13 Tips for Styling Your Kitchen Countertop Like a Professional Designer
Including clever ideas for those hard-to-reach deep countertop corners.
Is there anything better than a clean kitchen? The finishing touch on a clean sink free of dishes, a shiny range, and sparkling counters is little bits of décor here and there that really add a punch of style to one of the hardest-working rooms in your home.
When you're styling your kitchen countertops, it's important to keep both form and function in mind. You want to add pieces that go with or accent your color scheme and style of your cabinetry and other design elements of your kitchen, while also being practical about what you're putting on your countertops (and where they're placed).
The size of your kitchen also makes a big difference in how much styling you may want to do. For smaller spaces, you won't have room to add a lot, so your choices should be even more intentional. Larger spaces can easily become cluttered, though, as well, so consider how often and what areas of your kitchen you use the most so you can style your countertops to fit your lifestyle. "For a lot of people, the kitchen is the place where everyone congregates, so the more organized, aesthetically pleasing and functionally beautiful it is, the better," says New Orleans-based interior designer Maureen Stevens.
One area that's particularly wonderful to style is those deep corners of your kitchen countertop, which are often too far back to serve as functional workspace. When we moved into our historic home last fall, I created a little vignette of a scalloped silver tray topped with a French press, a pretty bag of the world's prettiest coffee and two white mugs to scoot into that empty corner — and for some reason, it still brings me joy every time I look at it. There is just something about the intentional styling that brought a bit more class and personality to our kitchen.
Looking for ways to style your own kitchen countertops, including your island and any of those tricky deep corners? We asked interior designers to share their favorite styling tips.
Flowers & Plants
You may recall the old proverb, "When you have only two pennies left, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other." Indeed, bread and lilies — or any type of flower — are right at home in any kitchen. There's something about bringing flowers indoors that adds light and life to any space, so a simple vase filled with fresh florals is the simplest way to adorn your countertops. Small potted plants, or even a few small planters filled with fresh herbs, are both pretty and practical, too, as you can snip the herbs to add to whatever you're cooking.
Placing colorful fruit in a bowl as countertop décor not only looks nice but will serve as a reminder to help you eat more of it. For a sleek look, try a monochromatic arrangement — i.e., all green fruit such as apples, limes and green papaya in a white bowl, says San Diego-based interior designer Robbie Maynard. Or, add several bunches of grapes in the same color to a medium-sized bowl and accent with a small, round, green striped watermelon. One styling tip to keep in mind: You should always coordinate any fruit and flowers with your kitchen and home décor style. "Place the objects as if you are getting ready to paint a still life painting," says Maynard.
A bonus of using cutting boards as countertop décor means you'll have them at your fingertips when you're making dinner, too. Maynard recommends stacking wood cutting boards in several different sizes against your backsplash, alternating vertical and horizontal placement, with the smallest one in front. Other functional items you can consider using in your kitchen countertop styling are knife blocks and bread boxes. If you're looking to style your kitchen island — which is great for entertaining but day to day, can be a big empty space — try a mix of vintage breadboards, which double as a serving platter when company comes, says San Diego-based interior designer Alexis Garrett.
Crocks, Jugs, and Canisters
It makes sense to keep a crock filled with utensils like wooden spoons on your countertop near your range for easy access when you're cooking. But you can also use these types of vessels, along with an array of canisters, jugs and jars, to fill up those tricky deep corners. Garrett's rule of thumb: "You want to consider the ratio of vertical space to counter space that you are filling and be sure to select something tall enough, or fill your crocks with something that will lengthen the space."
A simply framed piece of art leaned up against a backsplash will look elegant and add personality. Just be sure to place it in a spot where it will stay clean and dry (i.e., not right next to your stove or sink).
As versatile and handy as Dutch ovens are, these things are heavy — so we don't blame you for not wanting to haul yours in and out of a cabinet every time you want to make bread. The good news is, Dutch ovens are also attractive to look at, so you can easily leave one out on a stove or countertop if it works in your kitchen's color scheme (bonus points if you have a pretty-hued Le Creuset Dutch oven), says Maynard.
No bookshelf? No problem. Keep a few of your most frequently used cookbooks (or those with the loveliest covers that go with your kitchen's color palette) tucked into a deep countertop corner. Try a small potted plant as a bookend. Or, display a single cookbook open to a favorite recipe by using a cookbook stand (such as this marble one) in the corner.
If you have an outlet nearby to spare, brighten up those deep dark countertop corners by placing a small lamp there. It will add a cozy vibe and also give you more light as you're preparing meals. Another smart idea: Add dimmable under-cabinet lighting, which will add depth to countertop corners and help you to make use of this otherwise underutilized area, as well as create an ambiance, says Kellie Sirna, co-founder of Studio 11 Design in Dallas.
Special Occasion Pieces
Pretty tiered stands or cake stands are beautiful items to have in your collection — but why save them only for special occasions such as showers or holidays? Instead, choose one or two to keep on display on your counter, topped with smaller items like a candle or a few small succulents. The same applies for other items you might typically save for when company's coming, such as elegant pitchers, pie dishes or even a cheese dome. Each of these items work especially well in those deep countertop corners.
How Not to Style Kitchen Countertops
How you style your kitchen countertops is, of course, entirely up to you — but here's what the pros say as far as what to avoid.
Electric items and bigger appliances
Unless it's an appliance you use on a daily basis, such as your coffee maker, tuck it away into a cabinet if you have the space. (I personally make an exception to this rule, keeping my KitchenAid stand mixer in one of my deep corners. I love this because it's hot pink, adding a pop of pink to my white kitchen, and I also use it regularly.)
Your grandma may have loved to have lots of charming little trinkets placed around her kitchen, including on the countertops. But the modern look commands more restraint. Plus, the more tchotchkes you have out, the more tchotchkes you'll have to clean and dust. That's not to say you can't have a special item here and there, but use them sparingly in a kitchen.
Overly themed décor
Again, it comes down to personal preference, but in general, kitchens and your kitchen countertops are not the best spot to go overboard with holiday décor. Avoid clutter while still incorporating a fun touch to reflect the season here and there, such as a festive yet elegant dish towel or hand towel, says Stevens.
It goes without saying, but there's no reason to keep clutter such as mail on your kitchen countertops. Designate a drawer or a basket you can tuck out of sight to corral envelopes, magazines and everyday clutter, says Sirna