Home » Blog » DIY Home Projects » Kitchen Shelving Spacing and Sizing

Kitchen Shelving Spacing and Sizing

Months after this kitchen project started, my open shelving is finally installed! You might remember I started the kitchen remodel last spring, changing out the lower cabinets ripping out the uppers, and adding new countertops. Well, life threw a few curveballs (seems like I should just be ready for those now…) along with a couple of delays and here we are! In any case, I’m absolutely thrilled! Because they are inspired by my previous shelves, I am sharing all the kitchen shelving spacing and sizing details!

wood kitchen shelving

These shelves might look a little familiar since I used the same wood shelves and brackets from the kitchen at my previous home (why mess with a good thing right?).

I’ll chat more about the brackets below, but I want to add a little disclaimer that most of my shelving is made using brackets from my brother’s company, Cascade Iron Co., (he built this small business!) so full disclosure – I’m related & I also do work for his company styling photos and such 🙂

allisa jacobs kitchen shelves and white subway tile

Kitchen Shelving Details:

Ok, now onto the good stuff! From drilling on tile backsplash to shelf dimensions, I’m answering all your questions below! If you’re considering kitchen shelves check out my Pros & Cons to Open Shelving.

how to space kitchen shelves

What Size Are Kitchen Shelves?

While there isn’t one standard shelf size, most kitchen shelves are about 11″-12″ deep. This typically lines up well with any upper cabinets, is large enough for plates, and is a good proportion for counter dept.

My shelves are 11.25″ deep (a common lumber size), 1.5″ thick and 46″ long.

shelf spacing guide

How to Space Kitchen Shelves?

Spacing should consider the unique space of the actual kitchen but there are some good guidelines to follow. Most upper cabinets are 18″ from the counter top, so if you’re working around existing upper cabinets that might be something to factor in.

Because there are no uppers nearby, I went slightly lower and spaced my bottom shelf 17″ from the countertop. There is 13″ between my bottom and top shelf.

This spacing allows for ample use of the counter top plus space for items on both shelves. Just like a cabinet, I’ll need a stool for the top shelf and will use it for items I don’t need every day.

drilling into subway tile

Can You Put A Shelf On Backsplash Tile?

Yes! It’s always a little nerve-racking but it’s totally possible. You’ll just need the right hardware, like a diamond drill bit and lots of focus.

We practiced on a piece of scrap tile and because there is no going back, plus I double & triple checked all my measurements!

oak wood kitchen shelves

What Wood to Use for Shelves?

Almost any wood works well for shelves, though some are stronger than others (something like thin pine can sag over over time). For my shelves I chose white oak because I love the neutral and pale look.

My shelves have a special origin story as they were salvaged from a fallen oak tree that I paid to have milled. But no fear! White oak can be found online too (like this white oak shelf from Rejuvenation). It’s also really easy to use common lumber from the hardware store (they will cut the length for you for free!) – you’ll just need to sand.

You’ll want to factor in the thickness of your wood shelves as you consider the kitchen shelving spacing.

beeswax to protect wood shelves

What Stain to Use on Kitchen Shelves?

Surprise! I actually don’t use a stain on any of my shelves. I love the look of natural wood but also know we gotta protect these beauties!

Instead of stain, I treat my shelves with beeswax (works on butcher block and cutting boards too!). It’s easy to apply with a soft cloth and I usually reapply about once yearly.

kitchen shelf brackets

What Shelf Brackets to Use for Kitchen Shelves?

There are so many style options out there! As mentioned, I use the metal shelf brackets my brother’s company makes (totally biased, but I think they are the best!).

Here’s how I made my decision though – my shelves are super heavy so I needed wider, heavy duty brackets. I like the contrast of the black metal so I went with brackets that have a front lip. Because I wanted the spacing beneath the shelves more free, I went with a J bracket style which has the leg behind and above the shelf.

Finally, I like that the shelves fit snugly into these brackets and don’t attach with a bolt – I don’t want to add any holes to these beautiful boards! (Check out my guide to making shelves for my in depth installation details)

open shelving in the kitchen

Have any other questions? Just send me a message, I’m happy to answer!