June 17, 2024


Taste the Home & Environment

21 Kitchen Shelving Ideas That Maximize Design Potential

While it may be tempting to hide away cookware, serving dishes, glassware, and other kitchen essentials in cabinets, don’t overlook the beauty that shelving can bring to your space. Keeping your most artisanal pieces on display will give your kitchen added character without compromising on storage potential. Kitchen shelves can also infuse personality into this sometimes utilitarian space, giving you an area to display artwork, candles, plants, and more. Ahead, we’re sharing beautiful kitchen shelving ideas that will maximize design (and storage) potential.

Install Concealable Shelves

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

If you can’t decide between exposed shelves and the sleek look of cabinets, take inspiration from this design that offers the best of both aesthetics. To enhance the functionality of this kitchen, Becky Shea of Becky Shea Design, incorporated walnut shelves that have the option to be concealed behind cabinet doors.

“Walnut is among my preferred wood choices for such applications due to its exquisite grain patterns, which I typically accentuate with a deep, natural stain akin to the one showcased here,” says Shea. “Its contrast against the white cabinets makes it an ideal canvas for showcasing decorative pieces or storing visually appealing vessels.”

Utilize Corners

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

Don’t overlook the corners in your kitchen. They’re often the perfect area to install floating shelves, which offer accessible storage for extra dishware or decorative displays, says Shea. In this kitchen, she used walnut shelves as an opportunity to blend form and function, using ceramic plates, mugs, a cutting board, and a vase to add vibrancy to the kitchen’s design.

Create a Focal Point

Margaret Rajic

Create a focal point in your kitchen by using open shelving to draw the eye in, which is what Laura Tribbett, principal and founder of Outline Interiors, did in this kitchen. “Our intention was to complement the sea of closed cabinetry by designating the range wall as the decorative focal point of the kitchen,” she said. “We installed a full wall of creamy ceramic tile backsplash, a custom plastered hood with metal banding and rivets, and commissioned the ceiling mount, hanging brass, and glass shelves to bring in an element of sculptural décor.”

Flank the Sink With Shelves

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

Opting for floating shelves in lieu of cabinets can make your kitchen feel more open. “I often feel a bit constricted standing at the sink with upper cabinets tightly flanking me on both sides, which is why I opted to install these floating shelves as a buffer,” says Shea. “They serve dual purposes, providing space for extra dishes and offering another area to showcase favorite décor or fresh flowers.”

Decorate With Restraint

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

While kitchen shelves are practical and can be used for storage, overfilling them can lean more cluttered than stylized. To avoid this, Shea recommends measuring appliances you want out of sight and ensuring you have space in your cabinets for them before opting for open shelving. If you do have room for shelves, decorate them with only your most beautiful serving pieces and glassware.

Add a Shelf Above the Oven

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

Make your kitchen more functional by adding a floating shelf above your oven wall backsplash. “The key is to ensure it’s positioned at an appropriate height and depth to avoid being splattered with oil or exposed to smoke,” says Shea. “In this instance, placing it 36 inches above the counter and making it 6 inches deep worked perfectly. I particularly adore how the statuary marble shelf introduces a touch of refined luxury to the kitchen’s design.”

Work With Your Existing Layout

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

Keep your kitchen’s existing layout in mind when designing your shelves. In this kitchen, Shea left the shelving open, leaving the line of sight uninterrupted when looking towards the window. “This not only preserves the view and allows light to permeate the space but also contributes to a greater sense of spaciousness in the room,” she says.

Opt for Oak

Life Created

Not sure what material to use for your floating shelves? Oak is a wonderful option if you’re hoping to achieve a natural, bright aesthetic. “To enhance the space and introduce a touch of airiness, we installed oak floating shelves on either side of this hood,” says Lerner. “This breaks up the solid cabinetry and offers a light storage option.”

Decorate With Antiques

Allison Lubow

Kitchen shelves offer the perfect opportunity to show off your personality. Keep your eclectic treasures on display, like Joshua Smith of Joshua Smith Inc. did in this kitchen. Antique artwork, a brass candle holder, and a collection of serveware give the all-white kitchen a boost of character.

Keep Continuity With Materials

Jenifer McNeil

Install shelves in the same material as your kitchen cabinets for a cohesive look. In this kitchen, designers from Maestri Studio chose wood floating shelves that complemented the enclosed wood cabinets, creating dimension without straying from the kitchen’s color palette.

Add Shelves Next to a Range

Kerrie Kelly Studio / Tiamo Images

Enhance the functionality of your kitchen by flanking appliances, like a range hood, with open shelving. “This creates a cohesive look while providing convenient storage for frequently used items, ensuring that everything you need is always within reach,” says Kerrie Kelly, FASID, NKBA, former ASID National Board Chair.

Install Shelving for Wine Bottles

Kerrie Kelly Studio / Tiamo Images

Create shelving that’s designed to store wine or other bottles, like Kelly did in this kitchen. “This elegant storage solution not only saves space but also showcases your favorite beverages in style, making them easily accessible for impromptu gatherings,” she says.

Maximize Lower Storage

Wendy Concannon

Neglected spaces underneath and on the backside of cabinets are ideal spots for installing shelving, says Melinda O’Connor, principal designer for Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors. “Lining open lower cabinets with wood for shelving adds warmth and depth to an otherwise underutilized and unremarkable space,” she says.

Build a Recessed Shelf Into Your Backsplash

Kerrie Kelly Studio / Lindsey King Photography

Maximize space and efficiency in your kitchen by creating a recessed shelf in the backsplash behind your cooktop. “This clever design feature keeps essential ingredients and utensils close at hand, streamlining your cooking process,” says Kelly.

Use Plumbing Fixtures for a Rustic Look

Jake Shea / Becky Shea Design

These shelves are given a rustic look thanks to the plumbing fixtures keeping them suspended. “They serve as yet another example of how, if you have sufficient cabinet storage, open shelving can beautifully display your finer tableware and objects,” says Shea. “Moreover, they offer an opportunity to introduce new materials into the design, in this instance, harmonizing with the leather cabinet hardware and the reeded barn door to the right.”

Opt for Glass Cabinets

Wendy Concannon

If open shelving isn’t your thing, glass cabinets offer an elegant way to keep your shelves on display but not entirely exposed. O’Connor elevated the built-in glass cabinets in this home by adding lighting and styling them with simple plates and cups, which complemented the warm, layered wood backdrop.

Add Pops of Color

Michael Wiltbank

Style your kitchen shelves with brightly colored décor and glassware to make the space feel more welcoming, which is what Bryan Yates of Yates Desygn did in this kitchen. “Our goal for this project was to utilize the shelves to transform the clients’ once dark and dated kitchen into a cheerful, Southern space with easy access to everyday glassware,” he says. Yates decorated the shelves with white-and-blue bowls, colorful glassware, and a fruit bowl filled with bright green apples to achieve his vision.

Repurpose an Antique Cabinet

Wendy Concannon

Repurpose a historic cabinet for shelving to meld vintage and new elements in a sophisticated way. “This shelf was from the original house and painstakingly restored and integrated into the kitchen in a new spot to hold glassware,” says O’Connor.

Create a Curated Look

Amy Lamb

While a kitchen should be functional first and foremost, it should also echo the rest of your home’s aesthetic—and shelves are the perfect opportunity to do so. “By adding and layering art and accessories, you can achieve a curated, designer look that generates visual interest,” says Tracee Murphy of Trade Mark Interiors.

Break Up Appliances

Cynthia Lynn Kim

Break up big kitchen appliances by installing shelving in between them. “Two refrigeration units, separated by open shelving, offer a beautiful and functional space to display serving pieces and everyday essentials,” says cabinet craftsmen O’Brien Harris. “The shelves break up the cabinetry’s elevation, adding visual interest, and float above a stone counter that provides a practical area for prepping items from the refrigeration units.”

Opt for a Small Shelf

Tony Soluri

Even a small shelf in the kitchen packs a major design punch, which is evidenced by this design by NAVYBLACK Studio and PROjECT.interiors. For this tableau, they created a small ledge made of honed Calacutta Lincoln that’s perfect for holding small decorative pieces like artwork and taper candles.