Faded Bluebird
open shelves

Open Shelves -It’s Time To Come Clean

March 16, 2017 2 Comments

Open shelves can be intimidating……there.  We could just all bob our heads up and down vigorously and I can consider this another post done and go take a nap.  Or we could explore ways to improve our open shelves.  Since I need to use more words to fill this post, we’re going to push on. Sorry.

Here’s my best advice for dealing with the intimidation factor of open shelves.  First, we need to get some perspective, they’re just shelves!  It’s not like I’m asking you to plan Bridezilla’s wedding, that’s next week. It’s going to be fine, and by the time we’re finished, you’ll be raring to go.

Eyes Wide Open

I guess I’ll need to explain my concept of open shelves.  It’s any shelf that is immediately seen.  Whether it be floating shelves, a built in cubby, bookshelves or a china hutch with glass doors…..they’re all open shelves to me.

Open Up A New Space

So, we’ll start here, where are the shelves located?  Do they have a function? I mean are they being used to house your doodad collection, or do you need them for specific storage?  The function of your shelves doesn’t matter to me, but how you need to use them does matter when you decorate them.  Step One is to decide how they are to be used.

Use differing heights and textures, give everything room to breathe then play oddsies.  I’d encourage you to use odd numbers of items grouped together because for some reason it’s just easier on the eye.  Now that we’ve got the rules out of the way, let’s stroll through some ideas for those built-ins.

Open Shelves Are Everywhere

I hope I haven’t sent you running for the nearest margarita by pointing out that bookcases and china hutches are open shelving too.  In case I have, call me next time…I like mine frozen, preferably made with strawberries.  But if you’re made of sterner stuff, there’s more to consider. I don’t want to make your head spin without the benefit of alcohol, but there’s more.

Built-ins don’t have to stay the same.  New hardware, some paint, maybe a bit of wallpaper or shiplap! That is Step Two for decorating shelves…. setting the scene.

Most cookie cutter built-ins were installed to show off your treasured decor pieces and to basically drive you crazy.  But you don’t have to give them straight jacket power. Remove everything, and using a light hand, put your favorite items back using the rules as a guideline.  See, it’s easy!  If you find yourself getting frustrated, then repeat after me, “I have survived in-laws, other soccer moms and a man that doesn’t understand how to load a dishwasher, I CAN do this!”.  I have faith in you, cause those other soccer moms need therapy.

Beauty & Function

So what about when you need open shelves for storage?  Your daily used stuff? Well, that presents a different challenge, but it can be done!  One of the reasons that I built my kitchen corner shelf was because I had stuff that had curb appeal that I thought was taking up too much room in my cabinets. Plus, I’m hoping it will reduce the times I have to hear a family member say, “yeah, I couldn’t find it”.  Even when we both know they didn’t even bother to look. Now I have another opportunity to roll out THE LOOK.  Life just keeps giving my these little gifts!

Pull out your favorite dishes, glasses and other kitchenware and collectibles. Move it around until you get a look that makes you smile. And while I hate to do this to you, I’d better mention that you might want to keep in mind that sometimes rules were made to be broken. Don’t panic, just play around with it using the rules first. And use these pictures as well as others for inspiration.

Yes, We’re Open!

I’m sure that you know that open shelving opens up a room….. today’s Duh moment, but I had to say it anyway.  If you have a small home like mine, that’s gold right there.

Eventually, you’ll open up a whole new world of bright, open spaces in your home if you keep playing around with it! What do you think? Have I convinced you that you can do it, or am I invited to Midnight Margaritas at your house because that mean soccer mom got the best of you?

Happy Decorating!




  1. Reply

    Jan Shaffer

    March 16, 2017

    Good advice, sometimes I have trouble w/ open shelving. I tend to overload!

    • Reply


      March 18, 2017

      Don’t we all! It’s hard to not to overload when we have so much we love and want to display! If you have the room for storage, rotate your stuff so that everything gets a chance to shine! Thank you for your comment!!!

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