Design Room Swoon:

Room Swoon: Shop My Kitchen Shelves

When Athena Calderone approached the design of her Brooklyn kitchen there was one key style decision she needed to make during the renovation: how to affix the free-floating marble shelf. Inspired by a similar version in Joseph Dirand’s Parisian kitchen, Calderone knew she wanted to replicate it in her townhouse, too. But this bracket-free floating marble look would need to be supported with braced walls which meant addressing the stone application early in the process.

Today, the heavily veined marble floating shelf is a striking feature in Calderone’s kitchen allowing for her signature curation of vintage objects, sculptures, and eras to be on display. It’s in this juxtaposition of old and new, modern and antique, soft and harsh that brings your visual language to life, allowing the viewer’s eye to joyfully dance around the space. 

If you’re wondering how to style open kitchen shelves that fuse the practical (bowls, plates, wooden spoons) with the pretty (carvings, lamps, mirrors), then keep reading for our top five tips to get started. But remember, experimentation is key, let your curiosity guide you, and above all, enjoy the process—you never know where it will take you next and that’s the exciting part!

Room Swoon: Shop My Kitchen Shelves
Room Swoon: Shop My Kitchen Shelves

#1: Create visual vignettes. 

Approach your open kitchen shelves in the same way you would a bookshelf and consider them to be curiosity cabinets filled with meaningful objects that catch your eye and add a hint of sentiment to your style.

#2: Consider scale and verticality.

Pair objects in various heights and shapes to encourage the eye to travel along the open shelf. Stack plates in uneven piles next to an abstract art piece that’s leaning against the wall followed by a vintage vessel with branches that add height and a statuesque quality. Keep moving things around until the right combination sticks.

#3: Orient each shelf differently.

If you have more than one shelf, style them in slightly different ways to create a subtle offbeat design that allows for a perfectly imperfect finish. If it’s feeling too perfect, adjust your pieces so they are slightly uneven, and ditch the symmetry for irregularity. Just like the aged patina of an old clay vessel, there is always beauty in the blemishes. 

#4: Take photos to assess and reassess your progress. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and photograph the shelves on your iPhone. The gaps or flat spots will be immediately visible when you can assess the open shelf design as an entire tableau. Then you can make adjustments, tweak the styling, and add that finishing touch you were missing. 

#5: Don’t forget your focal point. 

Fusing aesthetic eras and styles will enliven your open-shelf design just as it does a room, but you will lose your vision without a focal point or anchor. Setting the scene with a neutral foundation helps to bring much-needed cohesion to the space. On Calderone’s marble shelves, a trifecta of 1950s Italian wall lamps can live alongside a curvy wrought-iron lamp with a rattan shade because the shelves are grounded in similar shades, hues, and tones that unify them. 

Shop Athena Calderone's Open Kitchen Shelves

Vintage Wicker Lamp Shades, Set of 6

Add a mini lamp to a sculptural curvy iron base like Athena. It doesn't even need to work as long as it adds aesthetic pleasure and texture to the shelves and lets the eye dance around.

These vintage twin vessel pots are the perfect option for storing wooden spoons and make easy access when cooking.

Montana Labelle Surfside Spoon Set

Hand-carved from beautiful beech hardwood, this set of 13 wooden spoons are all unique, one-offs that will only get better with age.

Vintage Wall Mirror

Rest a vintage wall mirror on your shelves to open it up even more not to mention add a touch of old-world flair with the gilded frame.

Montana Labelle Waverly Mug

This hand-thrown mug is just as practical as it is pretty with its oversized handle. A stylish addition to any open shelf.

August Sage Maufrais Ceramic Pitcher

This stoneware pitcher with its ruggedly organic surface is a stylish complement to any open shelf design. Each piece is hand thrown by a group of 7 artisans in their Tonalá, pueblo workshop.

Williams Sonoma Antique Brass Salad Servers

Hammered by hand, these striking servers will be a dynamic duo paired with your wooden spoons in the twin pot vessel we shared earlier.

Amber Interiors Carved White Handle Salad Servers

Hand made in Kenya from olive wood and bovine bone, these servers were made for being on display.

August Sage Maufrais Ceramic Plate

These ceramic plates deserve to be on display with their speckled sand tones and organic shape.

Vintage Onyx Marble Mortar & Pestle

Ground your spices or peppercorns fresh for each meal in this mini onyx mortar and pestle. And it looks like a decorative object when not in use.

Vintage Mexican Basalt Molcajete Stone Mortar & Lava Grinder Rock

The aged patina and timeworn wear of this molcajete is a thing of beauty. What an honor to display this on your open shelf and continue the tradition in your own kitchen.

Green Marble Mushroom-Shaped Mortar Pestle

Add a hint of color to your neutral layering with natural materials like marble. This is a beautiful piece, fusing function and style.

Shaped and formed completely by hand from stoneware clay, these earthy and glossy egg holders will bring that modern farmhouse vibe to your kitchen.

Crate & Barrel Mercer Appetizer Plates, Set of Eight

Add contemporary refinement and rusticity with these organic-shaped plates with a hammered surface.

Antique French Wicker Wine Jug

Bring in touchable texture with woven wicker. Style this French wine jug with a single branch.

Ferm Living Flow Jug

With its semi-matte glaze and oversized handle, this charming jug will bring a perfectly imperfect appeal to your open shelf design.

CB2 Marta Optic Tasting Glasses, Set of 8

We were already fans of the Marta glass from CB2, now they come with a rippled texture that deserves to be on display.

Amber Interiors Garlic Keeper

Everything can have a purpose and still be visual eye candy.

Table Desk Lamp With Wrought Iron Base

Bring sculptural shapes and unique designs into your shelves that blend fashion and function.

You don't need to spend a lot of money to find beautiful abstract art and prints for your home. This "Desert Ground" print is a reproduction of an original mixed media painting by an artist found on Etsy who was inspired by the deserts of California.

Original Abstract Mixed Media Art

This is an original mixed media collage artwork made from found objects of paper, fabric, and paint on archival paper. This will add so much visual value to your open shelves.

Abstract White Spackle on Canvas

Need more texture? Add it in the form of artwork like this 3D canvas and rest it amongst your porcelain and stoneware pieces.

Montana Labelle Mackenzie Stash Pots

Keep your shelves clear with stylish storage like these stoneware-lidded jars in a creamy matte glaze.

Old Clay Vase

You know we have a soft spot for old clay vessels. They just add instant patina and meaning to any space.

Ferm Living Anse Vase

Crafted from a special rustic clay, the raw design of this sand-colored vase will add texture and contrast to your shelves not to mention sculptural quality thanks to its unique two-handled design.

Ferm Living Vulca Vase

We've never met a hand-shaped vase we didn't like.

Magari Adjustable Wall Lamp

This design is strongly influenced by both French and Italian mid-century modernism and features a distinctive beveled edge along the bottom of the shade. In fact, upon finding this wall lamp, we were chuffed to read that the design was heavily inspired by the vintage sconces found by Athena in this kitchen. So, there you go!

Stilnovo-Style Wall Lamps

Nothing beats the timeless beauty of Italian design. This Stilnovo-style double wall lamp is made of brass and metal shades with adjustable arm.

Blur gender lines by juxtaposing the feminine against the masculine with decorative items in varying surface types and texture.

Visual interest is key to carving out beauty that renders you speechless while driving new inspiration that beckons you to create and experiment in the kitchen.

The Great Sculpture

Bring old-world beauty and a sense of history with sculptures from another place in time.

female bust

This hand-painted and sculpted bust pushes your open shelf design into

Vintage Female Torso Bust Sculpture

Always add vintage or antique objects and carvings into the mix like this vintage female torso sculpture with a wooden base. Such a beauty!

Amber Interiors Vence Object

Add thought-provoking objects like this black marble sculpture that pique the viewer's curiosity.

Cook with the seasons, discover new techniques for plating and styling, along with fresh ideas to indulge your tastebuds (and that of your friends!) in the kitchen.

Put your favorite cookbook out on display with this textural wooden stand. It looks good even when you're not cooking.

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