It’s kinda wild how even the simple design questions don’t always come easy to us (*cough* me). I remember when I was styling my kitchen counter for my MOTO a few years ago, my first go was NOT a go. Too cluttered and not balanced. Then I took the blog, did a bit of studying (had Sara make some adjustments while she was shooting), and voila, I had a styled kitchen counter I loved.
As I said, that was a few years ago so I kinda forget about all that until Emily suggested we do a post that really broke down this potentially agonizing question… What do you put on your kitchen counter?? I immediately remembered my own experience and said “HECK YES! I think the readers will really find this super helpful because it was the post I needed three years ago.” So let’s get fricken into it:)
There is nothing like the smell of fresh herbs and/or the look of freshly cut flowers in a kitchen. I personally feel like I’m living in the beautiful countryside…preferably in Spain. But seriously they bring nature, color, texture, and quite literally “life” into your kitchen. The best part is that there is a plant for every person and size of kitchen. Let me demonstrate…
On the left, we have Velinda’s first freelance client project. Emily Bowser chose an awesome medium-sized plant (fern?). It’s happy, brings in a lovely softness that contrasts all the right angles around it:) Then on the right is Sara’s alllllmost finished smaller-sized galley kitchen. Bowser placed a wonderful little flower sprig in a bud vase. See? You don’t always have to go big or “care heavy” (she says as she looks at her sad, wilted basil plant).
But also we do love some plant drama when it calls for it like in this kitchen staged by A 1000 X Better. If you have the space (or just like a greenery moment) then get a vase and fill ‘er up!
As someone who dreams of loving/wanting to cook, I really love the idea of at least looking like I do. An open cookbook really does that:) But if you DO authentically love to cook, then a cookbook stand (like this one, this one, or this one) is also super practical. No need to mess your pretty book up with your food-covered fingers. Plus it helps to create levels with your other counter items.
HOT TIP: Put your cookbook and stand in a corner because it helps to fill that awkward space. Or you can put it in front of an outlet that you don’t like the look of.
But if you have no desire to have a cookbook stand on your counter then simply leave it open to your favorite recipe! This is a fun stylist trick. It looks kinda chic and effortless. Add an organically draped tea towel for bonus points!
I love pretty cutting boards. I’m serious. I LOVE THEM. So much so that when Sara came over to shoot my old kitchen I had FOUR stacked against each other in different orientations. I was very proud of myself. When she took two of them away it felt like she was ripping my heart out of my chest. But after I saw the photos, she was obviously right. My tiny kitchen looked too cluttered with that many boards.
So my first tip is to take it easy with the number of boards. If you have a large kitchen three is likely plenty. And if you have a smaller guy, like one was, then two is good… I promise.
HOT TIP: Just as we say with pillow mixing, you want to vary the sizes, tones, colors, shapes, and if applicable, patterns and patina of your boards.
But also there’s no shame in the one cutting board game! Especially when counter space is limited like in Brady and Shaun’s kitchens. The trick is to make sure there is something a little special about them. That could be a color, pattern, shape, or really cool handle like with this awesome one.
A Fruit Bowl
Now an open cookbook may make you look chic, but nothing says, “I have my life together” more than a bowl of fresh fruit. I want to emphasize “fresh” because my bowl is on top of my fridge, just slightly out of my line of vision and there have been more times than I care to admit that I have been unpleasantly greeted by a not-so-fresh fruit. But enough about me and more about you putting a bowl of dealer’s choice fruit on your counter.
Both Emilys, (Henderson and Bowser) seem to be fans of the single fruit, fruit bowl. It looks clean and adds a simple pop of color. The second thing you want to consider is the type of bowl. You can grab a cute little guy from your cupboard, get a little fancy with a beautiful footed bowl like this one, or…
HOT TIP: If you want to have a mix of fruit varieties consider choosing ones in the same color palette like Ginny did with those oranges, reds, and dark plum colors. It just looks more cohesive. But that is only for looks. By all means, buy the fruits you and your family like to eat first and foremost:)
Art is THE EASIEST way to personalize your kitchen counter. You may also be surprised that you have some options when it comes to displaying them.
In Allison Pierce’s kitchen, she has her small little pieces of art hung on her tiled backsplash. It’s unexpected and SO cute. Now I know they aren’t technically touching the counter but it still gives the illusion AND frees up some valuable counter space for ya know… cooking.
On the right, Rashida chose to lean a framed vintage piece of art and it’s perfect. For her kitchen specifically, the gold frame and warm-toned still life painting really warmed up the overall look of the kitchen. 10/10 and so easy to replicate.
But of course, a frame isn’t necessary as proven by Emily Henderson herself. I really like how soft it looks. But regardless, the most important part is that you love your art and that if you don’t want it to get wet then keep it away from the sink.
HOT TIP: Flea markets and Etsy have a ton of affordable art like this! You just gotta dig a little.
Don’t sleep on decanting some of your dry goods. It’s such an easy way to bring a little style to your countertop and alleviate some space in your cabinets. We are always a fan of the “rule of three” and varying the sizes like Orlando did on the left. But if you need to save on counter space like Velinda did, then two totally works too.
Also, note that these canisters are solid/not clear. It’s honestly a preference. If you are someone that mostly wants the “cute look” and doesn’t care a whole lot about the functionality then definitely go for ones like those. These ones are SO great in person if you need a shopping rec. But if you want to physically see your dry goods then keep reading.
The added benefit of seeing your food is that it adds a ton of visual texture and you’ll know when you need to stock up before you’re out! You can have one filled with rice, one with a cool-looking pasta, one with a seed, the possibilities are truly endless.
An easy way to make your canister look a little more modern/uniform is to have them be the same height like Bowser did for Barrett’s kitchen above. But unless you have a very long counter I wouldn’t do more than three at the same size. But also it could be great. You can be the one to decide since it’s your kitchen:)
Salt & Pepper Shakers/Grinders
By total accident, I have started to collect salt and pepper shakers. Two were gifts, one set I scored from Emily’s prop garage grab, and the last set I just bought last month. I couldn’t help it! They were mini, gold, ceramic, and only $5. They were practically paying ME at that point.
And while salt and pepper shakers are great, salt and pepper mills or grinders are where it’s really at for counter styling (more height). I think all of us have drooled over the insanely cool mills that have graced the EHD kitchen countertops. They are another super-easy way to make a kitchen counter look elevated by doing very little. Here are three I love: this set, this set, and this set.
HOT TIP: To keep things interesting style-wise, you can choose a salt and pepper grinder set in a slightly contrasting style to your kitchen. So if you have a traditional kitchen style, try a more modern mill and vice versa.
But if you are more of a salt pinch bowl or salt cave person, then one pepper grinder is great! It’s more about introducing cool shapes that are functional.
A Tray (Duh)
Trays are the most useful piece of decor in almost any room. Why would the kitchen be any different? Well, it isn’t. A tray helps to create a zone or a “house” if you will and makes a group of things look less “all over the place.” Take these trays above. They just make those cooking supplies look more put together and stylish. Plus they add another material bringing color contrast, warmth, and another great material.
HOT TIP(S): Decant some or all of your oils too! Then put them in special containers to add more fun shapes and less busy labels. I own this one and love it.
And if you think you are limited to one tray, think again! If you want to have two, like Velinda did, then go for it. Just make sure the tray aren’t too matchy-matchy.
That’s it. Pretty easy lesson plan, right? How many of these have you already done (or haven’t)?? Any tips you think aren’t to be missed? Drop your thoughts in the comments.
Love you, mean it.
Opening Image Credits: Restored and Designed by Jamie Haller and Craig Ekedahl | Styled by A 1000 X Better | Photo by Lauren Moore | From: How To Do “Craftsman” Right – The 7 Key Elements That Make This Vintage Style Work