Open Shelving Is Moving onto This Unexpected Kitchen Feature

published Mar 29, 2022
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A clean, natural-lit white kitchen with wood countertops
Credit: Lana Kenney

Open shelving is either controversial or indisputably the best, depending on who you ask. People who have embraced it in their kitchens love that they can show off their wares and get more decorating real estate. Others hate the clutter and don’t think kitchen shelves need more knickknacks. Either way, it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

While open shelving is traditionally found in place of top cabinets, it’s now making its way down to the kitchen island. More and more people are embracing shelves on their work and prep stations, adding an unexpected element to the classic kitchen staple. These open shelves either appear in a small nook, giving you a little corner to decorate, or take over an entire side of the island, allowing you to stock it fully with bowls, pans, and decorative serving platters. Then there are those islands that throw out the blueprint entirely and look more like tables with rows of open shelving underneath.

Not only does adding shelving to a kitchen island give you more storage space, but it also makes the room feel a bit lighter and airier. An island — especially a big one — is a huge chunk of furniture, so it can add a lot of visual weight to a room. Shelves help lighten that load. 

Are you interested in trying out the trend? Here are some beautiful pre-fab islands you can experiment with.

1 / 5
Crate & Barrel

Featuring a black cast steel and aluminum base and a contrasting white-gray marble top, this island evokes the charm of “an old-world pastry shop.” You might find yourself tempted to make macarons while standing over this.

2 / 5
Joss & Main

Do you need both a workstation and a kitchen table? This reclaimed pine island doubles as both, thanks to its slide-out leaf extension, which is easily hidden away in a built-in pocket when you need more floor space. You also get to pick the look of your countertop: stainless steel, reclaimed pine, or trendy concrete. And thanks to the rows of open shelving underneath, this squat island won’t feel like it’s dominating the kitchen — which is especially great for ones with smaller square footage.

3 / 5

For those looking for something a little more budget-friendly, head over to IKEA and get the TORNVIKEN off-white and oak island. It has deep open shelving, allowing you to add as many stacked serving bowls and plates as you can. If you have the space, you can double up with two to make a statement.

4 / 5

Made in collaboration with California designer Amber Lewis, this rustic pine island makes a strong visual statement. Thanks to its squat silhouette, sturdy legs and drawers, and angular shape, it commands the space. But because of its ample negative space in the form of open shelving, it doesn’t overwhelm. You can choose between the black stain pictured, or opt for a rustic yellow pine.

5 / 5
was $691.11

If you have an antique-inspired kitchen, you can’t go wrong with this open shelf island. Made from solid wood, this piece features two drawers and two open lower shelves that let you organize your prettiest mixing bowls and serving dishes. You can also choose between four different finishes.