Published on June 24, 2019

Everyone has an opinion on open shelving, but essentially, you either view the setup as a welcome mat for dust or an opportunity to show off your most cherished decor. No matter where you stand on this subject, though, one thing is certain: The debate is nothing new. Floating shelves are hardly revolutionary at this point, which is what makes the discovery of this trick to have them feeling fresh again so exciting. Painting your shelving a bold, unexpected color is a simple tweak, but one that’s crazy impactful. No one knows this better than French architect Camille Hermand, who has made colorful shelves a signature detail in her kitchen designs.

“I think colored shelving works for a lot of different people and styles because there are so many possibilities,” says Hermand. “But if you are looking to create something a little arty, color-blocking is another great way [to get] the look.” While she loves cooler tones—she has a particular fondness for Farrow & Ball’s Hague Blue—she recommends a more unconventional paint choice. A mint green for a zippy touch, say, or daffodil yellow or coral red for a punch of primary color.

The beauty of this upgrade is in its simplicity. Just giving open shelving a bright coat of paint will result in the whole room seeming funkier and more fun. Ready to renew your faith in this storage staple? Here are three ideas for incorporating vibrant painted shelves into your kitchen, courtesy of Hermand:

As a Pantry

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Photo by Julie Ansiau for Camille Hermand Architectures

Hermand gets her shelves cut to exact measurements by a carpenter, which helps them feel custom from the get-go. Here, she filled a previously empty nook above a radiator with made-to-fit planks coated in a deep emerald green. Voilà! A makeshift pantry that will make even bags of potato chips look good.

As an Art Ledge

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Photo by Hervé Goluza for Camille Hermand Architectures

If your kitchen has plenty of cabinetry but not a ton of available wall space for art, install a ledge. The single shelf can display multiple paintings at once, which can then be easily swapped out whenever the mood strikes. In this wood-and-marble kitchen, Hermand chose one focal color (an intense aqua) to tie the chairs, rug, and open shelving together.

As Kitchen Storage

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Photo by Julie Ansiau for Camille Hermand Architectures

Hermand’s number-one tip for colored shelves? “If you can, have them painted with a spray gun at the carpenter’s studio, so that the paint is more resistant to shocks,” she explains. By shocks, she means temperature changes, so this is especially important for shelving going in the kitchen, where it can get warm fast. After all, when you have a piece as striking as this neon green shelf, you don’t want to put it in jeopardy. Particularly when it holds a tool essential to your survival: the coffee machine.

See more kitchen design ideas:
The Backsplash DIY That’s the Answer to Our Rental Kitchen’s Prayers
Why Settle for Boring Kitchen Counters When These Colorful Options Exist?
Big Impact, Small Budget: 7 Kitchen Upgrades That Make a Difference

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