Sure, it might be a divisive design decision, but open shelving isn’t going anywhere. Not only does it provide much-needed storage in a kitchen, pantry, or even a dining room, but by its nature, it pretty much forces you to stay organized. When you have your glassware and dinnerware in full view, you’ll likely feel compelled to KonMari the things you don’t actually use and really love—like that novelty pint glass you got at a fundraiser or that random bowl you inherited from a former roommate.
Not only that, open shelving is a great way to make your space feel more you, providing a place to proudly display your collection of Depression glass or family of plants. Sure, you might have to do a little extra cleaning once a week, but these setups will convince you it’s worth it.
The Cool Corner
When you narrow down your dinnerware to just the essentials—the things you actually use—a simple corner ledge can house them easily. The Joshua Tree House’s terracotta tableware makes this wood nook extra-charming.
The Makeshift Ledges
The Museum-Worthy Display
Open shelves aren’t just for dishes. If you have the space, open up multiple upper cabinets, like Emily Henderson Design did here, and intersperse your plates and cups with beautiful vases, baskets, and those vintage casserole pots you scored at that garage sale.
The Dining Room Hero
Let’s be honest: China cabinets can be bulky and difficult to style when you have more stuff than space. Katherine Carter’s alternative—a quad of built-in ledges—makes a massive collection of teacups and vintage platters look thoughtfully curated.
The Double Feature
In her kitchen, Katie Spiers shows that the setup doesn’t have to be totally utilitarian. A few plants placed in between the essentials instantly brightens up the space (and that cool herringbone backsplash doesn’t hurt either).
The Wooden Wonder
You don’t have to give up your cabinets to get in on the trend. A small stack of ledges in this kitchen by Bespoke Only balances out the heavier wood cupboards.
The Acrobatic Act
Even windows can’t get in the way of your open shelving dreams. Here, Katie Hackworth installed transparent glass shelving from the ceiling for storage that doesn’t block the view.
The No-Frills Setup
The oriented strand board (similar to particleboard) shelves and matching cabinets in Emily Katz’s kitchen might be made from a hardware store staple, but paired with sleek white counters and a minimalist backsplash, they could pass as functional art.
The Best Brackets
Don’t forget about what’s underneath: Bold black brackets not only support the shelving in this room by Space Exploration Design, they provide a welcome graphic element.
The Eternal Classic
Studio DB didn’t relegate white marble to a countertop or backsplash. Here, it makes a trio of ledges pop against classic subway tile.
The Petite Nook
This kitchen by Studio McGee proves that even the narrowest nooks can make for a pretty shelving moment—just design up instead of out.
In this space by Jean Charles Tomas, striking black-and-white marble makes a great countertop, backsplash, and shelf. The dramatic material instantly elevates simple white ceramics.
The Pattern Play
If you’re going to splurge on counter-to-ceiling Walker Zanger tiles, as in this San Francisco home, do like design duo Saffron and Poe and make them stand out by keeping everything on top neutral and neat.
The Artsy Arrangement
The Rubik’s Cube–inspired color-blocking of this kitchen is striking on its own—but chunky shelves up the funky vibe even more. With their statement-making silhouette, a few select items (some teal glasses, cobalt plates and bowls, a porcelain colander) is all that’s needed.
See more kitchen ideas:
9 Kitchens Where the Backsplash Is the Main Event
The Coolest Countertops We’ve Seen Lately Are Blue Marble
I’ve Renovated Over 30 Kitchens, This Is My Top Tip for Remodeling on a Budget