Open Kitchen Shelves: Upping the Ante


THE RAVENNA HOUSE We've been plugging away in the basement for so long, that we haven't gotten a chance to tackle that pesky upstairs punch list.  So this weekend, we carved out a little time to cross off one item: the kitchen shelves.  Baby Wilder cooperated by taking the longest nap ever.  Three blissful hours, to be precise (thanks kiddo)!

During that time, our kitchen backsplash went from this:

Kitchen Open Shelves - Before

To this:

Kitchen Open Shelves over Tile Backsplash - Finished

Oh how I love open shelves!  We installed our's directly over the tile backsplash, which upped the ante on the DIY a bit, but I'll get to all that in a minute.  First, lets talk styling.

Styling open shelves is one of my favorite things to do.  Yes, seriously.  We've put open shelving in every kitchen we have ever done, and it never gets old.  You can put anything you want on them - pictures, fruit, plates, mirrors, flowers - the styling possibilities are endless.  This time around, I stuck with a color palette of white, glass, silver, and pink.  I just can't help but LOVE how these colors look together - maybe a little too feminine for a house with 1 lady and 3 males (counting Bubba, of course) - but what's a girl to do.

These shelves are filled with practical items like glasses, plates, and silverware and slightly-impractical-but-seriously-lovely things like peonies and antlers.  And when those mason jars are not filled with homemade raspberry jam or dill pickles, we drink out of them.

That's just how this family rolls.

Kitchen Open Shelves over Tile BacksplashKitchen Open Shelves Cook Books and Antlers Kitchen Open Shelves Glasses and Flowers and Vase Kitchen Open Shelves Silverware and Flowers

What's on these shelves will evolve with time.  In fact, they already are.  You may have noticed the antlers on the cookbooks are the same ones you saw on Wilder's wall on Tuesday.  I've moved them back and forth a couple of times.  I'm sure they'll come to a final resting place soon.   But that's what I love so much about open shelves.  They are always changing.  It's like a little surprise every time you walk into the kitchen.  At least it is in my house.  I can't be the only one...right?!

Okay, on to the install.  Here's a quick materials and tool list in case any of you guys ever tackle mounting open shelves over a tile backsplash:


1"x12" primed wood board, cut to length




Paint brush

Cordless Drill

Diamond Tip Drill Bit

We used a primed 1"x12" board for the shelves, found at our local lumber yard.  Garrett cut them to length and then I painted them with a Sherwin Williams' alkyd enamel paint using a brush.  I'm sure I could have gotten a teensy-bit nicer finish if I had sprayed them, but that would have meant hauling out the pneumatic sprayer (more on that process here).  And that would have been way too much effort for two shelves.  Luckily we had some paint leftover from the trim and ceiling in the kitchen, which Sherwin William's had matched to Benjamin Moore's Simply White.

Actually I think the paint looks pretty good. The enamel finish really helps to eliminate brush strokes.  Have a look:

Kitchen Open Shelves Painted Simply White

Installing our shelves directly over the tile backsplash was totally doable with the right tools.  Mainly a diamond-tipped drill bit.  We just happened to have a 1/4" bit on hand from the last time we installed open shelves over tiles at the Bryant House (similar to this one).

We began by drawing a horizontal line at the height of each shelf.  Next we located two studs.  The first one we found by peering into the electrical outlet (we knew the outlet was nailed on a stud, and just had to look which side it was on) and then measured 16" over to find the second stud.

Drilling through Tile Backsplash

We pre-drilled through the tile and into the stud using the aforementioned diamond-tipped drill bit.  The marble is quite a bit harder then wood and required a little extra muscle and patience to drill through.  Two things I do not have.  So Garrett did the deed.  He managed to make four holes (one for each bracket) without any cracks in the tiles.  Phew!

We inserted wall plugs (aka sheetrock anchors) into the holes.  They came with the brackets.  Since our drill made it into studs, we didn't really need anchors, but our 1/4" drill bit ended up being a little larger then the #10 screws that came with the brackets so the anchors helped fill the space.

Installing Open Shelves over Tile Backsplash

Garrett claims that our brackets are rated for 100lbs each.  It doesn't actually say that on the package but we'll go with it.  They recommend a shelf depth of 10" but we went with 11 1/2".  We like to live on the wild side, obviously.  Of course our loading is fairly light (a lot less then 100 lbs per bracket - remember, we're going with that) so I'm not worried about the extra inch and a half.

Installing Open Shelves Over Tile Backsplash

You may have noticed that outlet just above the lower shelf.  We had the foresight to put it there in case we wanted to have a microwave on the shelf.  Well it turns out that our microwave is too deep to fit there.  But don't worry, all is not wasted.  The outlet will come in handy if when we ever find a small and stylish radio for the kitchen.  Mama wants to listen to Steve Inskeep while she drinks her coffee.

Lastly, we set the wood shelves into the brackets, and then secured them with the set screws.  And voila, shelves!

Kitchen Open Shelves Over Tiles

We did a quick pressure test by yanking on the shelves and deemed them strong enough to be in Wilder's house.  Seriously that kid is strong.  Someday he's going to be a sumo wrestler.  Or maybe just a sweet, well behaved kung fu master.

The whole shelf DIY was over in less then an hour (minus painting) and that left the remaining 2 hours of Wilder's nap to style them.  Yes, I really did spend 2 hours styling shelves.  And I loved every second of it.

Open Kitchen Shelving over Tile Backsplash Context ImageBlinds: Home Depot | Marble Tile: Home Depot | Trim Paint Color: BM's Simply White | Cook Books: Amazon, Amazon (or stop by the Bakery if you're in Seattle - you won't be disappointed!), and Vintage | Best smelling candle ever: Anthropologie | Brackets: Amazon | Glass Vase: vintage milkshake glass | White vase: Crate and Barrel (no longer available) | Light: Home Depot | Chandelier: West Elm | Weck jar: gift from my sis (but you can find it here) | Cutting board, recipe box, plates, and silverware: collected/inherited/gifted

Once we get this room all buttoned up (and cross a couple more items off the punch list) I will do a big kitchen reveal and show you every nook and cranny of our little space.  Until then, you can read about the faucet, backsplash, and a kitchen party (here, here, and here).

I'd love to hear your thoughts on open shelving.  Do you have them in your kitchen?  Do you like them?  Do you find yourself constantly styling them?


p.s. A huge thank you to Dana Miller of House*Tweaking for last week's shout out!  Glad this little house of ours could make her smile.

p.p.s. A ridiculously-funny ranking of HGTV home improvement shows.  Do you agree?

p.p.p.s.  This had me cringing.  This had me laughing.  And this had me hoping our next house is brick!