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Tips for Organizing Open Kitchen Shelves

Open kitchen shelves are an effective way to open up your kitchen while gaining more accessible storage space, making them an increasingly common option in the modern kitchen. However, choosing open shelves instead of closed cabinets makes it more challenging to simply stash dishes and other supplies out of sight. Read on to learn about open kitchen shelves done right, and how you can guarantee your kitchen will end up clean, stylish and practical.

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Display Factorkostastudio/shutterstock

Display Factor

Unlike closed cabinets that can store nearly anything—including unattractive items—open shelves are designed to both store and display. When you look at organized kitchen shelving, you'll see a lot of attention paid to the display aspect. For example, larger plates are stored on-end to show off decorative patterns and colors, special pots or canisters are placed on their own shelves, and there's often an artistic accent or two sprinkled throughout sections of shelves. Avoid stacking everything in crowded rows, space out your shelf items for a more aesthetically pleasing look. If you find that you have more supplies than you can fit on this new open-shelf plan, it's time to clear out the cupboards and pantry and get rid of things you don't really need.
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Organize by Usefulnessurfin/shutterstock

Organize by Usefulness

As a general rule, put items that you frequently use on the lowest shelves (dishes and bowls, olive oil, glasses, etc.), and items you rarely use on the highest shelves. It's a bit of common-sense organizing that goes a long way when it comes to open shelves, and it will help you keep everything easily accessible and looking great. Just remember to group like with like: Have at least a few cups in a row rather than alternating dishes all over the place. Find out how to add storage and style to your kitchen with these open shelving ideas from Instagram.
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Single Rows are BestAuttapol Sangsub/shutterstock

Single Rows are Best

It's easy to store multiple rows of stacked dishes in deep cupboards, but it's almost impossible to do the same on more narrow open shelving—and it will look like a mess if you try. For open kitchen shelves, keep your rows singular, and stack upward for a more neat and organized look.
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Larger Items Work Better than Smaller Itemskostastudio/shutterstock

Larger Items Work Better than Smaller Items

Save your smaller dishes and supplies for in-cupboard storage. If you put too many small items out on open kitchen shelves, they tend to blend together and start looking very unorganized. Larger dishes, cutting boards, and small appliances are much easier to display and won't get messy so easily.
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Avoid Too Many Different ColorsLita Akhmetova/shutterstock

Avoid Too Many Different Colors

Take a look at some of the best open shelf designs and you'll notice that grouped dishes tend to all be the same color and style. If your open shelving looks chaotic, the reason could be that you are trying to store multiple colors and styles all in the same spot, and that just doesn't work. This may be an excellent time to get rid of those old mismatched dishes and buy a new set with the same color and style, making it much easier to display.
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Match (or Contrast) Dishes to Your Wallshoriyan/shutterstock

Match (or Contrast) Dishes to Your Walls

Today's trendy open kitchen shelves incorporate the background wall color in the design. Matching or contrasting colors can add eye-catching excitement to the space. In the example shown here, the warm wood shelves and checked napkin contrast the white wall, while the white dishes blend in with the background. If the shelf or dish colors clash with your walls, it may look ugly no matter how you try to organize it.
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Avoid Storing Food Items HereKutlayev Dmitry/shutterstock

Avoid Storing Food Items Here

Food items are often guaranteed to clutter up open shelves, so it's best to keep them stored elsewhere. Get a spice rack instead of storing spices on these shelves. Put the packages and boxes back in the pantry. Keep the fruit in its own bowl. Of course, there are exceptions: A good tea tin or an assortment of matching containers for nuts, flour, baking soda, etc., can look very good on open shelves, but it may take some planning.
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Add Texture with Wood and GlassAlena Ozerova/shutterstock

Add Texture with Wood and Glass

If you don't have anything but ceramic cups and bowls on your shelves, think about mixing it up a little. Open shelving is a great place to store wooden and glass bowls and utensils. Alternating materials can also give your shelving a more industrious, organized look when done correctly.
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Shelf Sections for Specific PurposesAfrica Studio/shutterstock

Shelf Sections for Specific Purposes

Let's say that you do have some clutter on your open kitchen shelves, but you can't really get rid of any of it. A potential solution is separating your shelving out into sections. Keep one section for all your cookbooks, for example, while using another section to store coffee supplies and so on. When done correctly, this can turn clutter into a casual-chic look ideal for smaller kitchens.
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Opt for Longer ShelvesAnna Oleksenko/shutterstock

Opt for Longer Shelves

Shorter open shelves tend to look busy and are harder to use effectively when organizing your kitchen. When adding new shelving, opt for longer sections instead of shorter ones. Visually, this improves the appearance of your kitchen while also making it easier to plan and position any items you want to store.