Monday 22 July 2019

The art of show-off shelving

Two coffee tables are stacked to make a central island, while side tables are hung upside-down to make slick shelving in Neptune’s Henley kitchen;
Two coffee tables are stacked to make a central island, while side tables are hung upside-down to make slick shelving in Neptune’s Henley kitchen;

Anna Shelswell-White

There are a number of reasons why many of us are put off the thought of open shelving in the kitchen. There's the issue of safety, especially if there are children in the house, and then there is the thought of dust and grease build-up on all of those items that beg for constant cleaning and care.

We might convince ourselves that it takes a certain personality type to pull it off - an organised minimalist who can make their well-thought-out clutter look cool. All in all, we tend to shy away from open shelving because we think it's too high maintenance.

The secret is to blend practicality with your aesthetic, so your cooking space can work just as hard, if not harder, while your guests will be in awe of how you managed to get the look down pat.

If you want to give it a try, there are ample ways to make it work for you and how you live, says interior stylist Louise Dockery of Paper & Moon ( "Place your most-used pieces on the lower shelves and occasional pieces like cake stands and wine glasses at the top. Think practically and remember the things you reach for on a daily basis. You could keep all of your vitamins in a vintage biscuit tin, or your Ziploc bags in a nice basket. The Monica Geller in me loves organisation and I don't see why you can't make it part of your décor."

When faced with your collection of utensils, crockery and glassware, arranging them in complementary ways is the next battle, particularly if your taste is on the eclectic side. This is where you need to let your inner curator take the reins. "Play with heights and layers. Display short items like mugs beside tall pitchers, or in front of a tall background piece like a painting or a platter or chopping board turned on its side," advises Louise. "Try to avoid using a sole colour on each shelf. Instead, stack your white plates beside a colourful teapot and your glasses beside tin, enamel or ceramic. The mix and gathering is what makes it a display rather than just a stack."

The added beauty of open shelving is that it allows you to add pieces that don't traditionally belong in the kitchen. Waterford-based Weaverella make some amazing wall hangings that look great hung behind a stack of plain dishes. Look out for inexpensive artwork to prop on shelves to add colour and dimension to your display. And, for the trend-conscious, there are ways your open shelving can play ball. "The mason jar trend is one that I love. Simple, practical and inexpensive, jars are great for displaying your most-used dried foods and they keep countertops clutter-free. Group your jars in even numbers and balance them out by placing them next to a different-sized object." says Louise.

It may take some extra care and attention but once bespoke to your way of living, it's a look, as well as an achievement, you'll enjoy showing off.

Anna Shelswell-White is editor of House and Home magazine

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