Architectural Home Designs & Decorating Ideas

Open Shelving Ideas To Style Your Kitchen Cabinets

7 minute read

The tops of kitchen cabinets offer an often overlooked space that can be transformed into attractive and functional storage and display areas. While it may seem too high up and out of reach, creatively styling your kitchen cabinet tops with open shelves, glass door cabinets, racks, and other decorative elements can add visual interest and valuable organization to your cooking space.

Decorating the tops of your kitchen wall cabinets provides many benefits. The extra storage potential is ideal for housing collectibles, cookbooks, decorative dishes, and frequently used dinnerware that you want to keep visible and handy. Establishing defined zones with baskets and bins is great for corralling smaller goods like napkins and spices. Open shelving allows you to exhibit your vibrant bowl or mug collection. The right lighting and wall decor enhance the design. Most importantly, cabinet tops give you an opportunity to showcase your personal style!

Factors To Consider When Styling Your Kitchen Cabinet Tops

Cabinet Height and Layout

top of kitchen cabinet decor

When brainstorming kitchen cabinet top decor, the first step is to evaluate your existing cabinetry. Measure the height and depth of your upper cabinets to determine what type of decorative elements will fit the space. Standard depths tend to be between 12 and 24 inches deep. Consider how high the bottom of the cabinet hangs from the ceiling. Standard heights range from 15 to 18 inches. Take into account surrounding features like kitchen islands, peninsulas and the room layout that may impact what you place on top of the cabinets.

Knowing the dimensions of your existing cabinetry and the surrounding room will inform what type of organizational solutions and decorative items will enhance the space without overwhelming it. This ensures your design achieves the right scale and balance.

Style and Aesthetics

Once you understand the footprint you are working with, identify the overall style and aesthetic you want the kitchen to exude. For example, are you looking to create a modern and sleek look or a cozy farmhouse vibe? The finishes, colors, and decorative elements should tie into the room’s overall design motif. A refined palette that complements your cabinet color and kitchen backsplash will make the space feel cohesive.

Evaluate the textures and materials you want to incorporate based on your style. Rough wood shelving and ceramic garden pots speak to rustic sensibilities, while sleek glass cabinets and metallic racks pair well with contemporary designs. The hardware, wall decor and lighting fixtures should all coordinate with your desired aesthetic.

Functionality and Storage Needs

It’s important to assess what types of items you actually want and need to store on top of your cabinets. This helps determine the best organizational solutions and display methods. If you plan to exhibit decorative plates, for example, plate racks or easels would be useful. Baskets or fabric bins can corral smaller goods like napkins or spices so they don’t get jumbled.

Take into account what you need convenient access to on a regular basis. Everyday dinnerware and favorite cookbooks are handy to have close by on open shelving. Specialty ingredients like oils or garnishes make sense housed in labeled bins or jars for easy identification. Glass door cabinets illuminating collectibles keep them visible but contained.

Open Shelf Design Ideas

Rustic Wood Shelves

Warm, distressed wood instantly brings natural flair. Open wood shelving atop kitchen cabinets makes for an attractive way to exhibit decorative plates, mugs or cookbooks in a casual farmhouse or cottage style space. Salvaged or reclaimed pine and oak have rustic appeal. Leaving the natural wood unfinished or just treating it with a light stain allows the graceful grain to show through.

Wood corbels or brackets offer sturdy shelf supports. You can mix and match the heights for visual interest. Leave some shelves open and style others with books and ceramics. Coordinating baskets to hold cooking utensils or linens helps keep the space organized.

Sleek Industrial Pipe Shelves

Exposed pipes and wood shelves create an edgy, urban look. Black iron plumbing pipes installed horizontally provide sturdy supports for stained wood shelves. This eye-catching open shelving design pairs well with stainless steel appliances and concrete or brick walls to achieve a chic, industrial vibe.

Opt for galvanized metal shelves and pipe brackets for a lighter finish. Use the shelves to display a collection of pots and pans. Run pendant lights through the base of the pipes to illuminate the shelves. Add wood crates or baskets for storage. Vintage tins and factory carts reinforced with casters offer additional storage potential.

Built-In Shelving Unit

For a custom look, install shelving built precisely to fit the span of your cabinet tops. Outfit the shelves with lighting to highlight treasured items. Cubbies keep items separated and organized. Continuous shelving uninterrupted by vertical dividers has a streamlined, contemporary aesthetic.

Paint the shelves a bold color that contrasts beautifully with your cabinetry for added drama. Incorporate glass shelving that maintains visibility while metal brackets or sides keep items safely contained. Take a cue from glass curio cabinets and install interior lighting to create a display case effect.

Stylish Storage Solutions

Baskets and Bins

Incorporating woven baskets and fabric covered bins atop cabinets keeps necessities neatly corralled. Natural fiber baskets made of rattan, seagrass or bamboo work well in laidback spaces, while patterned fabric bins offer a playful punch in more eclectic kitchens. Labelling the vessels helps identify contents at a glance.

Opt for baskets in varied sizes and shapes – some long and low for utensils and others tall for rolled napkins and towels. Use decorative metal bins for a more industrial edge. Hang a wooden ladder horizontally and outfit the rungs with bins or baskets to combine storage and display.

Glass Canister Sets

Clear glass canisters allow you to glimpse contents while keeping food staples contained. Glass jars add vintage appeal and come in many shapes and sizes to stock flour, sugar, coffee and more. Opt for sets with bamboo lids to enhance sustainability. Mix and match taller round jars with squatty rectangular ones for visual interest.

Go for smoked glass or blue glass canisters to infuse the space with subtle color. Canisters engraved or etched with labels both identify and beautify. Install pendant lights above to spotlight their brilliance. A large glass apothecary jar filled with utensils brings function and flair.

Spice Drawer Organizers

Bring essential spices out of the cupboard for everyday access. Install slide out wire racks outfitted with spice jars that keep everything visible and within reach. Pull out metal tiered drawers provide concealed storage that won’t clutter up your countertop work zone.

Opt for compact vertical designs that conserve space and make spices easy to identify at a glance. Keep oils and vinegars handy in adjacent small wire caddies. Place next to the range for cooking convenience. This smart storage solution makes spices a decorative focal point.

Eye-Catching Display Ideas

Plate Racks

Plate racks allow you to beautifully exhibit dinnerware collections often stashed out of sight. Metal or wood racks installed horizontally display plates vertically like works of art. Opt for compact racks with alternating wires to prevent plates from slipping. Cork backings on wall mounted racks protect delicate dishware.

Show off prized pieces on acrylic vertical plate stands or decorative easels. Incorporate vintage bookends or scrolled metalwork as bookend supports. Try mixing in creative display items like cake stands and candlesticks for eclectic charm. The visual appeal transforms dishware from utilitarian to inspiring.

Glass Cabinet Fronts

Glass door cabinets are ideal display cases for treasured collectibles. The clear glass fronts allow items to be viewed while keeping them free of dust. For contrast, paint or wallpaper the cabinet interiors with bold, saturated hues visible through the glass. Installing discreet LED lighting illuminates the contents.

Look for leaded or beveled glass cabinet doors that exude old-world character and dimension. Multi-pane doors with dividers break up the view into elegant vignettes. Use glass cabinets to house china, or collectible figurines and objects d’art. The see-through cabinets prevent clutter while showcasing meaning.

Cookbook Stands

Cookbook stands keep cherished recipes on display for easy reference while cooking. Choose from a variety of materials like wood, acrylic, or wirework. Angled acrylic holders allow you to prop books open to frequently used pages. Collapsible metal cookbook stands take up less space when not in use.

Opt for slender vertical models that conserve space while showcasing cover designs. Incorporate vintage bookends or carved corbels as elevated support structures. Alternate between open and closed cookbook stands based on your desired aesthetic. Pull out a few favorite titles, or neatly line up a complete collection.

Finishing Touches

To complete your kitchen cabinet top design, incorporate decorative lighting fixtures and greenery. Sconces mounted on walls above the cabinets stream down attractive illumination. Opt for pendant lights dangling over islands suspended from the ceiling on long cords. Strands of Edison bulbs or twinkling string lights also enhance the ambiance.

Add lush vitality with potted herb gardens, succulents, or trailing ivy draping down the cabinets. Floating shelves mounted above provide platforms for decor and serve as planting beds. Incorporate meaningful art, framed photos, or floating mirrors as eye-catching wall decor. Infuse personal mementos like antiques, collections, or meaningful wares that inspire you while cooking.

With a bit of creativity and organization, your kitchen cabinet tops can be transformed from cluttered dusty space to a beautiful, functional area that enhances your culinary design aesthetic. Evaluate your existing cabinet dimensions, overall kitchen style, storage needs and decorative vision to come up with solutions tailored to your space.

Open shelving, glass door cabinets, racks, baskets and lighting allow you to maximize the possibilities. Incorporate pieces with visual flair that reflect your tastes and display treasured dishware, cookbooks and objects. Let your cabinet tops reflect the spirit of your kitchen and personality.