retro glassware.  So I enjoyed the task of finding pretty things to use and also display.

How to Make Kitchen Open Shelving Look Stylish (But Stay Functional):

  • Collect matching or complementary dishware to use (like vintage like Jadeite or Pyrex)
  • Not into vintage? Buy simple and inexpensive all white dishware to keep things looking uniform
  • Thrift pretty pottery bowls and mugs to add interest to all white dishware
  • Keep even numbers of glassware and mugs (I just put any spares in a cabinet in the basement)
  • Line up mugs and glasses to make even a mismatched collection feel orderly
  • Repeat certain elements (like wood tones, metal tones, or colors) to enhance the cohesiveness
  • Decant food into glass canisters – even mason jars – to keep messy packaging from ruining the look (bonus: keeps food fresher!)



    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      December 18, 2014 / 7:31 pm

      Oh gosh, those tea canisters are so pretty! Of course, I love the teal. I've been looking for something stackable because I currently have eight kinds on the go. I also saw this magentic board with tea tins stuck on and I wondered in that might look cute on a wall (and free up some cupboard space): I do love the canisters you showed me! Hmmmm. I've pinned them, so I can think on it some more. Thanks for the link!

  1. Heather
    December 17, 2014 / 6:46 pm

    As far as sentimental and/or oddball, mismatched pieces go, I did something untraditional with mine. We have a library area on the other side of the wall from the kitchen. This has an area of built-in shelving and I did a total purge of books and magazines, keeping only ones I absolutely could never find again. If I could reference it on-line, check it out of the library, etc. – it found a new home.This freed up lots of shelf space. I now have sentimental favorites mixed in between stacks of books. A special bowl is perched on top of a stack of gardening books. Nice serving bowls bookend (in theory only) another set of books. Bulk rice is hidden in a crock. Uniform storage containers are great for shelves and cupboards. I use containers for staples and cereal.Full disclosure – my hubby was NOT a fan of this practice but I overruled him because I do all the cooking, cleaning and food-related duties. He now accepts it.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      December 18, 2014 / 7:33 pm

      Hi Heather, I love your idea!! It's definitely untraditional, but it's a great way to showcase some beautiful and sentimental pieces. I love hearing about clever and personal ways people deal with storage!

  2. brikhouse2
    December 18, 2014 / 7:52 pm

    That fridge in the first pic!!! I want. I have started collecting those glass candy jars like in the 3rd pic, they are too cute and I have so many ideas besides just food. I keep rice and flour in them on my counter top (one empty becaue I am indecisive) but I also have ideas to create a terrarium in one and I want to fill one will left over balls of colorful yarn. Just love them. I should have bought another when I was at Target yesterday, they're only $10. *kicking myself*And just an FYI for buying in bulk…..if you are buying flour or other grains like that that you can get bugs eggs in them because they aren't in sealed containers. I bought some whole wheat flour from a bulk bin, put it in an air tight container when home, went to use it and there were dead bugs in it. Ick. I hear you should put it in the freezer for a couple days when you bring it home to kill anything. But just the thought of eggs being in there and eating them, bluh.Haha, I am talking about everything but the open shelving. I do love how it looks though. Probably not for dishes for me though. I buy what I like at the moment and never think of the bigger picture in the end, so they never match. But I do have all my baking goods in small canisters with stainless steel lids that look so purdy, those would look cute on open shelving once I get them some pretty labels.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      December 19, 2014 / 1:13 am

      The fridge is amazing. In the kitchen, featured in Style at Home, there's a matching stove, too!! It was custom matched to the Jadeite. So jealous.Gross about the bugs!! I buy my rice and oatmeal at Costco and my Flour in bags from the grocery store because a a plastic bag filled with flour, a twistie and an hour long drive home (oh yeah, and a 7km bumpy dirt road) has disaster written all over it. BUT I do buy my cereal, pasta, brown sugar, and some spices from the bulk place. Are those safe? Now I'm super grossed out, but that's good to know!

    • brikhouse2
      December 20, 2014 / 6:27 pm

      I think those ones are safe, I believe it's just the grains. I think you can get pantry moths, not sure of the actual name, but they are a b**** to get rid of. Do a quick search on it……I have a horrible memory so don't quote me on it lol.

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      December 22, 2014 / 6:06 am

      Yeah, a friend in the States had pantry moths and she said it was terrible. I will have to find out if she buys bulk. Blech. I can't even…

  3. Anonymous
    December 27, 2014 / 7:11 am

    My sister has spray-painted "illy" coffee cans and they look great. Perhaps spray David's Tea cans instead if that's what you're buying.Caroline Csák, Calgary

    • Tanya from Dans le Townhouse
      December 27, 2014 / 6:09 pm

      That's a great idea! It's good to know that the spray paint has held up and that they still look great! Definitely a fun idea to consider, thanks 🙂

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