How to Make Your Kitchen Counters Look Cute—While Maximizing Space

A kitchen with light wood cabinetry and shelves

Margaret Wright

Decorating is easy when all you have to do is make a space look cute. The challenge comes when you have to balance form and function. And when it comes to kitchen counters, this balance is a must. A cluttered kitchen counter is a recipe for disaster. It doesn't matter how cute your kitchen looks if you can’t cook a meal in it. You need a space that’s as practical as it is pretty—which means you need to keep efficiency in mind every step of the way.

Thankfully, we don’t have to do all this work by ourselves. There are tons of kitchen counter decor ideas in this world—and many of them are worth replicating. These ideas masterfully balance sensibility and style, giving us all plenty of inspiration to choose from as we go to decorate our kitchens. 

01 of 17

Keep Non-Essentials Off Your Counters

An art-filled kitchen with navy cabinets

Rikki Snyder

Free up a little counter space by hanging inessential decor—like art—on your walls. If it’s not a go-to kitchen tool that you regularly use to cook, you probably don’t need to spare precious counter space for it. (Yes, even if it’s really cute. And yes, even if you have a ton of counter space to spare.)

02 of 17

Take Advantage of Clever Storage Solutions

Kitchen shelves lined with rustic products

Design: Jersey Ice Cream Company, Photo: Beth Kirby, Nicole Franzen

Knife blocks can take up a lot of space. You know what doesn’t? A magnetic knife rack. These eye-catching racks can keep your knives at the ready—but still out of the way. Plus, they look really great in your kitchen, especially if your knives are pretty.

A black wooden knife strip with three knives on it
West Elm Schmidt Brothers Magnetic Wall Bar $55
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03 of 17

Let Your Prettiest Must-Haves Double as Decor

A marble-tiled kitchen with a chandelier

Bespoke Only

Invest in essentials you’ll love looking at, and turn them into decor. Cutting boards, salt and pepper shakers, and other must-haves often come in sleek, stylish renditions. These pretty upgrades will look great adorning your kitchen counters. And since they’re sleek enough to display, they’ll always be easy to reach when you need them.

Two sets of wooden salt and pepper grinders
Food52 Stockholm Salt & Pepper Grinders $45
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04 of 17

Make the Most of Sneaky Storage

A kitchen with gray cabinets

Tyler Karu Design

Taking full advantage of shelves and cabinets is an obvious tip. But don’t skip out on some of the less conspicuous storage options in your space, either. A window sill can be a great place to store decor, if you want to brighten things up without cluttering your counters. (And since it’s so light-filled, it’s a particularly excellent place for your plants.)

05 of 17

Put Practicality First

A light-filled kitchen with green cabinets

Katie Hackworth

If kitchen space is limited, keep your counters as clear as possible—and take advantage of any built-in storage on offer. Your shelves, lighting fixtures, and pretty cabinets will keep your space from feeling bare. And you’ll thank yourself for being so practical the next time you go to cook a meal.

06 of 17

Match Your Must-Haves to Your Backsplash

A kitchen with a black tiled backsplash

Earthen Co Interiors

Hoping to curate a minimalist kitchen? Keep your colors consistent. Use your backsplash as the starting point for your palette, and only display must-haves that match it—or that complement it.

07 of 17

Add a Few Hooks

Kitchen shelves lined with gray and white essentials

Design: Jersey Ice Cream Company, Photo: Beth Kirby

Low on storage space? Use hooks to make your shelves even more efficient. This is particularly important if your shelves are tall, if your kitchen essentials are short, or if you’re dealing with both of those things at the same time. A few hooks can keep precious shelf space from going to waste—and they can also be a great way to put your prettiest mugs on display.

08 of 17

Keep Your Colors Consistent

A kitchen corner with a few white plates and bowls

Anne Sage

Keep your go-to kitchen tools feeling decorative by making sure they suit your color scheme. Of course, this doesn’t mean you can only buy plates, mugs, and pans that match each other. Just be sure to store your out-of-palette pieces in your cabinets, where they won’t be on display.

09 of 17

Let Your Backsplash Steal the Show

A kitchen with a boldly tiled backsplash

Tyler Karu Design

If your backsplash is eye-catching, consider keeping your counters clear. Your space will feel decorated, even if you leave it totally empty. (Of course, if you do decide to add a little decor, be sure to opt for pieces that complement your statement-making backsplash.)

10 of 17

Embrace the Beauty of a Woven Basket

A white kitchen with a basket full of supplies

Ashley Webb Interiors

Sorting your must-haves into a cute basket can keep your necessities at-the-ready, while keeping your counters clutter-free. This is a particularly great option if you’re navigating a small space, because it gives you an excuse to cluster all your essentials together in a single corner. (And it manages to make that pile of essentials look good.)

A woven basket tray
Crate & Barrel Onslow Tray $40
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11 of 17

Create a Gradient

A kitchen with light wood cabinetry and shelves

Margaret Wright

If your cabinets are light, consider keeping your lightest wares at eye level and your darkest wares up top. We know it may seem counterintuitive. But keeping your counters light will make them feel bigger, cleaner, and less cluttered. That simple step can open up your space, without requiring you to tuck anything into your cabinets.

12 of 17

Make Full Use of Your Stove

A rustic kitchen with wood-lined ceilings

Becca Interiors

Don’t be afraid to leave essentials on your stove—especially if those essentials are pretty. This will make your space feel a little more decorated without taking up any counter space at all. Plus, it will keep your go-to kettle, pot, or pan conveniently within reach any time you need it.

13 of 17

Let Your Cabinets Do the Work for You

A kitchen with bold blue cabinets

Design: Jersey Ice Cream Company, Photo: Heidi's Bridge

If your cabinets are eye-catching, they’ll keep your space feeling decorated—even if your kitchen is nearly empty. This will enable you to free up all the counter space you need, without ever leaving your space feeling bare.

14 of 17

Turn Your Pans into Accent Pieces

A kitchen with pink walls and rose gold pans hanging over the sink

Design: Jersey Ice Cream Company, Photo: Skye McAlpine for Cup of Jo

Hang your prettiest pans over your sink to free up a little space. Odds are, your pans are currently living in your cabinets. But by moving them, you’ll make room for pieces that are currently cluttering your counters. Plus, this space-saver doubles as an eye-catching decorative accent, so it will make your space prettier and more practical in one fell swoop.

A 12-piece copper-colored cookware set
Williams Sonoma Mauviel Copper 12-Piece Cookware Set $1,900
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15 of 17

Prioritize Form and Function

A kitchen with blue cabinets and vibrant decor

Studio Peake

When you go to decorate your kitchen counters and shelves, keep form and function at top of mind. Put your prettiest, least essential wares up top. And keep a few select must-haves within reach. You want cooking to feel convenient, but you also want it to be fun. So you’ll want to strike the right balance of style, space efficiency, and ease.

16 of 17

Do a Little Color-Coordinating

A white kitchen with organized shelves and counters

Katherine Carter

To keep your necessities feeling decorative (and organized!), consider grouping them by color. Of course, you don’t want things to feel too perfect. So start by sorting them into small groups, based on their size, style, and color. Then place those groups on your shelves. (You’ll probably want to organize them with convenience in mind—which groups do you reach for the most?) 

It’s OK to have a stack of gray plates in between a handful of white mugs and a stack of white bowls—in fact, that’s a good thing. Because it will add a little contrast to your well organized space.

17 of 17

Go Bold, and Go Bare

A minimalist kitchen with light wood cabinets and a gray marble backsplash

Julian Porcino

Don’t be afraid to go bare. Just because you have long shelves and expansive countertops doesn’t mean you have to fill them. Minimalists know that sometimes, less really is more. So if you find yourself drawn to a sparser, cleaner aesthetic, embrace it.

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