11 of the Best Tips for Installing Floating Kitchen Shelves

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Something a lot of people wonder about but don’t know the answer to is how deep should kitchen shelves be. This question is just one of the many that came up when researching wooden open floating shelves, which I was planning to use in place of my upper cabinets for my modern farmhouse kitchen. 

To save you a lot of headaches and reduce the time you spend researching this stuff, so you can get to the good stuff and confidently install your kitchen floating shelves, I’ve put all the answers together in one place. Keeping in mind that most of this does come down to personal preference, these answers are an excellent guide to help get you on the right track! Here are the top 11 things you should know before installing floating kitchen shelves.

Disclaimer: Please remember that I am a DIY enthusiast, not a professional. This article is for general information use and is not a substitute for professional advice. Before taking any actions, consult a professional! Additionally, this may contain affiliate links where I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using my link. All opinions and recommendations are my own. I truly appreciate you taking my suggestions and using my links. Thank you for being so supportive!

The Questions and Answers You Need to Know Before Installing Floating Kitchen Shelves

Here are the most common questions about open kitchen shelves that I researched extensively before installing mine. Keep reading for the answers to these questions about kitchen floating shelves.

  1. How Deep Should Kitchen Shelves Be?
  2. What is the Best Shelf Bracket for Floating Shelves?
  3. What Height Should I Hang Floating Kitchen Shelves?
  4. How Much Weight can Floating Kitchen Shelves Hold?
  5. How to Maximize Floating Kitchen Shelves Storage Space
  6. What is the Best Floating Kitchen Shelf Placement?
  7. How to Decorate Floating Kitchen Shelves
  8. What is the Best Wood for Floating Kitchen Shelves?
  9. How Thick Should Floating Kitchen Shelves Be?
  10. Are Floating Kitchen Shelves Going Out of Style?
  11. Are Floating Shelves Only for the Kitchen?

How Deep Should Kitchen Shelves Be?

If you are DIY’ing floating shelves, you have complete control over the dimensions of your shelves. When researching floating shelves, I found that the most common size for a floating shelf was ten to twelve inches

To help you decide, the best way to determine how deep should kitchen shelves be is first to know what you plan to keep on your shelves. Once you know what will be displayed, you can take the largest item and make sure your floating shelves are at least this deep; so the item can be on the shelve without any overhang.

What is the Best Shelf Bracket for Floating Shelves?

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Creating a floating shelf means you need a hidden bracket; the best shelf bracket to do this is one with an internal mount. This type of bracket has a flat back portion that attaches to the wall studs and a rod portion (sometimes called a peg) of the bracket that inserts and is concealed inside the shelf. If you’re a visual person, take a look at the image above or check out this post which has more details about installing kitchen floating shelves.

What Height Should I Hang Floating Kitchen Shelves?

The trick to finding the best height is to leave enough room under the first shelf to store your countertop items. I suggest getting out some painter’s tape and trialing different configurations before installing anything. You can also have someone hold the shelves up to visualize things in real life better.

For example, I had a taller cutting board that I wanted to fit under my floating shelf and fill my coffee pot without pulling it out from under the shelf. So, based on this factor, I determined the minimum I needed to hang the lowest shelf. 

The height between my lower cabinets and the bottom of my first floating shelf ended up being 21.5 inches, and since I’m pretty short, this was about eye level for me.

How Much Weight can Floating Kitchen Shelves Hold?

On average, a floating shelf can hold 30 to 75 pounds, but this depends on a few things. The material, the type of bracket, and the number of studs or wall anchors used to support the entire thing. The mistake I made in my kitchen remodel was tiling my entire backsplash without noting the stud locations. Luckily, the shelf I used came with a bracket that supported a hefty amount of weight using wall anchors, which still allowed me to place heavy items on the shelves. 

Your shelf installation will be easier if you learn from my mistake! If you’re planning to install floating kitchen shelves, pay careful attention to your stud location so you can attach them to these and increase the weight each shelf can support. 

How to Maximize Floating Kitchen Shelves Storage Space

Storage space is always a premium, and when installing floating shelves in the kitchen, you reduce the amount of hidden storage space by having fewer upper cabinets. Especially in a small kitchen, the trick is consolidating and being smart about your storage. When getting ready to install my shelves, I took the opportunity to go through everything in my cabinets and purge duplicates, expired items, or things I hadn’t used or needed in years. 

Open storage isn’t necessarily a downfall because it allows easy access to the items you place there. The best way to maximize storage space on open shelves is by stacking everyday dishes into groups. What this looked like in my kitchen was that my glasses and plates were clustered and stacked on the lower shelves, and then I stored my dry goods on the higher shelves. Putting dry goods in a decorative container and putting these on display opens up extra space in a lower cabinet.

Another way to maximize storage on a floating shelf is to increase the number of shelves along the wall. Having two or three shelves up the wall allows for more storage. In my kitchen, I had one wall with two shelves and the rest with one shelf. In hindsight, I would install two shelves on every wall to better use the vertical space.

What is the Best Floating Kitchen Shelf Placement?

The most popular kitchen floating shelf placement is next to the range hood, the end of a row of cabinets, an awkward upper cabinet space, and around the sink area. Putting shelves around a window or the range hood works so well because it visually frames them. Place a set of floating shelves at the end of a row of cabinets to increase sight lines and make the space visually lighter. 

Lastly, another option is to put floating shelves where it would otherwise be awkward to put an upper cabinet. For example, my kitchen has a corner sink and a single upper cabinet to the right. It stands by itself and blocks a lot of the light coming into the kitchen. It also makes it so that you feel a little closed in when you’re standing at the kitchen sink because the upper cabinets surround you on both sides. But removing the one lone cabinet with floating shelves solved all these issues! It also added so much warmth and character, having wooden shelves.

How to Decorate Floating Kitchen Shelves

If you struggle decorating shelves, then these tips are for you! The color palette in my home is neutral, black, white, light wood tones, and a touch of green, so I stuck with this theme when decorating the floating shelves in my own kitchen. But if you are looking for a way to add a pop of color to your kitchen, then the items you place on your open kitchen shelving are the perfect spot to do so.

Your dinner plates, glassware, and favorite mugs are perfect as floating shelf decor as long as these are in your color palette. If any of these items are mismatched or the wrong color, then now is the time to invest in new ones so you can display them on your wood shelves. I used white plates, clear mason jar glasses, and black and white mugs and arranged all of these on the lower shelf.

Dry goods also make the perfect decor for higher shelves. The items you place on the higher shelves should be things you don’t use daily. You can place pasta, oats, flour, or sugar into large glass containers, and viola, instant functional, neutral decor. The other great thing about this is that you can easily find these containers for little money. Check out these tips on finding thrift store decor to learn more about what to look for and how much to pay for specific items.

Small plantsbooks, and smaller glass containers are the other items to use as open-shelf decor. A few examples of a small glass or crystal containers are vintage tin, jars, and vases. You’ll want to layer these items using groups of three. For example, first place a book on the shelf with the pages turned out, then add a taller plant and to the side of the plant, add a decorative vase or container shorter than the plant. You’ll want these items to fit comfortably on the book with free space on all sides.

What is the Best Wood for Floating Kitchen Shelves?

The best type of wood for kitchen floating shelves depends on whether you want solid wood or are ok with a veneer. The downfall of solid or natural wood is how incredibly heavy the slab is, which is why I stayed away from this option. Instead, I went with a shelf made of a white oak veneer. This option made the actual shelf much lighter, so I didn’t have to worry as much about the total weight on my shelves as they hung on the wall. 

If you are doing the diy option of making open shelves, then you have more options of what type of wood to make your shelves. 

  • Pine: a DIYer’s favorite because it is easy to work with, has a pretty wood grain, is lightweight and is affordable.
  • Plywood is the most affordable option; however, it’s not hardwood, and the ends are unattractive. This option is ideal if you plan to paint your shelves, or another option is to add a veneer along the edges and flat surfaces.
  • Maple: a great option because it is so easy to stain because it does not have a log of grain variation. It’s also more affordable than some of the other hardwoods.
  • Walnut: an attractive choice if you’re going for a dark wood look, but it’s going to cost you! This wood is pricy.
  • Birch: lightweight yet very strong and more affordable than other hardwoods. The downfall is this wood is notoriously difficult to stain.
  • Cherry: arguably the most prized wood for furniture and woodworking, known for its smooth, fine grain; however, it’s expensive and has a reddish-brown color which you either love or hate (I personally am not a fan of the coloring).

How Thick Should Floating Kitchen Shelves Be?

The most common total thickness of kitchen floating shelves is between two to four inches, with two inches being the most popular thickness. The size of your shelves will depend on two things:

  1. Total length – the longer the shelf, the thicker it needs to be to prevent sagging.
  2. Aesthetics – thinner shelves have a more modern look, and thicker shelves have a more rugged look.

Are Floating Kitchen Shelves Going Out of Style?

Nope! And quite the opposite, this design trend continues to increase in popularity due to its simplicity and ease of installation. People also find it oddly satisfying to access dishes without opening the cabinet doors. This kitchen trend has recently grown in popularity with the modern farmhouse style. It is a beautiful way to add style and character to your kitchen, ensuring this trend will be around for a while.

Are Floating Shelves Only for the Kitchen?

Floating shelves are not only for the kitchen; because of their visual appeal, you can add a wall shelf almost anywhere! People love adding these to other places throughout their homes because they are the perfect spot to display decor. Other popular spots for floating shelving are:

I’d love to see how you used these ideas in your home; tag me in a photo on Instagram @tantrumsandtools, and I’ll share your results in my stories!



furniture flipping // diy projects // home renovations // modern farmhouse decorating ideas

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