open kitchen shelving

by | Jan 4, 2018 | All Things Home, Decorating, Kitchen, My House, Organizing | 80 comments

This week, I have felt even more motivated than usual to knock things off of my to-do list.  I was slowed down a little over the past couple of months with the holidays, an injured shoulder, and a chest cold.  The new year is underway, though, and I am feeling that energy that spurs us to collectively organize and plan.  Today was heavy on the organizing and planning and not the fun kind.  Just paying bills, catching up on e-mail, preparing paperwork for taxes (already), filling in my calendar, making a master to-do list for January, etc.

But, yesterday, I knocked out something that’s been lingering on the to-do list for months – painting the open shelving in the kitchen…

When we first moved in, this nook was just an open, underutilized space.  This house is designed very well, but we were scratching our heads at this niche.  Maybe for a water cooler?  Whatever it was designed for, I immediately pictured it with shelving.

You can read about how we built the shelving HERE.  In a nutshell, it’s 2 x 12’s and cheap metal brackets from Home Depot.  It was inexpensive and simple and turned this cubby into a real feature.

Now, if I was a patient person, I would’ve painted the walls and shelves prior to installing the shelves.  (But, you see, I am learning and I painted the wall in our master bedroom before the new bed was delivered and set up!)

My brother was visiting for a few days back in August and he was ready and willing to help Jeff get the shelves done in an afternoon.  I was looking at finished shelves or letting this project languish on the to-do list, probably for months.  I picked the former and figured I could paint later.

In my head, I built up taking down the shelves as a big project.  It ended up being pretty quick and painless and, when it was done, I felt silly for not doing it sooner.  I primed the shelves and painted them in the same paint I used for the trim (a custom bright white in Satin finish.)  The kitchen was a mess for a few hours, but everything was put back together before dinner.

I love accomplishment, even if it’s small, so I kept looking over at it, exclaiming what a big difference paint made.  Jeff look at the shelves with skepticism.  “They look nice, but I don’t know if it made a big difference.”

“Well, it made a big difference to me.”

He’s right, though.  Visually, it was a small change.  The big difference for me was that it was done.  Before, it was unfinished and now it’s finished.

And, of course, all of the pretty things look even prettier now that the shelves aren’t screaming “builder grade lumber”.

I also filled the glass jars on the top shelf.  They’ve been empty for a long time, partly because I didn’t know what I wanted to put in them.  I didn’t want to fill them with food, because they are so high up, but I wanted them to store something I use, even if it’s not very often.  So, I ended up filling them with small candles (better than hidden in a drawer), cookie cutters, and clothespins.

As I was working through my paperwork pile today, I finally unearthed my notebook that contained my to-do list.

Amid the drudgery of opening mail and printing up bank statements, I found a little moment of happiness when I could scratch “painting kitchen shelves” off of that list.


  1. Lynne

    I kind of liked the contrast of the wood against all the pale paint. All I can see now is your brackets. Any plans to change those to something nicer?

    • Kim

      Ha ha ha, I was thinking that now you CAN’T see the brackets as much! 🙂

    • Marian Parsons

      I looked around for some nicer brackets that also were thin enough to screw into the stud (those are right in the corners), but everything was pretty expensive and, in the end, I felt like the weren’t worth it if they were just wedged in the corner. I think the brackets sort of disappear with the shelves white and styled. I see where you’re coming from, though. In the end, they are just cheap metal brackets!

      • Karen

        Brackets are brackets…I think they look fine! There’s so much interesting stuff to draw the eye in. I never even noticed them!

      • Polly

        I love the look wish I had something like that to put my big mixer in.
        I love the look of your whole house!

  2. Stephanue

    Looks great! Love that crisp white look!

  3. ANNA

    It looks beautiful Marion. Nice job!!

  4. Hannah

    How about YOU changing to something nicer, Lynne.

  5. Beth

    I was surprised by Lynn’s comment – my first thought was – now that they are painted white – I barely notice the brackets any more😘 go figure!!

    • Kimberly

      I was surprised, too, and thought her comment was critical and unnecessary to start the New Year! And yes, now that the shelves are painted white, the brackets are barely noticeable; if you’re looking for them, the white paint sort of makes the shelves and brackets look like single units, so elevates the brackets. I think the project really looks lovely and nicely finished. Good job, Marian!

  6. karen

    Great job, Marian…they look super!

  7. Tanya

    Looks great! I really like the top jars, especially the cookie cutters. I have some really pretty ones I keep in a stoneware crock but I’d love to be able to see them. An extra large glass jar would be perfect!

  8. Betsy

    It looks great! Nothing like checking something off the “to do” list.

  9. April Oestman

    The shelves look very nice. I did not even notice the brackets after the shelves were painted.

  10. Donna

    What a great idea, I have cabinets that don’t go all the way to the ceiling, and currently my large collection of cookie cutters is in a large metal basket….hmmmm, jars, I have these in the basement….it is nice to see little spaces get finished, because sometimes those are the ones that annoy….looks awesome!

  11. Sarah

    I think it looks great……brackets are fine. I like things nice but, if I start picking apart a project I remember…..perfect is only in heaven!

  12. Leslie

    It’s a great cubby. I think it stores a ton of stuff.

  13. EileenC

    Love it. I had to enlarge the picture and really search for the brackets. They look fine. I really must start a list as I know, from previous experience, how good it feels to be able to cross items off.

  14. Kim

    Nothing better than a FINISHED project. I just spent 6 weeks (Nov 1 to Dec 15) painting my 117-year-old piano and did it ever look fantastic for Christmas!

    • Marian Parsons

      Painting a piano is a huge project and I’ve never been brave enough to take it on. Good for you! I bet it looks lovely!

      • Kim

        It actually isn’t that hard to do, it just takes awhile. It’s like a giant puzzle. You NEED to take it all apart to do it right, as much as you CAN take apart, and you need a big area to lay it all out flat to paint. Mine has 3 hinges with 62 screws each to remove and replace, THAT takes forever. Actually rolling on the paint with a 4″ fluffy roller was easy! Those little rollers work great for all the carvings and frippery on these old Victorian things. I just used Benjamin Moore Regal Select in a pearl finish, Chantilly Lace color OC-65, which is what is on our walls, and that big behemoth piano now blends in really nicely.

        • Terri

          Kim, I’ve seen several pianos that were painted by their owners and was amazed how beautiful they were. Sounds like yours was a labor of love, but well worth it!

  15. Amanda

    They look so great! I love open shelving in the kitchen, and I’m with you that painting them white makes a big difference. 😉

  16. Teresa

    Sometimes its the small stuff that can make the most difference. Yes, you could change out the brackets to match the hardware on your cabinetry but they look fine as is too. Its a snowy, cold day here in central VA so you have given me inspiration to mark off something on my to-do list as well which is clean, organize and replace the shelve liner in my kitchen pantry.

  17. Amy Duyck

    I love it! It looks great and I love the cohesiveness it now brings to your space.

  18. Karan

    I get that “unfinished feeling!”….love the nook but where did you get the big jars from…I need some. Thx,

    • Marian Parsons

      They are by Anchor Hocking and you can find them at Target, Walmart, etc. The nice thing is that they are cheap and come in several different sizes.

  19. Julie Smith

    Having finished a whole house remodel in November 2016, I understand how gratifying it is to check off small projects. Enjoy this time of production and creativity. I can tell you that the end results are entirely worth it.

  20. Peggy

    Love the open shelving, especially the top shelf! Great idea!!!! I am going to start looking for a place to add open shelving to my kitchen. It is so hard with everything being open concept. No wall space!

  21. Krista

    I think the white shelves make a world of difference…so crisp & clean! Yeah for checking off little projects from our to-do lists!

  22. Barbara

    Marian, I think the shelves look very nice. I am not much of a decorator and have to see something and then I copy it. It’s hard for me to imagine things and be creative in my decorating. So, I admire that quality in you. Having said that, how do you decide what things look good together (candles, cookie cutters, and clothes pins), and how do you get that “wow” look? Even with simple shelves, you make it look awesome. Wish I had the gift!!! Blessings for a great new year.

    • D.

      Wondering which things visually go together? Why, it’s always done by alliteration, of course! Candles, Cookie Cutters, and Clothespins. Works every time. Just like jars of Popcorn, Peanuts, and Pretzels. Tee-hee, just kidding!!

  23. Mary

    Maybe a dab of paint on the heads of the screws would help them to fade away?

  24. Denise Cox

    I love your little niche, as well as all your other improvements! I love that chest of drawers that you are using as hubby’s nightstand too!! Keep the pace going.. 😉

  25. Mildred

    I like the shelves. Especially seeing how you styled them. What size are these jars? We are starting soon on a kitchen redo to have open shelving and I want to use these jars to hold my sugar and flour.

  26. Connie

    The shelves look great. Love the jars on the top and for staples in the middle shelf. I have open shelving between the kitchen and dinning room and also have cookies cutters stored in one. I did store cough drops in a smaller jar on the top shelf and they melted into the paper wrapping. Not sure how your candles will be up there! I never thought about it being that warm on the top shelf….in a cold climate too!

  27. Marianne

    Isn’t it wonderful to check something “small” off the List? I finally checked off “paint inside of kitchen sink cabinet”, which I thought would be a very quick job. Several more coats than I anticipated, extra drying time, cooking dinner and 4 hours of helping with middle school math turned it into a 2 day project. Also, I love the glass jars filled with necessary items. They have to stored somewhere so why not make it pretty!

  28. PJ

    Another pretty glass jar is the Anchor Hocking Montana jar. Mine which I use for storing my homemade laundry detergent has a brushed metal lid and has a 2 gallon capacity. It is airtight and quite lovely. Target and Amazon both sell it.

    Your shelves look great! Just one question: Do you let the paint cure a while before putting objects on your shelves? My trip to the paint store was postponed by today’s snowstorm, but tomorrow…

  29. Sheila

    I love the “disappearing” brackets. Somehow I think that anything that would stand out would make the shelf area seem cluttered and with everything the same color, it highlights what you have on the shelves, not the shelves themselves. I’ve also been loving your bedroom side tables/chests. I needed something bigger and taller to go on my side of the bed and remembered my mother-in-law had left us a three drawer chest that would fit there perfectly. Now I have to decide if I’m going to paint it or not. I’m thinking paint it but not sure Sweet Husband would agree. After all is was his mother’s. Sigh.

  30. beverlee

    I like what you did. Sometimes money can be better used other places. They are utility shelves, after all. I have some of those. I like them for one reason. They are sturdy and hold lots of weight. Progress!

  31. Julie Briones

    Looks really nice, Marian! You are rocking your ‘to-do’ list!

  32. Kristen

    So pretty!

    I had similar brackets with white melamine shelves in my linen closet. The silvery metal screws bothered me, and I painted them with white finger nail polish until they blended in.

    • Maria

      Great idea!! Hiding the screws wi white is smart! And definitely looks great! Still, silver tone isn’t bad either! It all looks awesome! Jars and candles and cookie cutters! You are so talented Marion! Pure inspiration every time!!

  33. Carrie

    I love the shelves and agree with the comments above that you always do such a fantastic job!! I have several of those jars filled with pantry staples as you do to. Love the top shelf with the other items!! I only saw the brackets once they were pointed out in the comment. I am envious of that the little step stool in the nook (sigh)… Just wondering where you found it?

  34. Lindy

    Please do share the colour of that very pale blue? Pretty, pretty please??? Did the bribe work? I will send more if needed, lol.

  35. Cathy

    I like the metal brackets; gives the space a bit of that functional industrial look! Actually, I like everything you do! Thank you for brightening another gloomy winter day.

  36. Vicki

    Love scratching things off the list!!!

  37. Gail Bell

    Love scratching things off my to-do list;–)

    Shelves look great! I currently have my collection of copper cookie cutters in an antique bowl, but can’t see them. Thanks for the awesome idea of placing in a glass jar.

  38. Myra

    I meant to post this comment the other day when you mentioned your bedroom smelling like paint…..if you add just a few drops of pure vanilla to a gallon of paint (and mix it well of course) you won’t have to live with that paint-smell anymore!

    Try it.

  39. MaryLisa Noyes

    Looks terrific and a great use of space… that lunch box is my favorite!

  40. Christina

    Hi Marian, I really like open shelving in a kitchen (unfortunately I have none!) and I think painting the shelves makes a big difference in your kitchen. Well done!
    I love that you have space underneath the shelves for your beautiful (vintage?) stepping stool. What a great piece! I find your post inspiring to tackle the small things and get enjoyment from them, especially on the days when the to-do list mainly contains unpleasant and inspiring tasks!
    http://www.organicgardendreams. com

  41. Lori in Missouri

    Marian, I see someone asked the color of the blue door but I was hoping for a reminder on the wall color? Just finishing up new house construction and it is go-time for paint decisions!! Thanks for all your timely inspirations — by the way, found your home dec journal at my local Mardel’s and have enjoyed using it!

    • Maria

      That’s what I was thinking! What brackets? You are so right!!

  42. Marlene Stephenson

    Just paint, but what a difference.

  43. Johann

    You promised you were gonna caulk the sides!!

  44. Alda Ellis

    just delightful addition for a space that was not screaming a defined purpose. You have an eye , you have creativity, love the colors and textures. …just wonderful !

  45. Jeffrey Favreau

    I have to say Marian everything you do is wonderful.. I hate to say it but the brackets drew my eyes instantly, I know you can do better then that even on a budget.. I am sure your guys could of cut up some scrap wood and nailed it in place and painted it all.. After all it is open shelving not behind a door.. Again I always love your work, just a little something that’s not right… Thanks for your ear Jeffrey

  46. Mah

    details, details, it’s all in the details! I love finished!

  47. Colleen A Tumulty

    Why did Hannah feel it was her place to be mean to Lynne. Everyone has different tastes and Marian is used to people putting in their 2 cents. Please kind to other women who have a different take on the projects there are enough mean women in the world.

  48. B. Folk

    Trust us, Jeff- your wife painting the shelves made a big difference:-)

    The only thing extra I might do (whenever I got around to it), would be to paint the metal screws. Other than that, looks great. With them being easily removeable, you can always remove them later to insert a tall cabinet, or if you ever move, the new homeowner may not want shelves there. Good job, Marian.

  49. Diane

    They look lovely painted. I know what you mean about crossing things off of the to-do list! It just feels like progress. Keep up the good work. I love your new home and what you are doing with it!!

  50. Terry

    I always put out my mothers old red Christmas cookie cutters at the holidays so I LOVED seeing you fill a jar with cookie cutters.

  51. sandi

    Yes, I noticed the white brackets right away. And I do have a habit of painting screws to match – you just need to look at all my electrical outlets and wall switches – yup, all the screws match the back plates … but I digress.

    I don’t think the brackets themselves look bad, I would simply paint the the vertical bars attached to the wall plus the diagonal pieces the same as the wall color leaving the bracket parts screwed to the underside of the shelves white. Voila! – they will disappear!!

  52. Lynn Schwarzkopf

    What is the color and make of the paint you used on the walls of your kitchen?

  53. Denise

    With Jeff being a handy man and having carpentry skills, could he install floating shelves in that space? Or drill tiny holes under the shelves and install pegs to maintain the strength without visible hardware? I understand doing this on a budget, but there are other budget-friendly options. Of course you live in the space, so if metal brackets don’t bother you then you should not worry what other people think. For me, I think of them being in a garage or basement. I do love the idea of storing cookie cutters in jars for display. They are always lost when I need them, or sliding around in a drawer making me feel disorganized. As always, looking forward to your next post.

  54. Caro

    I love this and I think it makes a huge difference. If I were you, I would be gazing fondly at the shelves every time I was nearby and basking in their loveliness.

    I’ve also had a good laugh at the bracket controversy. Who knew so much angst could be triggered by brackets? An amusing distraction for me from the huge storm battering us here.

  55. Cath

    Marian-I have a question that has nothing to do with the brackets. When I painted my family room shelves I allowed them to cure for several days. Even with that I now have several shelves with marks on them from the stuff I put on the shelves. Is there a trick so this doesn’t happen? Thanks

  56. Teresa

    We have a 90’s cape and we changed over all our hardware (cabinets, doors, fixtures) in the house to brushed nickel some years ago . The heating/air grates were a shiny brass and my husband sanded them down and sprayed them with a brush nickel finish and they look great. You could do this with your brackets also if you wanted them to match with your other hardware in the kitchen without having to purchase new expensive brackets.

  57. Ginny

    I love the brackets! Simple, yet elegant!

  58. Sandy

    I was thinking the same thing. I’m a real fan of wrought-iron. I do like the openness of the shelving.

  59. Taria

    I had a similar sort of space in one of our houses. I did the shelving like you did but at the bottom I did a hinged door with a hole in it so I could tuck a cat box there. It worked great and I didn’t have to see the cat box. Wasn’t in the kitchen though! Your home is coming along beautifully! Best of the new year to you all.

  60. Toni

    Nice to cross things off the list! Not related, I signed up for your Home Design emails and I bought the Home Design Doodle Book and I have to say that the two together have inspired me to think outside the “box” and look at things differently – Thank you for that!!!

  61. Debbie V.

    I love this little area and wish I had one in my kitchen!

  62. Cynthia

    What a great use of that open space. I love what you put in the jars on the top shelf. You are motivating me… I think :). Happy New Year Marian!

  63. Kris

    Oh! Now I know what to put in jars that my kids painted for me in art class–what a great place to store cookie cutters! Thanks for the idea!

  64. Rebecca Neustel

    Speaking of what to do with niches, when my spouse retires at the end of 2019, we want to move to Arizona. I’ve spent many hours on Zillow looking at homes and have seen niches everywhere! Some make sense to create a vignette but others just look like they need to be sheetrocked over. lol I really like the look of shelves though, so I might look into using some reclaimed pine to create some floating shelves or using wrought iron brackets. Yours look simple and clean like your style.

  65. chris

    My oh my, never heard so many people go on about brackets. The shelves look beautiful. Love your style.

  66. Jan Schouw

    Love the painted shelves. I agree that now the items on the shelves show up better.

  67. Amanda

    Very nice! I am totally inspired with your work. I love the look of open shelving. It is an easy way to keep the room organized and efficient. Open shelves can add extra storage space in the room. Thanks for sharing.



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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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