Preston and I knew we wanted to have open shelving in our kitchen to make things more open, airy and intentional. Having open shelves meant we really had to think about what we wanted to be featured on these shelves while also being items that we used everyday. While we love decor, we really work to own decor that is useful or very meaningful to us. We asked ourselves these 7 questions before executing our vision. We hope these questions help you confidently decide how to work with open shelving too
1. What will you use daily and weekly that is kitchen related?
Since open shelvings are well…open, that means everything is front and center and there’s no place to hide unorganized, useless, or rarely used items.
→ Write down the items you will use the most.
Everyone’s list will be slightly different. For us, we knew we wanted to have our plates, cups, and bowls out in the open to grab easily. We also knew we wanted to have our pastas, grains, jarred goods, and dry smoothie ingredients readily available to use.
2. What do you want to have accessible for guests?
Open shelving means your guests can see and access anything in view.
→ Write down the things you want guests to easily access as well as the items you don’t want them to have access to.
For us, we knew we wanted our guests to feel comfortable helping themselves to a glass of water, a snack, and grabbing a plate for dinner. Things we personally wanted to keep out of sight is liquor since we like to keep that for special occasions.
3. What are the useful items you want to showcase?
Open shelves meant to make things more accessible and easier to use, not to display knick-knacks and signs. Don’t get me wrong, I love decor, but sometimes the space you dedicated to decor could have been for useful stuff. Since this is a kitchen and not a museum, you want to reserve 90% of your space for things you actually use.
→ Write down the things that you may not use daily, but perhaps use monthly that you’re proud to show off in your space.
For us, we are coffee lovers and knew we wanted to show off our coffee brewing collection, our pretty cups and glasses we’ve been collecting over time, our hand-me-down Kitchen Aid mixer, our vintage coffee can full of wooden spoons, and our walnut salt and pepper mills from Williams Sonoma.
4. What brings you joy and inspires you in the kitchen?
With that said, I do believe you should have some items that purely bring you joy and inspires you to use your space. For us, we’re passionate about the outdoors and wanted to bring plants into our space to give a more uplifting and natural feel. I’m also a baking enthusiast and seeing my baking books inspires me to try new recipes when I’m feeling adventurous.
→ Write down the things that you bring you joy and inspire you.
Perhaps there is a relevant saying or some collectors items you love seeing everyday. You have may have many things that bring you joy in this space, so write them all down, but do make sure you only pick the top ones that help balance out your space. Optimize for 10% joyful and inspiring items to go with your 90% of relevant kitchen items.
5. What are your ideal colour scheme and materials to use?
Remember all those gorgeous photos of open shelving on Pinterest and Google Images? Well I’m sure the ones you loved most had an overall colour scheme and a mix of materials in them.
→ Write down the things/colours/patterns/materials you’ve seen in those inspiring photos that you are drawn to the most and want to incorporate into you kitchen. Now realistically you already have a fair amount of kitchen stuff, so also take that into consideration so you’re not having to buy new stuff. Always try to work with what you have on hand first.
For us we used our existing Heath Ceramics plates, cups and bowls and inspiration - earth tones. From there we started thrifting and buying things that matched these items. We’re also suckers for hard wood like oak and walnut, as well as unbranded glass jars and concrete objects like the faux succulent planter we bought from Marshall’s.
6. How do you want to display food items?
Again, since open shelving is open, and you’ve chosen a colour scheme and materials you want to incorporate, you need to think about how to alternatively display food items on your shelf.
→ Write down the things that you usually buy and those items that you use daily and weekly that you’ll want out on your shelves. Think about how it works with the packaging it comes in from the store or doesn’t work with your chosen colour scheme and materials. For example, a blue cardboard box of pasta with the brand on it may not be something you want to keep on your shelves, and maybe you’re into glass jars. Find a glass jar that will keep your pasta fresh while looking achieving the look you’re going for.
For us, we are glass jar junkies (we probably have 100 jars!) and with my passion for sustainability, I knew I wanted to start buying bulk food items from stores that limit packaging such as Bulk Barn. They even incentivize you to bring your own containers to get 25% off your items. You can’t beat that!
7. How do you maintain the things on open shelving?
Since open shelves don’t have a lot of protection from dust, you have to think about how to store your items and keep them dust-free.
→ Write down the things that may need to be turned upside down, or covered to keep dust from getting into them. Things you don’t likely use as often.
For us, we rarely use our ramekins and goblets and we reserve our Iittala Kartio tumblers for guests to use so we keep these items upside down so dust doesn’t collect in them. As for our plates and bowls, we use them daily so there’s really no time for them to collect dust. All the dried and pickled goods are in airtight containers. We keep our coffee cups, wine glasses and travel mugs in our cupboards above the coffee bar.
Clarity and a plan
My hope is that these 7 questions helped you gain clarity on your decision in regards to open shelving in your kitchen. We’d love to see photos of your planning process and the open shelving itself if you went for it! Send us your photos on social media and we may share them on our pages!
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