Before we get into how to create more kitchen storage and install open shelving above the sink, I want to offer my apologies for the fact there are most definitely crumbs on the countertop next to the toaster in these photos. I’d say I thought I cleaned but, let’s be honest, I take blog photos without much preparation. I see the right light streaming in, I grab my camera, and I start snapping. So, you’re almost always just seeing my home as it is. Crumbs and all.
A NECESSITY IN SMALL KITCHENS: CREATE MORE STORAGE!
I’ve been fortunate in my past 3 kitchens to have an abundance of storage. I actually found myself with empty shelves in two of my apartments if you can believe it. So, when we moved into our place last year, while I was content with the amount of storage, I knew that it wasn’t 100% ideal. You can see my storage situation in the background of this post or this one.
For our dishes and kitchen appliances (okay, with the exception of the air fryer), we have plenty of storage. But, when it comes to food items, we were definitely running a bit short. Thankfully, we have a big walk in coat/storage closet next to our kitchen that is the perfect spot for pantry shelving, BUT I missed having some of the items we grab for constantly (almonds, peanuts, etc.) at arms’ length. Plus, I had a few pretty kitchen items that felt like they were hidden away behind closed doors.
And, when you live in a small space, you know that creating more storage is always the goal. Even just freeing up one cabinet shelf with a little more room to breathe is a must.
DECOR DETAILS: WEST ELM LINEAR WOOD INTERCHANGEABLE SHELVES IN BURNT WAX/ WEST ELM PRISM BRACKET / BIALETTI ESPRESSO MAKER / VINTAGE MILK GLASS CREAM AND SUGAR SET (I picked these up a few years ago at an antique shop in Frederick, MD, but found the exact set on Etsy!) / THE LA COOKBOOK / TIDEWATER ON THE HALF SHELL COOKBOOK / MASON JARS / MORTAR AND PESTLE / APPETIZER PLATES / COFFEE TIN / CANDLESTICKS
Curious about the faucet? It was one of the first changes we made in our home and I blogged about it in this post!
INSTALL OPEN SHELVING ABOVE SINK
But, where do you put more storage in a small space?
We had a blank wall right next to / above our sink that we knew from the moment we moved in could be better utilized if we were to install open shelving above the sink. For almost a year, I simply hung a painting I did on that wall, just to have something catching the eye on an otherwise dull spot. Cookbooks and the toaster sat underneath and it just seemed like mostly dead space.
We knew that we wanted to go with an open shelving above the sink option, but it took us months to find the right ones stylistically. There were several issues at hand:
- We wanted shelves that were functional. As in, they could actually hold a bit of weight.
- We had to decide between wood, white, black, etc. We eventually decided on a warm wood to bring in the acacia wood of our shelf beneath the TV and of the fruit bowl. It’s almost an exact match.
- I’m actually working on a sponsored post with a company that makes wood shelves and they sent me some to use, but they were all wrong for this space. They were the right length, but too visually heavy (they’re perfect in the place we decided to install them instead — stay tuned!). We needed something that was light and sleek.
- I wanted the shelves to be separate. I didn’t want a connected set of 2-3 shelves.
Thankfully, we found the burnt wax Linear Wood Interchangeable Shelves from West Elm with the Prism Bracket and they were exactly what we were looking for: sleek, geometric, modern. And, they would fit perfectly in the random wall space above our sink (like, why wasn’t a cabinet installed there to begin with?!).
But,once we found the shelves, we were still dealing with a few questions:
- What length did we want to go for? I was inclined to go with the 2′ option at first because I didn’t want to visually weigh down the space but Adam convinced me to always go with the more storage option and he was right — the 3′ was the clear winner.
- While I loved the gold support option for these interchangeable shelves, I knew Adam might be reaching a breaking point with all the gold in our home and the black prism bracket pulled in the hardware on our cabinets.
HOW TO MAKE SURE YOU INSTALL SHELVING STRAIGHT (on the first try)
If you know anything about my gallery wall system, you know that I tend to eyeball it when it comes to hammering nails into the wall. If it doesn’t work out, just try again is my motto.
Well, that’s not ideal when you’re using a power drill and installing shelves and someone who isn’t quite so lax when it comes to home improvement is involved.
So, we did what we could to install open shelving above the sink straight on the first try — and it worked out. Here are the tricks we used:
- Have a second person available to help you place the shelves. Measuring is great, but you need to see them on the wall to really know if your placement is right.
- Use a stud finder to see if there are studs in the area that you’re hanging the shelves. If there are, that’s ideal, particularly if you want the shelves to hold some weight. Drywall anchors work if there’s no stud.
- Mark draft positions. We marked where we thought the shelves should go by eyeballing the placement, then measuring exact spots using a tape measure. We held the brackets up to make sure the spots aligned.
- We then confirmed those draft positions with a laser level because you should never trust measurements based on a ceiling or baseboard in any home, but particularly an old one.
- Once you have one shelf up, confirm the spots for the next a second time. You cannot double check enough. But, with the help of the laser level, you should be destined for success on the first try!
A FEW STYLING TIPS AND TRICKS FOR KITCHEN OPEN SHELVING
I’ve actually blogged about this before — we were lucky enough to have open shelving in our apartment kitchen on H Street. I think of it just as I would if I were styling a normal bookcase, but using pieces that are practical and that I may reach for on a more regular basis, if not every day.
- You want to pick a cohesive color scheme. In our old place, it was all white. In this one, it’s a mix of white, gray, black, wood, and blush. No, blush isn’t a color that makes much of an appearance in our home, but I had two cookbooks in that palette and it seemed to warm up nicely with the wood!
- Vary the height and weight of the pieces. The taller cookbooks are flanked by the milk glass set, plates, a candleholder, and a small ring dish. I added the candlesticks as a later addition because I needed some height in the middle of the top shelf to add some interest.
- Use pieces that you actually use. Those mason jars are filled with the items we reach for on an almost daily basis. These aren’t just display shelves, they’re functional.
- As you place items, think how the two shelves work together visually. The gray mortar and pestle set on the top right corner is offset by the gray tin on the bottom left. The repetition of the milk glass set is mimicked in the catty corner position by the mason jars lined up. White appetizer plates work with the white candleholder below. It’s all about creating patterns.
- Add some pretty items. The Bialetti espresso maker is such a beautifully designed object it deserves to be on display. Same with the ring dish and the vintage candlesticks. They’re functional, but similar items might be tucked away, whereas these ones found their place out in the open.
- Lastly, make it a fluid display. You may not use the same items on a regular basis from season to season, so feel free to switch it up!