How to Make Kitchen Shelves

Removing upper cabinets and installing open shelving is one of the easiest ways to update a kitchen. The process is similar to other shelving projects, but there are a few key variables to keep in mind for safe and strong kitchen shelves that not only function well but also look great. 

kitchen shelves

image credit: Conklin House 

Considerations for Kitchen Shelving:

open shelving in kitchen

Conklin House

1. DETERMINE SHELF DEPTH & LENGTH 

Kitchen shelves are typically 11.25"-12” deep, this size is large enough to hold most dish ware and consistent with many upper cabinet depths.  (See our overall shelving guide on where to find wood shelves). 

When considering the length of any shelf, we recommend using the following guidelines to determine how many brackets are needed: 

0”-36” = 2 Brackets
37”-68” = 3 Brackets
69”-100”= 4 Brackets
101”-132”=5 Brackets
133”-164”=6 Brackets

kitchen shelf placement

2. SHELF PLACEMENT ON WALL

When determining shelf placement, in can be helpful to use painter's tape to mark it off in advance. This will help provide a general sense of proportion and space. 

General shelf placements guidelines:

Height between counter to lower shelf: 18-22"

This is consistent for the space between the countertop and the upper cabinets as well.

Height between lower and upper shelves: 12" -15" 

12" is a common guideline is common for two kitchens shelves. Three shelves might be placed closer together, such as 10-12." 

floating kitchen shelves

3. CHOOSE SHELF BOARDS

For all shelving, we recommend confirming the shelf boards in advance of choosing brackets. This way, the correct size and style can be selected. 

Many people make their own shelves using dimensional lumber from the hardware store (they will cut it to the desired length free of charge!). Just be sure to use our common lumber guide since sizing can be tricky.

Because kitchen shelves are used a lot and might hold a good amount of weight, it's important to select strong, hard wood that won't bow or sag over time. 

kitchen shelving

 

4. CONSIDER INSTALLATION VARIABLES

Most shelving includes simply installing brackets into wall studs or drywall. However, kitchen shelves can have a few more variables to consider. 

 

kitchen open shelving
image credit franklin and main
  • Tile: it's important to consider whether the brackets will be installed on the backsplash tile or how the tile will transition into the shelf placement.   (We have helpful tips for installing brackets into tile on our general installation guide)

paper towel holder under shelf

  • Under Shelf Mounts: During the planning phase, it's helpful to determine whether any other hardware will be mounted beneath shelves. Our mug hooks and paper towel holders can increase function and space when installed under shelf. It's important to think of shelf thickness and placement if other hardware will be added. 

  • Plan Around Construction Obstacles and Building Quirks: Shelves can be an excellent way of maximizing space and working around corners, tight spaces, building quirks, or other unusual attributes. This often requires custom shelves, using additional brackets, or being open to different bracket styles but can offer maximum impact! 

 When deciding between what type of bracket to choose, our general shelving guide might be helpful to look. 

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