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8 Ideas to Keep Open Shelving Styled and Organized, According to Renovations That Did It

published Aug 5, 2022
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Open shelving can sometimes get a bad rap. It looks perfect in kitchen inspiration photos, but if you’re not careful, it can easily turn into a cluttered mess. Basically, it can be the perfect setting for an Instagram versus reality post. 

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But with a little planning, open shelving can work and be incredibly functional for items that you use daily. And from a design perspective, it’ll add plenty of color and style to break up the monotony of kitchen cabinetry. If you’re looking for ways to keep this area from falling into disarray, these eight ideas from past before and afters are sure to keep your open shelving styled and organized.

Credit: Ineke Nordt
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An Open Shelf Brings Clutter-Free Accountability

In this galley kitchen makeover, not only did the homeowner keep the original black-and-white flooring while bringing in sleek, Scandi cabinetry, but they also made room for a singular open shelf along one wall. In this case, it puts everyday items within reach, and stays consistent with the rest of this clean-lined kitchen. It also holds the owners accountable to keep it neat!

Credit: Spacecrafting Photography
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A Shelf Is Used For a Sculptural, Optical Illusion

With plenty of storage in this modern kitchen, there wasn’t a need for open shelving, but the homeowners decided to add it to break up the black leading up to the high ceilings. Light oak shelves flank the range and, instead of adding items that are used on a regular basis, they carefully selected a few sculptural pieces for height and dimension.

A Narrow Kitchen Gets Some Pantry Storage

On the opposite end of the spectrum, this simple open shelf in a 44-square-foot narrow kitchen is solely about function. Matching jars hold pantry staples, and the consistency of one jar to the next makes for a visually pleasing lineup. They’re easy to keep organized when they all look the same, and it encourages these homeowners to use up their pantry items when they’re right there at eye level. It’s a win-win.

A Cramped Space Adds More Storage With Strategic Shelving

Sometimes with open shelving, you create more storage… and sometimes open shelves mean you have to add more storage. The open shelves in this kitchen makeover are styled with functional bowls and glasses the homeowners use, but the reality is, when they took out the cabinets that had previously been there, they lost storage space. And they had to figure out how to make it up. A banquette in the breakfast area picks up where the open shelves left off. Open shelves, hidden storage, it’s the secret formula.

A Kitchen’s Small Open Shelving Makes It Easier to Organize

The best way to keep your open shelves neat? Don’t give yourself much room to get messy! These open shelves take advantage of an awkwardly small space between a wall and a cabinet. It’s just enough room to add a few styling items, but not enough that you’ll ever have to worry about it becoming a clutter magnet.

These Open Shelves Store Everyday Dishes Easily

Your open shelves will never accumulate dust when you follow this kitchen’s lead. If you use them to store your everyday dishes stylishly, you’re going to gravitate toward them. These owners used a black-and-white palette for their kitchen, and opted for dark dishes and shelves against a white wall. No only do these items make a statement, but they’re located right where you’d need to grab a bowl or plate anyway.

A Cabinet Reno Lets in the Light — And Streamlines Necessities

A wood kitchen is a relic of the 1980s that’s easy to find in many homes. In this kitchen, those yellow-tinted cabinets had to go — and open shelving was the solution. Walls and remaining cabinets were painted white, leaving way for minimalist open shelving to let in as much light as possible. In this kitchen, where the goal was to keep the space bright and airy, just a few items in monochromatic white blend into the background.

Lots of Open Shelving Provides a Place for Plants

If you’re lucky enough to renovate a kitchen and end up with storage galore, then perhaps those open shelves don’t need to solely serve a practical purpose. This kitchen went from a U-shape to an L-shape, gaining storage space in the process. That freed up valuable square footage for open shelving that was dedicated to the usual suspects, but it also meant the owners could decorate with plenty of plants, too.