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What To Put On Your Kitchen Counter?? (Try These 8 Easy Styling Hacks)

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:)

Herbs/A Plant

design by cassandra lavalle | photo by ellie lillstrom | from: cassandra lavalle’s basement kitchen reveal

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).

design by elspeth benoit and arterberry cooke | staging by a 1000 x better | photo by alex zarour of virtually here studios | from: a master class in using color in your home without it feeling like a colorful home (it’s not the decor)

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!

Open Cookbook

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.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: portland kitchen reveal

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!

Cutting Board

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…

design by ginny macdonald for ehd | photo by zeke ruelas | from: modern deco kitchen reveal

go REAL crazy and use a platter. Heck, if you are already breaking “the bowl rule” (not a real rule) mix those fruits like Ginny did in the modern deco kitchen we all love so much!

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.

photo by tessa neustadt | from: our modern english country kitchen

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.

Cute Decanters/Canisters

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.

design by barrett prendergast | styled by emily bowser | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to make “a cook’s” kitchen

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.

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: mountain house kitchen reveal

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.

design by velinda hellen design | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: velinda’s tiny kitchen makeover

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

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10 days ago

I just love those kitchen designs. You are so creative and always find a different way to complete your work with so finished touch.

10 days ago

Nothing makes me happier than a clean counter, devoid of anything except maybe a bowl of fruits or a vase with fresh flowers. I do have a toaster, a stand mixer (in a corner) and coffee maker sitting on the counters all the time. Everything else I try to put away.

8 days ago
Reply to  Eleanor

I have those exact things on my counter as well and nothing more. We have a small kitchen so it helps make it look “bigger” without having clutter all over the place.

9 days ago

I loved this article! How about styling a kitchen island?

9 days ago

What I’ve learned about having an attractive utilitarian space like a kitchen is to figure out what you need to have out on the counter, then try to buy attractive versions of that item. If you love looking at your coffee mugs, cannisters, cutting boards, etc. then you won’t mind having them sitting out.

Of course there are limits to this. My counter currently has a rack of baby bottles and breast pump parts drying and there’s no way to really make that look good, lol.

But really, anything I keep on the counter is something I have to wipe around/under so I’m a fan of keeping just the basics, then making those things look as decent as possible.

Love the idea of a potted herb if you’ve got the light for it though! Pretty and useful.

7 hours ago
Reply to  Amanda

You’ve got a one of a kind creative ability.

9 days ago

I don’t understand who this advice is for? These pictures aren’t of people’s kitchen counters in everyday life, right? They are posed for a photo shoot. Are these tips also for how to style a counter for a picture or do people actually keep kitchens looking like this all the time?

9 days ago
Reply to  R

I try to clean up as I go.
It’s way easier to keep it looking good and helps when I start the next task too.

9 days ago
Reply to  R

This advice definitely isn’t for ME, that’s for sure. I think the entire idea of “styling” a kitchen counter is hilarious (not to mention useless). Styling for the rest of my house? Absolutely. But my kitchen counters?!? They’re utilitarian, and style definitely takes a back seat to function in my house.

9 days ago
Reply to  R

I agree. While I loved looking at all of these pretty kitchens some of the advice was super confusing to anyone who actually uses their kitchen for making food. Art resting in between the sink and the stove? An open cookbook just out when you aren’t actively cooking? I try to clean as I go and I hate having clutter around but as someone who cooks a lot, you also need to create a functional space that works well for preparing food.
Maybe a post with tips on how to create a kitchen that is functional for people who cook a lot but is also beautiful? I know awhile back you did one on the Mountain House kitchen organization which was really helpful.

9 days ago
Reply to  Emily

Art on a counter next to a stove (or worse, above) just makes me think “this person must not actually cook.” It seems really odd. I do, however, love hanging art on the kitchen wall in less intrusive places. All that being said, these are gorgeous spaces, and some nice tips. I do keep some fruit out, and also onions! They don’t need the fridge, and they’re pretty. I also love what one commenter said about finding attractive versions of utilitarian items. Thinking it might be time for a prettier toaster….

9 days ago
Reply to  Emily

I didn’t find it confusing. I use my kitchen for cooking and baking all the time and I already use a lot of these tips to keep my kitchen functional and beautiful. I always have an open cookbook on a stand because I like the look and I’m also trying to cook through one with my partner. I have a habit of buying cookbooks and forgetting to use them, so having one open on the stand is a good reminder. I have my pretty cutting boards leaned out since I don’t have the storage space in my 500sq ft apartment. My art is on the backsplash above the sink. And i have a little tray for my salt cellar and garlic bowls. Maybe the advice isn’t applicable to you, but it doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. And it’s not because I don’t cook or I don’t like a functional kitchen.

9 days ago
Reply to  AH

Same. I cook all the time and my kitchen is still cute and sure, “styled.” You’re gonna have salt and pepper on the counter, why not make them pretty? I’m confused why people who think kitchens should be 100% utilitarian are visiting a design blog?

3 days ago
Reply to  Angela

Well said!!

9 days ago
Reply to  AH

Well said.

9 days ago
Reply to  R

The kitchen takes up probably 40% of my small apartment, so I keep it styled and clean most of the time. I just clean up as I go so I don’t find it an issue. Maybe the advice is for someone like me.

Julie S
9 days ago
Reply to  R

I cook at least twice a day for a family of four in my small kitchen and while the photos here are styled, they’re definitely not completely disconnected from reality. Near my stove are my two cutting boards and my tray with pretty salt/pepper/oil. Our fruit bowl is attractive though it usually has more colors than the monochromatic colors in the styled bowls here. My old drying rack is bamboo and my dishes are white, so it looks nice even when it has things sitting out. I have a painting on the wall. My useful things sitting out like my planner and bowl of handy items are neutral, nonobtrusive. If you value a peaceful cleared kitchen that is attractive you can certainly make it happen and these are some good tips how to do it.

9 days ago
Reply to  R

Not a fan of this article. We don’t live in magazines or social media photos. I keep my favorite cookbook out of 50 books (Mamushka by Olía Hercules) on my counter because I cook and bake all the time. The spine is ripped and the pages are stained. It’s not a show piece and neither is my home.

3 days ago
Reply to  Chantal

I don’t understand the need to tell people what you don’t like when the point of the post is just to help people make their kitchens cute. And no we don’t live in magazines (and I cook a fair amount) but my kitchen still looks a bit like the ones in the photos : )

8 days ago
Reply to  R

My counters are too small to style them and keep them so tidy. However my kitchen is so small that I have to keep a number of things out anyway. So it’s an opportunity to have nicer things out. Finding a spot for a picture wasn’t hard. I simply have it on a window sill against the window. It’s not necessary in am already cluttered kitchen, but it does make a view prettier and adds warmth to the space.

3 days ago
Reply to  R

My kitchen looks a bit like these (although now I’m even more inspired!). What I don’t get are comments about how this article is not useful. I suppose it’s not useful for you and that’s fine but it certainly is useful for many!

9 days ago

While the cruets are beautiful, oils should never be stored in clear glass containers with loose lids on the countertop. “Storage is essential when it comes to oils. The quickest way to damage stored oil is to expose it to heat, air, and light. This causes oil to break down, which leads to a loss of nutrients. Oil should be stored in a cool, dark area and replaced if it has a bitter odor. Some oils (polyunsaturated oils such as flaxseed, grapeseed, and walnut) become rancid quicker than others and should be stored in the refrigerator to extend their shelf life.”

9 days ago
Reply to  Kj

The same advice goes for coffee and vanilla extract. Keep those stored in dark containers and in a closed cabinet (especially for vanilla extract) as light can diminish the flavor.

Roberta Davis
9 days ago

My kitchen needs help, styling-wise. These are some really good ideas and examples that are energizing me! I certainly have several trays and vases and pots that can be put to good use! Thank you! (Also, going to Max Humphrey’s book signing in Seattle today. Yay!)

9 days ago

I strive to only have the absolute necessities on the counter and everything else stored away in an easy to access place. The coffee maker and the dish soap dispenser are the only things that qualify for a permanent space on the counters. (Although when I had a walk in pantry, the coffee maker lived/worked in there.)

If I had a huge expanse of counters, I might leave out a fruit bowl to encourage healthy snacks, but that could easily go on the table. Otherwise, clean and clutter free and ready to use are my ideal.

If however, you want to use a cook book on your counter while cooking, here’s another stand that is portable and practical.

Some of those photos show art and other things near the stove. I wouldn’t do that because of cooking splatters and grease buildup. It’s either going to get ruined or require regular cleaning.

9 days ago

Oh, you made me smile with all thd cute, little labels, “little fruit….big fruit”🤗

Loved this snacky post! Beautiful and functional.💞

I’m a big kitchen basket fan. I have a bunch to basically fill space on top of my upper cupboards, to balance my really high ceilings. I also have a big basket full of smaller baskets on the shelf under my kitchen island, for fruit, garlic bread, bits n bobs, even fridge storage of fresh produce…I use them all the time!

I also use trays to corral stuff. It keeps things neat and like items are easy to find wge I need to use ’em.

I’m starting to shop for my mentee’s Safe House room makeover tomorrow!!! The planning has been exhausting, yet so worthwhile. My mentee is soooo excited and Emily Henderson (aka: “legit famous person”) standing for her, has Blown. Her. 20 year old. Mind!!
Sooooo exciting!😃💗
On ya Em! You’re a Good Human! xx

Cris S.
9 days ago

Question / thought for future post (one where you could expand on the basic idea here): I have a collection (silver toast racks) that is really hard to display. I’ve tried corralling it on a tray, I’ve tried lining the items up, I’ve tried putting them on things, nothing seems to work. They are a bit fiddly and pokey and its hard to view them from the right angle – I just don’t know what to do with them but I don’t want to not have them out. I love them! I just don’t know how to display them so that others love them too. 🙁 Help!!

9 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

Is there a way to hang them, even on the wall, like a grouping of plates, only your lovely silver toast racks??
(Like a display of old tools)

9 days ago
Reply to  Rusty

Agree, something vertical if you have the wall space.

9 days ago
Reply to  Cris S.

How about hanging some floating shelves especially for them? Or some version of a picture rail but a toast rack rail ?

Julie S
9 days ago

I never thought about this topic as a formula but you sure have one and it sure works! It’s pretty much what I’ve got going on my counters as well 😀
For the greenery/plant, I had an accidental discovery – my daughter once brought me way more sprigs of rosemary than I needed for that night’s cooking so I just stuck them in a tall shot glass with water. They stayed green and two weeks later I noticed they had sprouted thready little roots! It’s been about six weeks now and they are still going strong in the shadow of my upper cabinets with occasional water changes. I didn’t have room for a full on potted plant in my small kitchen counter space, but this, ahem, “bud vase” next to my tray of salt/pepper/oil/garlic adds a huge impact for its little green size.

8 days ago

I use a smaller vintage cutting board as a tray next to the stove, and it has the salt and pepper shakers, a glass container with pink sea salt for pinching, and 2 bottles of flavored oils on it. In another corner, I have a small rustic wooden stand with a potted faux fern on it, and I use one of the digital photo frames (Skylight) in that corner so as I walk by or spend time in the kitchen, I can view photos of my dogs, my family and fun times we have had. I make a point of sending new pictures to the frame on a regular basis to keep it fresh. It makes me smile all the time! We have a large kitchen island and I keep it mostly bare except for a vase with fresh flowers or a wooden dough bowl with seasonal decor – for instance right now it has a bunch of mini-gourds, pumpkins and indian corn to welcome fall.

8 days ago

Thank you for share this information…Haique Quartz is the prominent manufacturer & Supplier of Natural Luxury Quartz Stone Surfaces Countertops in India. With an infusion of spectacular designs, colors, and patterns.

Amber Sidak
5 days ago

I LOVE the little round glass decanter with the brass/gold top that’s pictured in “Exhibit A” under the section about adding a tray to your kitchen counter. Does anybody know the source? It’s so cute and I think I need it for my kitchen counter! Thank you to anyone who can help!

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