All about our kitchen shelves + brackets

The most asked questions about our mini kitchen makeover always center on the open shelves. This is the second kitchen we’ve gone with shelves instead of upper cabinets and I’m certain we’ll do it again when we do a full remodel. They function so well for us, we love the casual look and it gives me a place to style dishes, cake plates, baskets, glassware and plants to make the kitchen look lived-in and cozy.

In our previous kitchen, we used brackets and shelves from IKEA and were very happy with how they looked and how sturdy they were. If you need a refresher, here is what that pretty mostly white kitchen looked like.

This house has a whole different feel and when updating the kitchen we decided to try a new look for us. Our long-term plan is to open up a wall, add more windows and reorient the kitchen to allow for a larger island and focal point range. In the meantime, we did a quick makeover knowing that we had to work with the existing gray tile floors, granite tile counters and lower cabinets. By removing the heavy uppers, it brought so much lightness and openness to the whole space. But, of course, losing all of that storage wouldn’t really function well, so we opted for four sections of open shelves (see the kitchen before + after here and a more recent follow-up post here).

Once we painted the lower cabinets a dark gray (Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams), we loved the idea of bringing warmth into the kitchen with natural wood shelves.

What I really wanted were very minimal, thick floating wood shelves. But I wanted them at a reasonable price (aka inexpensive) and sturdy enough to hold lots of weight and we just were not able to find a solution that worked.

So instead, we found thick reclaimed cedar boards from our local salvage yard and the most minimal brackets we could find.
Now, just to be fair, the wood was not exactly cheap. We could have gone much less expensive with pine boards from the lumber yard, but it felt special to use a nice wood and worth the little extra splurge (although definitely not as expensive as solid floating wood shelves would have been).

We searched and searched for every bracket option we could find. Remember, I wanted very minimal. So while there are countless great bracket options, most were more decorative than I was going for. Looking back, it sure would have made it so much easier if I would have just gone with something mass market :)

Thankfully, Ryan obliged his picky wife and came up with this solution (after a few different tries and fails).

These simple heavy-duty stainless steel angle brackets were our perfect, affordable solution.

Ryan securely screwed the brackets into studs with heavy-duty screws to make sure they were going to hold the shelves and contents.

On the long shelf that holds all of our everyday dishes (see below), he also added screws from the side panel of the cabinet that sits next to the fridge into the side of the shelf. This gave these shelves the extra support they needed without having to put an additional bracket in the center of the shelves (which I didn’t want because remember: very minimal).

The other sets of shelves that flank either side of the windows and sit over the desk area are smaller in both length and depth (9″ deep versus the dish shelves are 11″ deep) so just two brackets screwed into studs work fine to hold them.

The wood we chose is not the heaviest of all woods, but the solid thickness of 1.5″ keeps them from sagging in the center.

Even though we did not get floating shelves exactly, the brackets we ended up using almost disappear against the wall and give us sturdy shelves that can handle the weight of stacked dishes, glassware and serving pieces.

If you are on the hunt for shelf brackets, perhaps the angle brackets we used will work for you, but also don’t forget to look at the selection at World Market, Anthropologie, Rejuvenation and House Of Antique Hardware.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the shelves. I’m happy to answer!

32 Responses to All about our kitchen shelves + brackets

  1. Allison August 16, 2018 at 6:11 am #

    How high from the counter is your bottom shelf? How many inches are your shelves from eachother? Thanks!

  2. Jill July 20, 2018 at 9:32 am #

    Emily, where did you get your cedar?

  3. Nicki April 7, 2018 at 8:18 am #

    We’re heading towards the end of a mammoth house build and I have thought about having open shelves in my kitchen. I’m a bit concerned about how dusty/greasy they get if they are near the hob (or is that just me being an ‘undomestic goddess’?!)

    • emily April 9, 2018 at 8:52 am #

      They will collect dust and probably a little bit of grime. I just wipe mine down with a damp cloth and it works fine. Be careful if you choose a very grainy or rough wood – that will be hard to wipe down.

  4. Tanya March 15, 2018 at 7:41 am #

    Really curious what the “drawer” that has the hinges on it is used for?? Looked back and I don’t recall you mentioning it before. Thanks!

    • emily March 15, 2018 at 11:30 am #

      It is one of those flap open fronts that has a pull-out cutting board in it. We don’t ever use it because wood cutting boards are not my thing (unless used for bread or serving).

  5. Cella March 14, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

    As someone commented already – I had never noticed your counters were tiles and not solid!

    Love the look of the shelves. (When you redo your kitchen, you could attach them directly to the studs and sheetrock/patch over the bottom portion of the brackets)

    I would love to know how you arrived at the placement of the shelves, as in how high above the counter and each other? and what are the measurements?


  6. Carrie March 14, 2018 at 7:23 am #

    They look lovely! Thank you for giving us the peek into your kitchen and directions. Do you know the name of the little plant you have on our windowsill in first two pics?

    • emily March 14, 2018 at 1:16 pm #

      You’re welcome! That little plant is called Baby Tears.

  7. Kristy March 12, 2018 at 9:45 pm #

    Love your Scout coffee mug in the pictures. It’s the best coffee shop here in San Luis Obispo, CA!

    • emily March 13, 2018 at 11:18 am #

      Of all the coffee shops we visited on our country-wide road trip two summers ago, Scout was my favorite :)

  8. Camille March 12, 2018 at 9:41 pm #

    Where do you find your cutting boards?

    • emily March 13, 2018 at 11:19 am #

      I found the cutting boards at HomeGoods and Pier One.

  9. Traci March 12, 2018 at 6:37 pm #

    Hello! Can you please tell me the color of stain that was used on your shelves?

    • emily March 13, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      I just used a clear poly to seal them. The color was already so pretty.

  10. Rosario March 12, 2018 at 4:21 pm #

    Love the color of your bottom cabinets. What is the brand and color?

    • emily March 13, 2018 at 11:20 am #

      The paint color is Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams

  11. Allison March 12, 2018 at 2:01 pm #

    Was there any damage to the walls when you took the cupboards down? I want to try this, but worry there will be major fixing to the drywall before hanging the shelves.

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 2:39 pm #

      Nope. Most cabinets are just screwed into the walls in a few places so hopefully the drywall under is not damaged.

  12. Jen March 12, 2018 at 1:25 pm #

    Do you ever get concerned about the open shelving and earthquakes? I mean, I know they’re rare, but does that ever worry you?

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

      I haven’t thought about it, so I guess the answer is no :) If there is an earthquake, the house will certainly be a mess … but if anything I’m probably more worried about the massive trees surrounding our house falling down in an earthquake :|

  13. Tara D. March 12, 2018 at 1:20 pm #

    The shelves are lovely! Funny, as a regular blog reader, I never noticed you had granite tiles on your counter. We have the same and we too are planning for a kitchen reno in the future. Might think about these open shelves. Looking forward to seeing what you do next!

  14. Lorie Underwood March 12, 2018 at 1:00 pm #

    Love your kitchen. Actually Love everything you do. Can you give a source for the geometric rug in front of your sink? It’s not shown in this post but is in others and I haven’t seen a link to it. Thanks, and thanks for the constant inspiration.

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #

      Thank you! The rug was a find at HomeGoods last year.

  15. jennifer March 12, 2018 at 11:48 am #

    Do you think these shelves would work for books in an office? We are trying to find an affordable way to make book shelves.

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 12:44 pm #

      Books can get pretty heavy, but as long as you have the shelves securely attached to the wall and plenty of support to keep the shelves from sagging, open shelves would work great for a stand-in bookshelf.

  16. Michelle Scott March 12, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    I like it! I wonder if it would work if the bracket went the other direction so that the shelves sat inside the L and instead of the one piece running down the wall under the shelf, ran up so that the shelf would cover the more of the bracket – ???

  17. Ruth March 12, 2018 at 11:26 am #

    Love this idea! Open shelves might work really well in my kitchen! I saw you have the champagne brass faucet and brass draw pulls. Does it bother you to have the stainless steel shelf brackets? I’m thinking of doing a similar faucet in my half bathroom but want to know if I have to replace every metal with brass or if it’s ok to miss metals. Thank you!

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 12:45 pm #

      Great question. I actually like the more casual look of mixed metals in the house, so it doesn’t bother me. We have a stainless fridge, sink and dishwasher, brass pulls and faucet. The combo feels relaxed, which I like.

      • Ms.Shugan March 12, 2018 at 6:50 pm #

        Oh, and I was just going to suggest that you paint the bottom portion so it blends into the wall. I’ll have to go back and look at other posts of your kitchen to open my mind to mixed metals. I have always had a knee-jerk reaction against brackets. Time to hang up a hang-up, perhaps. Btw, your kitchen looks terrific. I’m looking forward to seeing it reoriented in your big remodeling.

  18. Jesse May Danson March 12, 2018 at 11:25 am #

    Both my husband and I love this look – we’ve been considering it for years. I don’t know when we’ll finally make the leap, but THANK YOU for sharing your process and resources. :)

    • emily March 12, 2018 at 12:46 pm #

      You’re welcome! You should do it :)

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