What to Put on Open Shelves

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  March 11, 2013 — 2 Comments

Open shelving is a really inexpensive way to add storage in hardworking areas of the house like kitchens, bathrooms, offices, and laundry rooms. But the big challenge is that everyone can see your junk! I don’t like for my spaces to look junky, so I am seriously having a hard time making the most use of my open shelves. I got the idea to make a list of what’s best suited to open shelving in each space–you know, so I can refer to it when I’m looking at piles of junk all over my house and perfectly good shelves sitting empty. Maybe y’all can help me come up with some more ideas because my shelves still suck.


In baskets: toothpaste, shaving cream, hair accessories, hair brushes and combs, various toiletries, extra soap, feminine hygiene products, cleaning supplies

In the open: towels, toilet paper, anything in pretty packaging, tissue (if the box is pretty or you can get a pretty cover like this one I got at a thrift store), a pretty glass for water, candles, pretty dishes for soaps, hair pins, etc., art that’s not too precious (in case it’s damaged by the humidity), anything that can be stored in a glass jar or canister (like q-tips, cotton balls, makeup pads, etc.), makeup brushes sitting in a cute cup or jar, plants that thrive in humid environments.

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My laundry room shelves need some help. I’m obviously no expert here.

In baskets: cleaning supplies, light bulbs, small tools, paintbrushes, stuff for pets (like medicine, treats, and leashes), trash bags, small gardening supplies (hand tools, seeds, etc.), rags

In the open: paper towels (taken out of the packaging), glass jars or canisters (full of detergent, clothespins, buttons, spare change, etc.), art that’s not too precious, plants that thrive on humidity, stacks of neatly folded linens, blankets, and towels, pretty garden pots stacked together, extra vases and jars

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Office/Craft Area

In baskets: stapler, staples, post-it notes, scissors, files, extra paper, camera cords, software CD’s, envelopes and address labels, yarn, ribbon, hot glue gun and sticks, labels, scrap fabric, extra checks, glue, tape, tissue paper, notebooks (I have most of this stuff hung in a shoe organizer on the back of the door)

In the open: books, jars or canisters (full of paperclips, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, game pieces, scrap fabric, etc.), framed photos, notecards in a pretty napkin holder, fabric folded and stacked neatly, plants, a clock, a message board, art, pretty cards you’ve received,

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I don’t have any shelves in my kitchen but I really want some. There’s a whole wall near the stove just calling out for storage.

In baskets: dry food items with not-so-pretty packaging, extra parts for small appliances like mixers and food processors, a basket full of baking ingredients/supplies like vanilla, cookie cutters, etc.,

In the open: anything you can put in a canister (pasta, beans, lentils, quinoa, sugar, brown sugar, flour, rice, cereal, oatmeal), frequently used dishes and glasses (stick to colors that go together to keep it from looking too chaotic), pretty serving dishes only if you’re willing to clean them before using since they’ll get dusty, anything in pretty packaging, frequently used utensils in jars or a silverware caddy, frequently used and nice looking pots and pans

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Apartment Therapy

So y’all help me out. I think some shelves would look really nice in my new butler’s pantry area (especially since I finished the fabric skirt last night and it looks fabulous!), but with my laundry shelves looking so craptastic across the room I’m hesitant to inflict more shelf-related stress upon myself. Shelves are just so easy to build–if only I had such a simple storage solution for the big, ugly stuff like our lawnmower,

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


2 responses to What to Put on Open Shelves

  1. I agree, open shelving is hard to “style” correctly, but can be so useful! I looked back at your original inspiration photo, and why don’t you get some of those cheap glass canisters from Ikea to put on the shelves. They don’t need anything done to them, and the simplicity of them is enough for the open shelving. You could put the cat food and dog food in them and even dog treats or leashes and stuff. Also, this would be a great place to have some cute little plants. Plants look good anywhere, and they’re pretty cheap too!

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap March 12, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      You are speaking my language! I’ve been hunting for inexpensive canisters large enough to hold a few weeks’ worth of pet food.

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