When it comes to rethinking your kitchen layout, floating shelves are an unsung hero.
No matter how you configure things, there are only so many ways you can arrange your cabinets, stove, and sink. But shelves? They can go anywhere. Open storage can admittedly be controversial: for those concerned about having enough space to stash away groceries and plates, it can seem like a recipe for clutter. And for those who dread cleaning, the thought of any exposed wares collecting dust is enough to make them stick exclusively to cabinets.
But floating shelves can actually maximize your storage space, add visual intrigue, and work with your cabinets—not against them—to transform your kitchen into a room where you can cook, gather, and entertain in harmony. Whether you’re trying to make your space feel brighter or more open, or you want to optimize an awkward sliver of empty wall, here’s a smart solution that creates opportunities out of thin air.
The Free Floaters
Photography: Lehua Noëlle Faulkner; Design: homesmithLA
In this Santa Ana, California, home designed by homesmithLA, there’s plenty of cabinet space to go around. So two small floating shelves that start right where the counter transitions into a dining area make for a convenient spot to keep easy-to-reach essentials like cups and plates. Plus, they ensure the space stays bright and open.
The Focal Point
Photography: Mike Radford; Design: Well Done Building & Design
The symmetrical floating shelves in this California kitchen by LL Design Co act as a frame, drawing the eye toward the space’s most dramatic feature: The custom architectural range hood. Items are arranged deliberately—a porcelain bowl here, a few treasured cookbooks there—so as to elevate their appearance, but not create a distraction.
The Extra Rung
Photography: Kaleigh Gamache; Designer: Oak Trail Home
The open shelves above Kaleigh Gamache’s Milwaukee, Wisconsin, kitchen (designed by Mara and Geddy Krueger of Oak Trail Home), serve both a decorative and organizational function: They provide a space for mugs, plates, and utensils, as well as a few vases up to. But what really makes this design hard-working is the metal rod installed just below the first shelf and above the stovetop, which keeps go-to cooking utensils and a sauce pot in easy reach.
Designer: Kevin Bennert & Rachelle Lazzaro, Oak Design Project
Don’t want to sacrifice your cabinets for floating shelves? You don’t have to, as this Pennsylvania home by Oak Design Product proves. The layout allows for ample cupboards (painted in Farrow & Ball’s ever-charming Green Smoke) on one side of the room, so a simple white floating shelf opposite balances things out nicely.
The Corner Catch-All
Design: Amy Scott
In kitchens, big windows create a conflict: They allow in so much covetable natural light, but they can be tricky to design around. Luckily, for this Seattle, Washington, room, designer Amy Scott had a solution: She installed two simple floating shelves flanking the window to make the most of what would otherwise be empty space. Not only do they provide an extra surface for cutting boards and art—but they also accentuate the kitchen’s overhead beams.
The Full Wall
Design: Astrid Gagliardi Reifer
In designer Astrid Gagliardi Reifer’s California kitchen, a vintage scalloped range hood takes pride of place, adding to the space’s French country appeal. In lieu of upper cabinets, a long floating shelf and metal rail house plates, ladles, and a covetable collection of copper cookware: Proof that sometimes, it’s best not to tuck all your tools out of sight.