open shelves in the kitchen

When we tore apart our perfectly fine, but utterly boring kitchen, one thing we knew we wanted were open shelves.

We love the classic, casual, slightly industrial, slightly country look of shelves and it remains one of our favorite parts of our kitchen.


There are a few regular questions people ask about living with open shelves in the kitchen, so I’m here to answer. Here are the top three questions:

1. Do the dishes get dusty?


Yes. They do. But not any dustier than anything else in the house. We use most of what lives on the shelves on a fairly regular basis, so the dust doesn’t accumulate too much. I just wipe them down every week or so (who am I kidding … it’s probably more like once a month) with a damp paper towel and that takes care of it.

2. How do you keep the stuff on the shelves looking nice?

open-shelves-objects This is totally personal preference, but I like to group like items, and keep everything neutral.

Our everyday dishes are white (see the stacks?) and glassware is clear, which looks nice neatly arranged on the shelves. Mixed in is lots of white serving ware (most passed on from my m-i-l who is a professional thrift-store shopper) and old silver bowls and trays.


The bottom shelves are filled with regularly used dishes and in zones that make sense to our kitchen. The coffee cups sit near the coffee maker; the plates are near the dishwasher for easy unloading; the glasses are grouped together near the sink and beverage refrigerator.

The top shelves are a bit more decorative with cake plates, white pitchers and vases, but are still items that get regular use.

Varying height by leaning silver trays up against the wall, or stacking salad plates on a cake stand give a bit of interest and keeps the eye moving around. There’s no perfect way to style shelves, but keep playing around, moving things, propping things, arranging until it appeals to your eye.

3. Where are the shelves and brackets from?


When looking for shelves, we were wanting simple and modern to balance out the cottagy look of the bead board paneling. We bought the metal brackets from IKEA which were both inexpensive and just the look we were going for. There are a few options of shelves also from IKEA, but we went with the birch wood veneer and then sanded and painted them with the same oil-based paint as the lower cabinets. They have held up very well.

If we were to do our kitchen again, we would definitely go with open shelves again. They feel light and add character and provide easy access to our everyday dishes.

What do you think of open shelves in the kitchen?

22 Responses to open shelves in the kitchen

  1. Peggy July 2, 2014 at 8:22 am #

    Oh Emily, I love your open shelves and have to admit we have taken the doors off of some of our kitchen cabinets in order to have a more open airy feel in a room that has minimal natural light… think a single small window. Our kitchen opens directly into the dining room which is also open on two sides, one being the family room and the other the living room. Can you say kinda open concept?! Our dining room has 3 old metal shelves that I picked up at a local antique mall for a pittance… Umm like under $2.50 for all 3. yes two dollars and 50 cents. We currently had it loaded but it is beginning to look overwhelmed so I am currently in the process of an overhaul. Time to get rid of what ingredients, gadgets, and dishes we don’t use (or love) and replace with them with the things I adore! You kitchen is truly an inspiration! If I have your permission, may I print off copies of some of these pictures for my inspiration book? Yes I am a mix of old and new school. Pinterest and my hands-on printed off pictures book are my go to’s. There is just something about a book that I can carry in my hands plus my eye doctor has asked me to start limiting my computer time until we can figure out a solution for my eyes. Thanks!!

    • emily July 2, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      Of course you can print any pictures you’d like! It is always helpful to see real life ideas and figure out how to make your space work with some of the ideas. Best of luck!

  2. Esme July 1, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    Love this! Did you cut the shelves down (length) or use the actual size they sold at IKEA?

    • emily July 2, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

      We had to cut them to size. The cut ends fit into the brackets so you don’t see them!

  3. Cathryn June 25, 2014 at 3:44 pm #

    I had open shelving in my former home and loved it. It would make me very happy to have open shelving in this home, but the cabinetry was new when we bought the house so as it ages I hoping that the Hubs sees my vision.

  4. Donita June 24, 2014 at 4:06 pm #

    My mother-in-law remodeled her kitchen and totally eliminated all the upper cabinets/shelves…she’s short and decided she wanted everything in lower cabinets. It certainly made the kitchen look nice and clean and open!

  5. Janna June 23, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

    Hi just stumbled onto your blog…and I’m in love. Like minds…soul sisters. Love the kitchen! So bright and fresh. I’ll be back – take care! Janna

  6. Debbie Howard June 23, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    What a pretty collection of silver and it looks so pretty with the white.

  7. leah June 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    Love open shelving! The white dishes, the clear glasses…love it all!!! I am not afraid of a little dust. I would choose open shelving in a heartbeat!

  8. Kristi June 23, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    This is so gorgeous!! It feels so bright and airy. Love it.

  9. Liz || Shopping My Closet June 23, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    Love how you styled the shelves!

    Liz @ http://www.shoppingmycloset.com

  10. LoisAnn June 23, 2014 at 12:15 pm #

    Hi Emily, I love your home and your kitchen is gorgeous. I am not a fan of open shelves. The cleanliness is the first reason and the loss of storage is second. I own a lot of dishes and serve ware so I need all the storage I can get. It does not help to be only 5 foot 2 inches. If I used those items on a daily basis I’d have to haul out a step stool every time. I do have one shelf on which I display some of my favorites and boy do they get dirty – too close to the stove. I try to run them through the dishwasher once a month and always before company is expected. An extra chore when you least need one. I believe it is a trend that in 5 years we’ll be saying “What were we thinking!” Like stainless steel appliances – all those fingerprints! That said, how boring blogs would be if we all thought alike.

  11. Jennifer June 23, 2014 at 11:48 am #

    Hi Emily, I always enjoy your posts and especially pics of your beautiful home. I’ve admired your open shelves and have used the same in my kitchen. While reading this post I noticed you have a cooktop in your island and I would love to know if it has downdraft ventilation. We are in the process of building a new home and I’m looking at that option. Thanks. Enjoy your summer!

  12. Carole June 23, 2014 at 11:18 am #

    Hi Emily!
    You can see my kitchen : https://www.facebook.com/pages/Marie-Maguelone-Cr%C3%A9ations/286067644872902?hc_location=timeline
    Have a good week!

  13. Melissa June 23, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Love the open kitchen look! What kind of coffee maker is that? I’m in the market for a new one and I love the red tones!

  14. Mandy Linville June 23, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Where did you purchase your soup tureens?

  15. Pam June 23, 2014 at 8:55 am #

    I’ve looked at your kitchen many times, I just love it! I am almost ready to tear down our cabinets and replace them with shelves. Two questions: how do the Ikea shelves do with holding weight and then any paint tips for the cabinets? The dust btw I’m totally okay with I figure most of things I put out will be on heavy rotation.

  16. Kates June 23, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    One more random question – How much weight do you put on those shelves? It looks like they are study but without braces underneath I was just wondering. Love the look of them!

    • emily June 26, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

      We made sure the brackets are screwed securely into studs so that they can handle the weight of our stacks of dishes.

  17. Carole June 23, 2014 at 6:53 am #

    That’s great, and I also have in my kitchen. It is also white! Much in common, yet! But I complain a lot against dust! I would change the shelves to put the other way, I would have more space as well. But for now, it is not! Good week!

  18. Sarah o June 23, 2014 at 6:42 am #

    Really like them a lot!!! Would need to get white dishes if it were my house :)

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