11 kitchen shelving ideas – practical and stylish open shelving looks

After kitchen shelving ideas? Believe it or not, open shelving can make your kitchen appear larger than bulky wall cabinets that block the light. We’ve found great ideas to copy

open shelving in a small red kitchen with small dining table
(Image credit: Ikea)

When browsing kitchen shelving ideas, if you thought open shelving wasn't for you, it's time to think again.

There are lots of upsides to open kitchen shelving, the obvious bonus being that you can see where everything is. No searching high and low for your favorite mug - you can keep it front-and-center for your morning coffee. Plus, if you have a pretty collection of kitchenware or dinner plates, open shelving doubles as a display. 

As kitchen storage ideas go, open shelving is still an acquired taste and for it to work, you will need to keep it organized – perfect for shelfie junkies, though. 

Worried about the dust? We’ve found from experience that it’s not an issue, because you are using your shelving every day, so there’s no time for dust to settle and you can easily give them a wipe before putting back your pieces in the evening. 

Experts at Ikea explain, 'With kitchen shelves, you can fit more into your space while keeping all your things easy to find (and grab). They make the most of your wall by giving you extra storage, and the right kitchen shelf, like wooden or metal kitchen shelves, can boost the style of your decor too.'

Lastly, it’s relatively inexpensive, you can make your own if you are DIY-efficient, or look out for vintage shelves at charity shops and car boots, or invest in the ones below that we’ve found...

1. Show off your best pieces on kitchen shelving

black metal open shelving idea in a modern industrial style with white subway tiles

(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

If you love the open plan kitchen look then consider these bespoke shelves from the Refined range at Life Kitchen

Their kitchens always offer great storage solutions that are both relaxed in style and modern and keeping your tableware out on show can add a decorative touch to your space. The jet black metal looks great teamed with the blond wood back, and provides a neutral space for your plates and bowls to shine. 

2. Fill that awkward gap with this kitchen shelving idea

open shelving in a small red kitchen with small dining table

(Image credit: Ikea)

Sometimes – and this often happens in older properties that have wonky wall quirks – wall cabinet units don’t fit the spaces we wish them to and there’s that funny little gap left. 

This is where you can pop in a wall shelf or two so you’re maximizing the space and creating a break in the scheme a la IKEA's TRANHULT/SANDSHULT

The unit on the left above the sink is nice and wide, but that's left a narrow space on the right. We love how they’ve added a task light to the wall which highlights the shelf, you can use it for recipe books and vases that aren’t in use.

3. Pick minimalist kitchen shelving for a pared back look

white string shelving unit in a laundry room or kitchen above a stainless steel sink

(Image credit: String Furniture)

We’ve long been fans of String shelving and their practical shelving ideas; the Swedish designed system by Nils Strinning back in 1949 is super versatile and you can create your own configurations using the individual pieces.

Start with one component and then increase your shelving as you require more space – from top to bottom and from side to side – whatever suits your space and your needs.

Aside from the white metal, there’s wooden and color finishes and some versions come pre-built so all you need to do is attach them to the wall in your chosen place – win win.

4. Match kitchen shelving to the wall behind

Blond wood kitchen with matching open shelving unit and large dining table

(Image credit: Sainsbury's Home)

This has the effect of making the kitchen as a whole feel sleeker. We love this all-wooden kitchen which showcases Sainsbury’s Nordic Spring tableware and secondly, whoever thought of putting a ladder style wall unit on the countertop is genius.

It’s sleek and stylish with oozes Scandi style practicality – the nearest we’ve come up with to copy this idea is Next’s Oakley wooden storage shelves – if you’re handy with a drill you could easily fix this to the wall on the countertop or properly wall-mount it with this how-to.

  1. Check the construction of the wall: Is it masonry or plaster, or drywall/plasterboard? This will dictate the weight of a shelf you can hang. Tip: Knock on the wall and if it sounds hollow, it's plasterboard or drywall.
  2. Choose a suitable shelf style and fixture: If you're working with plasterboard or drywall, look for lightweight shelves and consider light things to keep on it. 
  3. Check your wall for pipes and cables: Before drilling any holes, use a digital detector to assess if there are any pipes or cables to worry about. 
  4. Mark out the position of your shelf: Hold up the shelf and eyeball the positioning, then mark the desired position with a pencil, making a small dot in each hole of the brackets too. Use a level to draw a line to the other bracket and mark the second. 
  5. Prepare the wall: Drill a shallow pilot hole to make it easier to drill in the screws. 
  6. Fasten the brackets to the wall with a screwdriver or drill and attach the shelf, checking all are secure.

5. Make run-of-the-mill kitchen accessories into a stylish display

wooden shelving on a white wall holding plants, jars and other kitchen accessories

(Image credit: Dunelm)

A useful thing about this kitchen shelving idea? It shows how easy it is to use everything from chopping boards, salt and pepper, tumblers for the kids' drinks to herbs and spices to create a display that's very good looking.

They can all be out on show when you use them daily – the bonus of popping them on the shelf is that it keeps your countertop clear and clutter-free. These lovely acacia wood bits and bobs are all from Dunelm.

6. Cheat a traditional kitchen shelving idea with paint

White open shelves in white vintage kitchen with a deep Belfast sink

(Image credit: The National Trust)

Have a traditional kitchen? These shelves are made with simple lengths of pine and wooden brackets, all painted in a stylish, period shade. 

This is such a lovely rustic look, but putting shelves around or above a sink is really practical too. Everything is on show and in easy reach. 

Mix up you colors and patterns for a more bold look or copy this kitchen shelving idea and opt for a subtle color palette. 

7. Tiny space? This cute kitchen shelving idea is for you

If you are squeezed for storage space in your kitchen but don't have the room/don't want to add more cabinets, this kitchen shelving idea is a great solution. 

You can stick it up in a space that would otherwise go unused like this little corner. This lovely set up has been created using cute bracket shelves (Ikea's Sandshult always look fab) and a rail for even more storage. 

8. Run a single shelf the length of your kitchen

A dark kitchen with one long open shelf with kitchen accessories, crockery and other utensils above a sink

(Image credit: Nordic Nest)

Want to keep your kitchen open shelves looking clean and clutter free? Why not opt for a long single shelf the length of your kitchen wall? 

There will still be plenty of available storage but the look will be minimalist and modern. 

Make use of the space by storing cookbooks, glasses and glass containers or create a feature shelf with your all-time favorite kitchen accessories and artwork.

9. Use open shelving as a #shelfie feature

A white shaker kitchen with two white open shelves featuring plants, and various stylish kitchen accessories and utensils

(Image credit: Future © Kasia Fiszer)

if you already have plenty of cupboards and are lucky enough to have wall space going spare, instead of opting for artwork, why not make a feature wall with open shelving? 

These open shelves in this white shaker kitchen add personality to an otherwise pared back space, with trailing plants, vintage finds and colorful kitchen accessories. 

10. Multifunctional open shelving 

black metal wire open shelving with compartments for plates and cups

(Image credit: Georgia Burns)

Open shelving organization doesn't get much better than this unit, where everything has its place. 

With an in-built plate rack, cup hooks and baskets for smaller items, this multifunctional shelving unit is a must have in any industrial-style kitchen.

11. Create bespoke shelving 

white shaker kitchen with open shelving and wooden countertops

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer © Future)
Sophie Warren-Smith
Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 18 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie has a passion for flowers and colour and has recently launched an online styling course, Style with Blooms.