I'm a firm believer in making every room both practical and beautiful, keeping clutter to a minimum while also including all the striking decor elements that make a space feel curated. As a designer, my goal is always to use pieces that fit the layout, style, and needs of a home. Like many people, I want my kitchen counters to look elegant and styled while also meeting all my cooking and food prep needs.
Before I show you the products I consider kitchen counter must haves, this is the general rule I stick to when decorating counters in a kitchen: try to mix things up as much as possible. Balance modern pieces with vintage details, don't be afraid to mix metals, include warm woods and cool stone, and look for timeless glass decor that you'll keep around for years to come.
Rule number one of kitchen counter styling: you need a way to contain clutter and keep small items organized. The sub-rule I include as a designer? That clutter-containing piece should also be beautiful! No matter the size of your kitchen or your counters, a decorative tray is a must. I love that this one features warm wood and metal details. It's somehow both modern and retro, which means it's pretty timeless in my book.
Speaking of containing clutter, canisters are an important part of decorative kitchen storage. They're great for keeping your most-used items handy and showcasing some personal style as well. I love canisters that look minimalistic at first glance, but closer inspection reveals beautiful details that speak to your taste.
These glass canisters have intricate details that make them more than just a pracitical purchase. The traditional and feminine flair in the pattern mean I'll get to use these for years without worry of them feeling dated.
Have you ever been to someone's home (or seen those designer showcases in magazines) and thought "why does it look like an untouched and perfect place?" Let me tell you about a designer hack: consider aesthetics in every decision where the appearance will impact the space. Yes, that includes your toaster.
The secret to beautiful kitchen counters isn't to eliminate all of the practical things you need: it's to make those practical things fit your aesthetic. This toaster is the perfect example. It's highly rated, hits all the practicality points, and it's actually pleasing to look at. It's simplistic, modern, and sports the smooth curves not often seen in more basic toaster models. This is one I actually want my guests to see.
Can I just take a moment to stress the importance of beautiful kitchen appliances? I'm already pretty excited about that first up of coffee each day. But when it's brewed in a coffee machine that looks luxurious (without the luxury price), I feel like my life and my home are much more elevated. This retro-style coffee maker featuring gorgeous aesthetic details is the ideal swap for the traditional (and sometimes clunky) coffee maker. This gem can easily stand alone as the design feature of my coffee bar.
We've discussed the importance of beautiful storage and elegant appliances for your kitchen counters. Now, let's talk about layering. This is what will set your home apart. Clever layering of the items you actually use on your counters will keep your space practical while giving it a curated look. Here's your starting point: a large, wooden cutting board. Leaned against your backsplash, it's the base for other layers of practical and decorative points of interest in your kitchen.
Here comes your second layer, and I know it's another cutting board, but hear me out. This cutting board introduces cool tones, another texture, and a bold contrast. Not to mention the difference in shape and size. I love that this adds to the layers, provides an easy-to-reach cheese board for entertaining, and doesn't take up that much space. Can we also talk about how expensive this looks compared to the actual, super affordable price?
Is the picture coming together now? This riser in front of those cutting boards? Perfection! It's ideal for storing oil and vinegar bottles (don't worry, we're getting to those) or a scented candle to make your kitchen smell amazing (also included in this roundup). It's small, but the important point here is that it elevates shorter items in your kitchen and adds some height to create visual variations on your countertops. It would also be so clever for holding your soap dispenser or kitchen sponges.
These are the oil dispensers that give your kitchen that quiet luxury vibe. Trust me, if you use oil in your cooking regularly, you're going to want to keep it on your counter in a stylish way. These dispensers are just begging to sit on that adorable riser!
You know what is never talked about? The struggle of wanting a styled home while also having a deep love for cooking and baking. Because all those kitchen necessities can turn into clutter real fast. I have more cooking utensils than is even reasonable at this point, but I refuse to part with any of them. The ceramic untensil holder on my counter serves a practical purpose while also adding to the decor in my kitchen. I love that this one is simple, yet still elegant.
By the way, these are the exact wooden utensils currently in my utensil vase, and I use them every single day. They never dry out, never stain, and clean up super easily. I love the warm, rich color and that dreamy wood grain.
I don't know about you, but I need a place to store the bananas my toddler demands each week so they have a place to sufficiently rot (because, again, she decided bananas are "yuck"). If I'm going to have overripe bananas lying around, I at least want them to spend their final days in a beautiful place. That's where this three-leg ceramic bowl comes into play. It's simple, but the shape makes it feel like a special find. If fruit isn't your thing, seasonal filler or faux greenery would also look beautiful here.
I know two fruit bowls sounds excessive. Maybe it is. I never claimed to be a minimalist here. I think having an extra option is helpful for changing things out seasonally. Plus, I could never choose between a beautiful ceramic bowl and fluted glass one! I love that this one brings color to the space, has more height than the typical fruit bowl, and offers the practical storage we've been talking about in a beautiful way.
If your fruit is going in a beautiful bowl and your cooking oils get fancy dispensers, your soap certainly deserves an elegant vessel, too. I've found that one of the easiest ways to make a kitchen look put together is to remove any items that display a product label - like your hand or dish soap. When those products are placed in containers like this, it just looks more thoughtful and put together. My little hack? I have a dispenser for dish soap in my sink, so I use the additional bottle for hand lotion instead.
A lamp on your kitchen counter? It might sound odd, but this is such a simple way to make your kitchen feel cozy and add some practical light. A mini lamp tucked into the corner brings ambiance to your kitchen after sundown and is perfect for those early morning trips to the coffee machine.
Truthfully, most of the recipes I use in my kitchen come from Pinterest these days, but I do have some beautiful cookbooks I love to display. I used to stack them, but I thought these marble book ends would look so much nicer. If you love to use your cookbooks as decor - like me - they do a great job of creating an effortless vignette on your counters.
If you're going the luxury route, this has to be on your list of dream kitchen details. This European brass pepper mill is a true work of art. It's practical - for all your peppering needs - but it's also stunning on your countertop. Thoughtfully placed in front of your layered cutting boards? So dreamy!
If you're already going the extra mile with your pepper grinder, why not include a beautiful salt cellar as well? This lidded version is small, but it has tons of interest to add to the styling on your counters. The wooden riser I raved about above is a wonderful way to display this and your pepper mill near your cook top.
As you're finishing up that layered and styled section of your counter, you might need a finishing touch. That's usually when I pop in a small bud vase. They don't take up much space, and they add a curated vibe to the area. This is a pack of three, but here's my designer trick: just use one. Save the other two for other spaces in your home, like a night stand or your bathroom counter. Just one bud vase with filler is enough to make an impact on your countertop.
Believe it or not, one of the best purchases I ever made for my kitchen was less than $20. This sponge holder is an absolute must. Its slotted design helps your sponge dry without leaving behind yucky residue (or smells). But what I love most is that it isn't an eyesore in my kitchen. It's simple in design and doesn't draw much attention to itself. When you do look at it, however, it feels elegant, sharp, and clean.
A candle is the finishing touch to every room. It serves some practical purposes in many rooms, like the one where you might often cook smelly foods or have a weird odor streaming from the garbage can. A scented candle that looks as beautiful as it smells is the solution to so many kitchen problems. I love them for adding a cozy touch, welcoming guests, and covering the smell of the dish towel I should have changed out yesterday.
Now that your kitchen counters are beautifully (and practically) decorated, I have one final tip for you. You need a large, striking salad bowl. But not for serving salads. This is my little trick for having people over for a meal. I've spent all day trying to get my home to a state of convincing guests I live in a spotless house, so I definitely don't want to mess that up when it's time to prep the meal. That's where the salad bowl comes in.
Use a beautiful bowl that looks nice resting on your counter to catch all the scraps and trash you produce while cooking. It makes for easy clean up and your guests don't have to look at the pile of onion skins scattered on your counter.