I’d think you’d have to be living under a rock if you haven’t stumbled upon a picture of a kitchen with open shelving somewhere on the internet by now. You really can’t ignore the current popularity of the trend, and I don’t see it taking a bow from the hot list anytime soon. In fact, in Domino’s Favorite Kitchen Designs of 2016, almost all of their picks incorporated open shelving somewhere into the design. It’s not a decor specific trend either, open shelving in the kitchen can be seen in farmhouse to modern to traditional kitchen designs.
I feel it’s one of those unique, universal trends that seamlessly blends function and fashion, and can morph into any decor style at any budget level. For those who are renovating kitchens on a tight budget, open shelving creates an affordable, stylish storage option over replacing upper cabinetry. But even for those with bigger budgets, open shelving creates such a strong design atheistic in the kitchen, that it continues to be seen in high end designs as well.
I think we’ve all had visions of open shelving in our kitchen at some point, but probably all think the same thing: how can open shelves be useful and not look completely disastrous?! Cue dark thoughts of what the inside of your kitchen cabinets currently looks like. That doesn’t translate so well to open shelving, right? The trick is to combine the functional use of the shelving in the kitchen (because let’s face it, kitchens are mostly about function even if you don’t use yours to cook) with elements that incorporate great style too. Goal: create ‘stylish functionality’, if you will.
So with this in mind, I’ve rounded up 5 design concepts for open shelving in the kitchen that help create killer style – AND at the end I’ll wrap up with how to mix these together to best combine style and function for your space. But first, the pretty before the sensibility:
Keep It Simple
Personally, my favorite way to decorate open shelving in the kitchen is to create a monochromatic scheme. Keeping items all one color creates a clean, modern, simple look. For those who plan or need to use open shelving for functional everyday storage, using dishware of all the same color makes styling shelves easy to accomplish. I prefer white dishware with this look, but really you can use any color to create the monochromatic feeling.
If you prefer a little more a contrast, you can adopt a tonal pallet, or various shades of the same color. Keeping within the same tones allows for a bit more visual interest, but still keeps things looking neat and orderly with a non-distracting pallet. Adding in a few pops of color that are the direct compliment of your main color (think black and white) can also draw the eye to the shelving. Just be sure to use in moderation if you’re aiming for an understated look.
In the same way open shelving can be a functional, yet fashionable solution for dishware, the same principal can be applied with cookwares. Think of displaying items like copper pots, dutch ovens, stainless steel mixing bowls, teapots, wood cutting boards, and stone grinding bowls. Cookware like this is practically a work of art in itself, and looks great displayed out in the open. Plus, for the amount of money we invest into these types of pieces, we might as well show them off a bit instead of hiding them in a cabinet. Start by styling the shelving with one particular collection , i.e. your cast iron wares, and then add few other items of cookware to round out the general “theme” of the shelves.
Display Personal Collections
Moving a bit more toward fashion than function now, consider kitchen shelving as a place to display new or inherited collections. It’s kind of like a modern day china cabinet. A great place to put the “look, but don’t touch” items. Those high upper shelves that are hard to reach for everyday use act as a perfect spot to display large Chinaware, or a silver platter collection. Smaller items, like decorative salt and pepper shakers or unique kitchenware that you’ve collected on your travels, can get worked into all ares the shelving to round out the collection concept. Even something as simple as a vintage book or cookbook collection would look amazing when positioned into a few rows or stacks through the shelves. Don’t go too overboard with one collection or you’ll end up giving your shelving a museum like feeling.
Artwork is no longer reserved for formal sitting rooms and foyers. We use art throughout our homes to personalize each space, so why not on your kitchen shelving too? Incorporating your favorite prints, sculptural pieces and other decorative items creates interest to the space and balances out the functional use of the shelving with a bit of edgy fashion. Think outside the box here though. Too often people decorate their kitchen with pictures of utensils or other kitchen related items. I’ll be straight with you: don’t do that. You don’t put pictures of a toilet in your bathroom, do you? Well, at least I hope not. The kitchen is full of hard surfaces, angles and a utilitarian feel, so try bringing in some art that softens all that out a bit – like an abstract or nature print. Maybe even try adding a recent or vintage family photo in with the artwork. It’s a fun way to bring more personality to the kitchen.
Adding greenery as a design element belongs in every room of the house, and the kitchen is no exception. Adding some plants (real or fake – I won’t judge) is one of the best ways to add life to a space. Plants have the power to really transform a space for very little cost. Try adding real, low maintenance house plants to your shelving – ones that don’t need much water or attention. Cactus’ and succulents are always a great options too as they require less watering than average houseplant. Another idea would be to incorporate some potted herbs – beautiful greenery and fresh cooking ingredients at your fingertips. Of course, if you don’t want to bother with real plants (or are a total plant killer like myself), then by all means – go fake.
Combining Style and Function
With any of these concepts, a little mix and match is necessary to create a cohesive feeling. So start by asking yourself what the function of your shelving is. Are they to be used primarily for storage or display? From there choose one of the above main styling concept that best meets that need, and then incorporate one or two (at most) other concepts to incorporate into the main theme as well.
Example: Main function: Storage Main Style Concept: Showcase Cookware Secondary Style Concept: Greenery
Example: Main function: Display Main Style Concept: Artwork Secondary Style Concept: Collections
See where I’m going here? You get it, right? Not rocket science. And on one last note, in ANY of these concepts or examples it’s a-ok to incorporate a stack of dishes, row of glasses, a jar of utensils, or other related items along those lines that help meet you kitchen storage needs. It is a kitchen after all – so those items will never look out of place and are a great filler of space.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with open shelving, especially in an area like the kitchen that needs to be both stylish and functional. Hopefully these tips will make the process a bit easier and help you create your Pinterest perfect open shelves!
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