How To Style Functional Open Shelving

Last week, the third client in 2 months balked at the idea of open shelving in their kitchen because they did not know how to style open shelving. They also didn’t know if they could keep it looking pretty when it was installed. So. I’m here to take the fear of out of open shelving and walk you through the process. Step by step. And I’m talking from personal experience in addition to the our client projects, so I know my shizzizle on this topic first hand.

In fact, when I suggested open shelving in the kitchen for the kitchen refresh we did last year, it was the same question from my husband. How does open shelving work from a functional standpoint? And do we REALLY want to display our stuff 24 / 7? Will it look good? Is it difficult to maintain? And on and on and on. Yes, folks, my husband still has to be reassured even though this is what we do all day, every day. So you’re in good company if you have the same questions.

Kitchen Remodel | Kitchen Design | MLIG | Dallas Interior Decorator

My little kitchen (for more, see #ProjectCaulfieldDrive on Instagram)After I convinced him that removing the cabinets and replacing them with open shelving will make the kitchen feel bigger (this is true in all kitchens, not just my little one), he breathed a bit of a sigh of relief. Then we dug into the same details we review with our clients:

Confirm you have enough storage.

You’ll be re-arranging a few things in your kitchen. Exposing some of the items (obviously – on the open shelves) and tucking others into different locations. Open shelving should be functional, so we are going to want to display the most relevant items.

Start with what you use.

Depending upon where you install the shelves will determine the foundation of the styled items. Look, you’re not just “accessorizing”, you’re creating a functional space within arguably the most used room in the kitchen. Plates, bowls, and everyday dishes are what we always begin with for our clients, and it was the same at my house.

Do you need have all 12 – 16 settings on the shelf at once? Probably not. We run the dishwasher often enough that 4 – 6 of any item is enough. So the rest of the dishes can go behind a cabinet until they are needed again. And do they need to match? Ummmm…no (I say with uncertainty)…if you enjoy the eclectic vibe of mismatched coffee mugs. For me (and our clients), matching IS a key factor in the aesthetic. I was able to convince the hubs that a set of white dishes would last us for much longer than the style specific dishes we selected for our wedding gifts. Hindsight is 20/ 20, right?

You don’t have to limit the shelving to just dishes. Again, depending upon where the shelves are located, they could house your barware and liquor. The options are endless!

Kitchen Decor | Open Kitchen Shelving | ML Interiors Group | Dallas Interior Design

For more, see #ProjectWoodcrest on Instagram

Add some decorative function.

Maybe it’s canisters. Unique salt and pepper shakers. Your favorite teapot. Candlesticks you often pull from behind the cabinet doors but are pretty enough to display. Cookbooks that you’re continually creating from. There are all sorts of things that you probably use, but never thought of displaying. Plants (real or faux).  Metal wine glasses.

A Grapevine area kitchen renovation brings organic wood shelves, contrasted with a black and gold range hood | Design by ML Interiors Group | Dallas best interior design

For more, see #ProjectBuckinghamDrive on Instagram

Or maybe you just go for decorative.

And keep your functional behind closed doors if your dishes and such don’t really match. (You know, that eclectic coffee mug collection you add to every time you travel?) This is a nice space to add photo frames, faux fruit so you always have a hint of color, flowers, or maybe you switch it out seasonally.

Kitchen Design | Kitchen Decor | Michelle Lynne Interiors Group | Dallas Interior Design

For more, see #ProjectNottinghamDrive on Instagram

All of our client’s kitchen shelves have been made custom for their space, but if you’re looking for an easier and faster option, check out THESE or THESE shelves from Ballard Designs. Just make sure they are installed in a wall stud, so your cute styling doesn’t fall to the ground.

And keep in mind, that if you decide you’re not a fan of the open shelves in a few years, adding cabinetry back in place is not difficult. BUT. I’d be willing to be that – so long as you have enough storage elsewhere – once you’ve livened them up functionally, you’ll love them for a long time!

For more images of the above projects, you can see them HERE in our portfolio…and of course by checking out the hashtags on Instagram.

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Let’s schedule a time to “interview us”!  We have years of experience creating happier and more efficient homes. We begin every project with a (free) in studio Meet & Greet. Contact the team at ML Interiors Group today at 972-248-4733 or via the website contact form. We offer interior design services in all of DFW and beyond.