Kitchen shelving ideas – 14 ways to boost storage and display space

These kitchen shelving ideas are a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive crockery collection

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing open shelving in a neutral kitchen holding crockery, books and lamps
(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

Kitchen shelving ideas – whether open shelving or hidden within a cupboard or behind pocket doors – are a great option if you are the proud owner of an impressive crockery collection, or are a keen cook who appreciates having ingredients close at hand. 

Having everything on display, however, is not for the faint-hearted as it requires a certain amount of dedication to keep shelves looking smart and uncluttered.

Kitchen shelving ideas

Here, we take you through shelving options for all kitchen ideas, plus give you plenty of inspiration for how best to display your favorite finds on them.

1. Play with decorative shelving

Minimalistic open wall shelving holding crockery in a kitchen

Photography/Matthew Williams

(Image credit: Future)

Not everything needs to be hidden away when it comes to storage. In fact, decorative kitchen storage ideas and solutions can make a huge difference to your kitchen's look and feel. 

A cluster of simple floating shelves works particularly well in a kitchen where there may be a fair amount of closed cabinetry taking up space along the walls. They add an element of interest that draws the eye, all while helping to keep countertops clear.

It’s best to mount open shelving just above eye level and within easy reach if you intend for the shelves to hold day-to-day items, such as plates and mugs. 

For a stylised look, stack collections of your favorite crockery, line up fresh herbs and incorporate small pieces of art along a run of open shelving.

2. Use shelving to create interest

A stylish kitchen sink area with a marble backsplash and worktops with open shelving above

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Shelving doesn't have to always be practical, it can be used to house quirky curios and objets. 

Try mixing large statement pieces with smaller items grouped together. When grouping, consider the shape that the objects create collectively and play with color and form to keep things interesting. 

Glass lidded pots will look more enticing if filled with colorful props, whether they be functional or decorative.

3. Have a shelving unit fitted professionally 

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing a large glass fronted kitchen storage unit with wooden cabinets

(Image credit: Future / Emma Lee)

‘Commissioning a display piece or asking for kitchen cabinet ideas from a furniture maker will make the very best use of a space,' explains Richard Williams, Richard Williams Furniture. 

'A joiner will work around awkward shapes in walls and conceal service pipes or wall boxing. Large pieces will be fixed and scribed to the shape of the wall and skirting, which gives a very neat finish. 

'If shelves are to be adjustable, look for neat and unobtrusive methods of adjustability, such as 5mm shelf pegs with a limited number of peg holes for each shelf.’ 

4. Keep the look coherent

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing an open plan kitchen with white cabinets, dark walls and a wooden dining bench

(Image credit: Future / Lisa Cohen)

When displaying items on open shelves, it is vital to keep things organized.

As shown in the black and white kitchen above, items placed in groups or in lines of threes, fours or fives will prevent the shelves looking untidy. 

When choosing the overall look, decide if you want the shelves to be made in a material which is a statement in itself, or if you want them to have a less prominent role, allow your display to do all the talking.

5. Fit shelving in a recess or alcove

Rustic kitchen shelving built into an alcove in the wall next to an open fire place

(Image credit: Future / David Cleveland)

Open shelving can create a real statement in a room and is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. 

'It is also a more economical option than a fully enclosed storage unit. It is particularly suited to small recesses in areas such as either side of a chimney breast, helping to visually correct uneven proportions,' says Anne Haimes, Anne Haimes Interiors.

6. Work with wood

Open kitchen shelving holding crockery, books and lamps in a neutral kitchen

(Image credit: Future / Jan Baldwin)

Think carefully about the thickness you want each shelf to be. If you’re using wood, it pays to choose a chunky option, giving a strong, clean, confident appearance. 

'Wood is not a homogenous material – every single piece is different, and herein lies its beauty,' advises Keith Atkins, DesignSpaceLondon. 'Create an interplay between different timbers or use bookmatching techniques to achieve pattern and variety.'

Think too about whether you’d like shelves with adjustable heights to allow for flexibility. 

7. Add intrigue with color

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing a large yellow kitchen storage unit with open shelving

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

Choosing your kitchen color scheme is such a personal experience – in fact no one knows for sure whether we all even see the myriad shades in the same way. 

Mark Wilkinson, founder of Mark Wilkinson Furniture, believes that the colors we choose automatically are naturally influenced by current fashions. 

'The color in a kitchen – be it on shelves or cabinets – should last for at least five years, minimum, so try to look beyond immediate kitchen trends and choose a color that will keep you feeling good long term,' he advises.

However, if you have your heart set on adding a bold color to your kitchen shelves, then look no further than Pantone's Color of the Year for 2021. 

Bright yellow shelves combined with warm gray elsewhere creates a positive and grounding feel. Open-plan kitchens especially benefit from this burst of energy and enthusiasm.

8. Keep it hidden behind a door

A neutral kitchen island in front of green kitchen wall panels and a hidden storage space

(Image credit: Future / Damian Russell)

The shelves in your kitchen do not always have to be permanently on display. 

Disguise your kitchen storage solutions behind streamlined doors. Go for slab doors that are completely flat to mimic a bare wall, and paint the doors the same color as your wall to help them disappear.

In this painted kitchen, the restful interior of a cabinet showcases a display of Japanese-style monochrome ceramics and wooded artisan pieces. 

9. Display elegant glass jars and ceramics

A close up shot of black open shelving storing food jars, books, and flowers

(Image credit: Future / Alex Sarginson)

If you're wondering how to organize a kitchen, decanting your cooking supplies into neat matching jars yields a certain amount of satisfaction, and makes it easy to spot if you are running low of any ingredients. As well as keeping your shelves looking tidy, your dry goods will also be kept airtight. 

Be aware, this type of shelving does require an element of frequent dusting, but we think the styling benefits are worth the extra bit of effort.

10. Keep it simple with a single shelf

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing a kitchen with geometric floor tiles and an open shelf above the worktop

(Image credit: Future / Simon Bevan)

Kitchen shelving doesn't always have to be the star of the show. Sometimes just a single shelf is enough to add interest without detracting away from the rest of the space. 

Shelf space doesn’t have to be purely practical; here beautifully-designed ceramic plates and jugs add personality to the room. Re-use pretty tins as utensil holders, and old glass bottles as bud vases.

11. Use reclaimed shelving for a rustic appearance

A close-up shot of blue and white kitchen wall tiles behind some freshly baked pastries on the worktop

(Image credit: Future / Jake Curtis)

For a country-style kitchen, modern shelving may look out of place. Why not have a shelf built from reclaimed wood to add instant character and provide the perfect ledge for your rustic bowls and utensils?

12. Team rustic with modern design

An example of kitchen shelving ideas showing a gray kitchen with an island and wooden industrial style bar stools

(Image credit: Future / Manolo Yllera)

Shelving doesn't have to always be practical, it can be used to house quirky curios and objets. 

Try mixing large statement pieces with smaller items grouped together. When grouping, consider the shape that the objects create collectively and play with color and form to keep things interesting. 

Glass lidded pots will look more enticing if filled with colorful props, whether they be functional or decorative.

13. Back kitchen shelving with an interesting material

kitchen shelving idea with marble

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

Lining the back of kitchen shelving with an interesting material – perhaps one that matches your backsplash ideas – will elevate your kitchen's design. Then, it's just a case of not over-stuffing the shelves so that the materials are visible. 

To enjoy your kitchen to its maximum potential, it is worth thinking, at the outset of the project, about the amount and type of storage that you need. 

'After all, this is the place at home where you will probably spend most of your time, so being able to find what you need quickly and easily is going to make cooking more enjoyable,' says designer Emma Sims-Hilditch of design agency Sims-Hilditch. 'I really do believe that a well organised space makes you feel calmer and happier.'

14. Put kitchen shelving behind a pocket door

larder cupboard with pocket door

(Image credit: Future/ Paul Massey)

An alcove, an awkward corner or an awkward room shape can be turned into a positive with kitchen shelving ideas. Typically, these might be behind a door – this one, is perfect if you are looking for pantry ideas thanks to its floor-to-ceiling proportions and space-saving pocket door.

What do you put on kitchen shelves?

Of course, you may have got them all picked out and fitted, but what do you put on kitchen shelves?

You could pop dried goods in stylish see through containers, plants, crockery and more on them - the the possibilities are endless. What's more, beautifully styled shelves with all kinds of useful knick-knacks add real interest to a kitchen. 

Open shelving for kitchens is a great way to add extra storage space to a room, as well as wow factor. Adjustable shelves, lighting and neat joinery will enhance the look of a piece like this, as well as offering a way to group favourite items and add impact to a scheme.

How do you use open shelving in a kitchen?

If you're wondering how to use open shelving in a kitchen, be sure to work to the full proportions of the room, to create maximum impact. 

A floor-to-ceiling unit, with sturdy, adjustable shelves and minimal fixtures will offer a strong, enticing look and act as an excellent  anchor and display. 

Open shelving can be an effective small kitchen storage idea that doesn't appear to eat too much space. It also works in small living rooms, too. 

Consider the look you are opting for, whether traditional, featuring detailed joinery, or sleek and unfussy with a  contemporary edge, and think carefully about what you are displaying. This will ensure each shelf is made to allow sufficient depth and to carry weight  without warping. 

Is open shelving still in style?

Yes, open shelving is still in style for 2021. 

'Open shelving can create a real statement in a room and is both practical and visually pleasing, making it a popular design element for the kitchen,' says Anne Haimes, Anne Haimes Interiors

Jennifer Ebert
Jennifer Ebert

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. 


Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.