One of the latest trends has been open shelves in a kitchen, which really do 'open' up a kitchen when done right. There are many ways open shelves can go wrong; for example when they are not the right size for your space or when they are over-cluttered. I have a fairly small kitchen with not too much storage space so taking out cabinets to add in shelves was not an option. Instead we have one narrow corner shelf opposite the cabinets and above our breakfast table. Again choosing the right size is very important, a narrow shelf works in a smaller space and opting to do a 'wrap-around' type corner shelf instead of many shelves stacked up a wall takes up less visual space. While having stacked shelves may make a bigger impact, it is not right for every space. A kitchen with higher ceilings should take advantage of the tall wall space and do many shelves above each other. If you have the space to do that I would also recommend doing a backsplash that goes all the way to the ceiling.
Choosing what to put on your shelves can be tricky, it should take some time and thought. Whether you are using old pieces you already have, all new pieces or a balance of the two. When we first moved in I did an arrangement with items I already had and some were very personal to me. I took my time thinking about what I wanted to do next before purchasing new items, and bought them bit by bit to take advantage of sales. At one point I had an idea of doing an arrangement of different sized white candle pillars mixed in with some glasses, but after buying a few items I decided the candles would feel too formal and overwhelming on my narrow little shelf. You want the items displayed on your shelf/shelves to be both practical and decorative. For example displaying things you would actually use in a kitchen is more practical; mugs, bowls, wine glasses, baking tools, salt and pepper and ect. While a vase with flowers or photo frame would be more decorative, and you do want to add in these decorative personal items but keep them to a minimum. I have many things on my shelf that I do use everyday, and when one or two things are missing (in the sink) the display still looks cohesive because there are multiples of the same items.
Color scheme is also an important factor with so many items in a small area. This may just depend on what colors you already have in your kitchen. At first I had a lot of brown wood and warmer colors. When I redid my shelf I was inspired by a dinnerware collection at Pottery Barn which featured painted dishes, I knew I wanted the plates to be hanging above my shelf (hanging something above the shelf creates a visually larger display without feeling to heavy) so the muted blues, greens and purples on the dishes became my color palette. The plates are full of color and pattern so I did also get mugs and two mini vases from the same collection to pull them together. I already had some recycled drinking glasses that have a beautiful natural green hue to them, so I purchased four recycled wine glasses to match. Everything else on my shelf is a solid color (still full of texture though) as not to compete with the busy pattern on the plates, mugs and vases. So whether you put together a simple color palette or find a piece that inspires one, make sure you stick to the same few colors and more importantly in the same hues. (Not mixing bright red and blue with pale greens or pinks) . Or go for the ever classic and timeless monochromatic color scheme. A mixture of all white dishes in different shapes and sizes will always look beautiful, this is a good choise if your kitchen already has a dramatic element. A monochromatic color scheme is also a great way to add a pop of color in a kitchen, for example in a very neutral kitchen having all blue dishes on a shelf will have a big impact. This also makes it easy to ensure everything will 'go' together and you can mix in all different shades of the same color. Which also makes it easy to add to and change up over time. My shelf is never the same for too long as I like to switch it up seasonally with holidays and with new inspiring pieces.