Filling Up Our Kitchen’s Open Shelves (On Video)

Remember yesterday when our shelves looked like this?

Well, then I had fun doing this (if you’re at work, you can watch this without sound and totally get the gist):

If you check out the video you can see that I can actually reach everything up on those top shelves except for the stuff in the corner by the window, but it’s easy enough to sit on the counter to grab it.

Who knew I’d be able to reach all that stuff? I totally expected to have to scream “Joooooohn” whenever I needed something up there (he’s the chef of the family so that probably wouldn’t have happened very often anyway). Or use a step stool if he’s missing/outside/hiding and I’m really desperate. Haha.

So now our shelves are chock full o’ stuff, and are most definitely still a work in progress, but mighty cheerful and functional all the same…

It’s not necessarily where things will stay – just a first pass for sure. I actually have since re-stacked some of the bowls – and plates & dishes have gotten used so things are constantly changing. It really is a completely rotating display. The funny thing is that it’s kind of crazy to “perfectly style” kitchen shelves anyway since it’s all supposed to be used and is always being picked up or washed or put back so I have already declared that I WILL NOT BE CRAZY. And John is holding me to it. Hah. So since nothing is glued down or expected to remain exactly where I placed it OR ELSE, consider this to be just one “take” of many when it comes to our open shelves. I’m sure ceramic animals will worm their way in there somewhere. And I’m sure as we add crown molding and patch the ceiling (at which point everything has to come back down from the shelves) things might get switched up. But that’s half the fun when you’re me.

As you can see from the video, I didn’t give anything too much thought. Sometimes over-thinking can be the bane of your existence when you’re loading up shelves or a bookcase. So it was all sort of first-thought. So for anyone wondering about my method… I actually consciously tried not to think too much and just moved stuff around and stepped back and tried to focus on what I wanted to be easiest to grab and grouping things that made sense (like all the items for setting the dinner table and dessert stuff). I’m sure it’ll evolve and change – and most likely get better and more functional – over time. Here’s hoping, anyway! And you know I’ll take pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Oh and you can see from the shot above how shallow the brackets are and how deep our 12″ shelves are, so there’s plenty of room for stuff and the brackets don’t interfere with storage or anything. Whew.

But back to filling up those shelves. I tried hard not to think too hard (say that three times fast) but I did think about one thing the whole time I was at it: function. For example, I put our dessert bowls and dessert plates on the bottom right shelf and all of our large dinner dishes and cups and cereal bowls on the bottom left shelf. So those are closest at hand (and just a step or two away from the dishwasher with no cabinet doors to open, so that should be pretty convenient). Then the top shelves got things that we may use less often, but that still might sit out on counters in a kitchen anyway (ex: a cute cake stand, some bigger serving bowls, a vase, a bottle of my mom’s favorite bubbly drink, etc). We figure that even when those items sit in cabinets for a while they can get dusty, so it should be the same difference (a quick rinse and they’re ready to go). We’ll keep you posted on how it all works for sure.

Here’s how the room now looks from the office doorway. Such a difference. Although the not-stainless dishwasher still kills us, but soon enough we should have the new one installed. Oh and I meant to take a shot of the window straight on to show the balance of the shelves that are spaced 14″ from the right of it and the cabinet that’s spaced 14″ to the left of it… but I had a brain fart. Epic picture-taking fail. So that shot’s to come.

Memory lane time? Sure. The room used to look like this from the office doorway. Kinda crazy, right? I’m totally standing in the exact same spot – not any closer (see the counter cutting off at the bottom of each picture at nearly the same spot?). Isn’t it crazy how much closer the window feels in the picture below?

But let’s get back to the present. Do you hear a harp softly playing in the background or is it just me? Picture me twirling around with my arms out while orchestral music swells and birds come and fly around me holding ribbons in their beaks. Only less graceful and more awkward. And maybe the birds are just Burger and Clara holding toilet paper and spinning around beside me while I grin up at the can lights.

Oh and someone pointed out that we have lots of subtle curves going on with our brackets and our round penny tile and our round pendants. I love happy accidents like that! With more angular things like the range hood and the peninsula, it’s nice to have some softer shapes to complement them. High five for happy accidents.

Now that we have our pretty glass cups out in front of the boring clear ones we actually use them more. And I get to stare at them. Wait, that sounds creepy. I get to gaze at them. Better?

We think the random pops of blue, green, and yellow along with those two frames I stuck up there are fun. It’s definitely not a “magazine after” or anything – more like a gathering of all the stuff we actually use with some pretty decorative things tossed in there for fun. If a magazine blew in I think they’d probably add “more pretty” (flowers, lacquered boxes, candlesticks, etc) in exchange for “less function” (translation: I would love it and John would roll his eyes and say “um, where are all our plates and bowls and cups?”).

Oh and a bunch of folks asked if we considered a third row of shelves up top, but we figured once we loaded up those second shelves the stuff on them would balance with the top of the doorway, so anything above that might have been too heavy/cluttered for us. Plus that stuff would be really hard to reach/use.

And as for where we put the brackets, we wanted them all to be equally spaced on both sides (we looked at three on the left side but they didn’t feel as balanced with the ones on the right as four of them did). And that preferred layout thankfully worked with our studs (nearly all of our screws aligned perfectly and they feel really strong!), so after looking at a few different hanging options/bracket placements (and taping things off to help picture them) we just pulled the trigger and went with our favorite – which we thankfully love just as much in real life!

In short: we are so very happy with our wall o’ tile complete with glorious bracketed shelves full of sunshine and rainbows. Literally, the art actually says “Love Life” (it was the cover of a book that John got me, which I framed) and “Squeeze The Day” (a favorite flier from an old Boden catalog that came in the mail). We know open shelves (or these brackets/wall color/tile/pendants/stools/accessories) might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we dig it. And the whole photography crew for the book is being very cute about stroking and gazing right along with us (full disclosure: this is one of those things that looks better in person, and even the video completely fails to capture it) so you’ll all just have to come over when we’re done with all of the crazy book chaos. Haha. You can even pour yourself a drink since you know where we keep the cups…

In other news: oh happy day – the tulips are still alive! I keep meaning to drop a penny in the water while Clara’s around so we can watch them perk up. Thanks for all the flower tips guys!

Here’s another shot sans crown molding and a patched ceiling. Oh and there will soon be a pendant hanging down over the sink too. We’re trying to tackle that, just so we don’t have to stare at torn up ceilings for much longer. So yes, it’s definitely a work in progress, but we’re jazz-hands-crazy about how our little “refurbished” kitchen is shaping up. And we’re definitely even more impatient than you guys about the cork floors! Can’t wait to get there and call this turkey done. Hah.

And just because I’m nuts, here’s what I did while playing around in photoshop.

Flat brown paint dumped on the “floor” via photoshop hardly captures all the amazing texture that our marbled cork floors will bring, and the white paint dumped to replicate crown molding hardly looks real (nor does my crazy little made-up pendant over the sink, which will probably be a lot lighter looking and made of clear glass) but it was fun. And if you squint and hum the Dexter theme song, you can almoooooost see it (sidenote: John changed his ringtone from Dexter to the Parks & Recreation song, which saddened me for a nanosecond and then I realized how hilarious the Parks & Rec song is – we even set it to be our alarm tone too, just because it makes waking up extra early for book stuff almost pleasurable tolerable).

So spill it. Who is completely surprised that 5’2″ me can reach nearly everything on those upper shelves? That was a total unexpected bonus. Oh and for those wondering why there isn’t a crew of lovely book photoshoot people wandering in and out of the time lapse video, they have to set up lights for certain shots that take a while so they were shooting in the back bedrooms (and I gave them one of those “I’ll be back in thirty minutes, so hold tight and scream if you need me” things). Thankfully only John wandered in for a sec, so there were no photoshoot emergencies in the middle of my shelf-y fun (I even ducked out to answer some comment questions and take a call about our upcoming Portland gig). So as Martha would say, that’s a good thing. In summary: yay shelves. What have you guys been hanging/filling up with plates and bowls/filming in time lapse lately?

Psst- And now for a post about donuts.

UPDATE: We couldn’t love our open cabinets more. Check out a bracket tweak that we made here and an update post about how they function here here.


  1. Ana says

    I love how everything is turning out! So fun and colorful.

    Looking at these pictures just really makes me wish you’d used true floating shelves… all those brackets make things look kind of awkward and cluttered to me. But what am I saying. Your kitchen is turning out to be real cute, must put a huge smile on your faces whenever you’re in there!

    • stephanie says

      Ditto. I LOVE your kitchen, but the brackets are throwing me off. I feel like they clutter up the stuff on the shelves a bit.

    • says

      To bracket or not to bracket is definitely a lifelong debate I think! One of those personal preference things for sure! We photoshopped the room with floating shelves back when we wanted them (we initially didn’t want brackets) and it looked so cold and modern so we’re so happy with them since we love a mix of old and new an curves and straight lines, but they’re definitely not for everyone!


    • Tracy says

      I think the brackets look better in the shots that are close up. In the shots from a distance, it looks like the shelves run into (or come out of) the wooden cover for the exhaust fan. Maybe it’s the size of the brackets? If it were my kitchen, I would have put the top shelf higher, creating more room between the shelves. There is just something that doesn’t jive for me. I’m sure it will grow on me though. You guys put so much thought into every detail to personalize your home. I’m excited for you that the shelves turned out the way you wanted. I guess I just imagined it differently than it turned out. Looking forward to the next step of your kitchen reno! :)

  2. says

    Love the pops of color but sadly the shelves didn’t win me over with the styling since the brackets still look too busy (though you did a great job with the styling!). You mentioned that you are “happy with our wall o’ tile complete with glorious floating shelves…” but you don’t have floating shelves. ;)

  3. says

    Wowzers! Your shelves look great! I like that you didn’t cram another shelf up top. The tile is so lovely it’s nice to see a few good chunks of it. Also, you could probably fit a few larger art piece on the top shelf to the left of the stove if you wanted to at some point. It’s nice to have the freedom to display some larger and taller items. I can’t believe the difference from when you moved in to now! Cahrayzay!
    – Diana

  4. Kara says

    Crate and Barrel has a lot of fun kitchen stuff in this color palette for spring. I’ve been drooling over it but we really don’t have the need right now.

    I don’t work for or get money from C&B (I wish). I’m just obsessed with the yellow/green/blue thing for a kitchen right now.

  5. Amy Hill says

    It looks great! Do you worry about dust collecting on your dishes. I love the open shelving but that is something I would worry about. It looks great!

    • says

      Check out this post (we’re crazy so we did our research). Apparently the consensus is that if you have a great range hood (check!) and put dishes you use often up there (check!) it’s all good. Rarely used items stored inside of cabinets get dusty too, so the key seems to be to have a good hood and to rotate things and use them a lot when they’re out in the open. We’ll definitely tell you how it goes for us.


    • Pam the Goatherd says

      I know from experience that you have to remember to TURN THE RANGE HOOD ON when you are cooking, especially fried/sauteed foods, with open shelving. A splatter screen is a lifesaver, too. Don’t be a greaser like me! =)

  6. says

    It looks great! :D Pretty sure that the crown molding is as much a game changer as the cork floors. Just saying. It seriously helps to finish things. You guys are my favorite people I’ve never met ;)

  7. Amy Knisely says

    I’m glad I’m not the only one that photoshops my rooms. It’s very helpful when trying to decide on tile designs for backsplash if you’re going with something that incorporates more than one type of tile, or to pull a color out of something for paint.

  8. Amy says

    Love it! Green, blue and white are awesome together.

    The kids ran over when they heard the music and the 3 yr old said “Mom, she’s sitting on the counter, WE don’t do that.” I said that’s right honey, but she’s pretty short and couldn’t reach that high. To which he replied “Well so am I but you don’t let me up there.” I’ve got a comedian on my hands :)

    Oh and I am so going in search of the Parks and Rec ringtone!

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