How to Decorate Kitchen Countertops – Easy Tips and Ideas: Simple Decor Series

by | Simple Decor Series

It is tricky to decorate kitchen countertops in inviting ways without feeling cluttered. Follow these simple tips for kitchen counter decorating in my special Simple Decor Series!

Do you struggle to decorate kitchen countertops?  It has been a question that has popped up from a lot of readers.  In fact, I’ve been asked so many times that I decided this post should be part of my blog series, Simple Decorating: Easy Steps to Creating a Home You Love.

You probably spend a lot of time in your kitchen.  Because of my full-time teaching job and various other specifics of our family schedule, I don’t cook a whole lot during the school year.  And yet, somehow, I STILL spend a lot of time in my kitchen!

However, I view kitchen decorating kind of like bathroom decorating.  While I want it to look pretty, I need it to function incredibly well for my entire family.  At the same time, I also want to make it as easy as possible to clean.  The less clutter, the better.

The real trick…you’ll understand what I mean…is getting everyone else in the family to buy in on the plan, right?!  It isn’t even possible to explain how fast the homework piles and random water bottles with mismatched lids can accumulate unless you’ve been there, done that.  Haha!

I’ll dive more into specifics throughout the post, but here are some frequently asked questions and my answers.

Keep reading to see examples and tips for using these simple kitchen counter decorating ideas!

Custom Kitchen Island with scale & plants in front of electric stove & custom wood hood vent.

How can I decorate my countertops:

  1. Remember the number one rule for kitchen decorating, including decorating kitchen countertops: everything should be functional.  (Okay, at least 95% of it!)
  2. Establish work zones.
  3. Establish zones that can just be pretty.  Depending on the size of your kitchen, this may or may not be possible.  Either way is okay!
  4. Completely clean out and declutter the kitchen.
  5. Deep clean the kitchen.
  6. Slowly add back in items that you love and that serve a specific function too.
  7. Add additional pretty elements that you love.
  8. Edit the decor after a few days so you can see how it all functions for your family.
Looking past the herringbone pattern of the kitchen floor tiles, the vintage farmstyle wood table is set for dinner.

What can I display on my kitchen counters?

Here are 15 items that you can easily use to decorate kitchen countertops in a functional way:

  1. Pretty containers with essential food items.
  2. Vessel to hold kitchen utensils.
  3. Cutting boards.
  4. Fruit.
  5. Coffee bar area.
  6. Tray to group items.
  7. Kitchen textiles.
  8. Pretty dishes.
  9. Cutting boards and bread boards.
  10. Fresh herbs or herb garden.
  11. Fresh plants.
  12. Attractive soap and sink supplies.
  13. Kitchen scale.
  14. Simple, small artwork.
  15. A favorite candle.
Looking past the 12 foot custome Island into the laundry room off the kitchen, with both hinged doors open.

How to Decorate Kitchen Countertops – Easy Tips and Ideas

Robyn enjoys cutting up snacks while a bowl of fresh grapes sits on the white vintage scale.

How do you dress up kitchen countertops?

Here is my number one rule:

When I am going to decorate kitchen countertops, my number one rule is that I don’t put decor in the kitchen that is not also functional.

Confession: Sometimes I break my own rule.  It’s okay.  The point is, that almost all of your kitchen decor has a functional use.

For example, my pretty candle or vintage framed artwork are certainly not “functional” in a kitchen.  My huge scale on the kitchen island is not used for function.  However, literally everything else in the kitchen plays a functional role.  Plus, my scale often holds a functional piece.  That’s close enough, right?!

Pro Tip: Consider making about 90% of your kitchen decor also functional, useful pieces.

At the same time, it is important to choose functional pieces that also blend with the aesthetic of your home and are pleasing to your eye.

Do you need a bowl to hold fruit?  Choose a favorite vintage basket or bowl that you just love!

Do you use cutting boards often in your meal prep?  Incorporate those into a pretty kitchen vignette where they are easy to access.

Is coffee a really important part of your lifestyle?  Invest in a really pretty coffee machine and set up a corner of your kitchen with practical…and beautiful…coffee bar pieces.

What should not be placed on kitchen counters?

Nothing kills a pretty aesthetic like junk.

Pro Tip: Declare the kitchen a junk-free zone.  

For example, my kids have a different place in the dining room where they are to stack homework and paperwork for me to look at.  They know that they are expected to properly take care of lunch boxes, water bottles, etc. so that we do not have a massive accumulation every day of “stuff” all over the kitchen.

Maybe your kitchen does need to be the landing spot; no problem.  Have a designated place in the kitchen where those things go.  For example,  basket for school paperwork and hooks or bins for lunchboxes and water bottles could be helpful.

In general, the point is to not allow your kitchen to become the dump zone for everything and everyone in your home.  It’s easier said than done.  However, it can be done with patience, time, patience, and more patience.

I just kind of jumped over all of the other steps and went straight to the pretty stuff.  Haha!  Let’s take a little step back…

Wicker basket with fresh greeen pears sit on the kitchen island ready for hungry after-school appetites.

Step One to Decorate Kitchen Countertops: Declutter and Deep Clean

The very first thing that I recommend doing is to do a very thorough declutter and deep clean of your kitchen.  Leave no drawer or cabinet shelf unturned.

I get it; it isn’t the fun job.  However, it feels sooooo good to get it done!  Call in some family help on this first step, if at all possible.

Your kitchen will immediately feel more beautiful just by being completely cleaned.  If your family helps, it may help them have a better understanding and appreciation for keeping a clean and organized home.  (That’s always my hope, anyway.  Haha!)

Pro Tip: The feeling of knowing that everything behind closed doors and drawers also looks clean and tidy will free up your mind to be creative when you decorate the visible parts of your kitchen.

At the same time, you may unearth some favorite pieces that you can now display as functional decor.

Over on this post, I share ideas for deep cleaning and decluttering your kitchen.  Even though the post is geared toward preparing your kitchen for the busyness of the holiday season, it definitely applies year round too!

Looking into the kitchen from the family room with heavy chippy white coffee table in the foreground.

Step Two to Decorate Kitchen Countertops: Know Your Kitchen

Before you can know what items to display in your kitchen decorating, you really need to know how your kitchen is going to work for you.

Carefully think through each section of your countertops, the adjoining cabinets, walkway space, and appliances.  Consider the activities that already typically take place in designated zones.

For example, this is small and silly, but I always prep my kids’ school snacks for the week in the exact same place on the kitchen island.  Don’t ask my why, but I guess it’s just part of the routine.  How annoying would it be to have a decor piece there that was always in my way?

Pro Tip: Your kitchen decor is there to make your day more beautiful, not to be in your way.

If you want to get really detailed, take sticky notes and jot down these zones.  Next, place the sticky notes around the kitchen in each zone.  Then, live with it for a couple of regular days.  See if your zoning is accurate or if you need to readjust.

Once you have well-established work zones, you are ready to actually put the right kinds of functional decor in each zone.  You can dress up your kitchen countertops with confidence that your decor will work for you, rather than against you.

Coffee bar set on concrete countertops with vintage drawers in background.

Step Three to Decorate Kitchen Countertops: Slowly Add in Functional Decor

What can I decorate my kitchen with?

While this will vary somewhat from home to home, based on the functions you use the most in your kitchen, there are some basics that most of us probably use.

Start with the Sink Zone.

First, start with your sink area.  What products do you want to have out all of the time?  Then, choose pretty containers to place beside your kitchen sink.  I like to use a small pedestal to keep mine corralled neatly.  A little tray would also work great.

Here are some ideas for functional decor for your sink area:

Cute Wood pedestal with ironstone vessel holding brush, with neutral colored soap dispenser beside.

Cooking Zone

You will want to think through and carefully consider any decor in your cooking zone.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What items do I use the most?
  • How would it benefit me for these items to be accessible from the countertop?  Does it benefit me enough to have them visible all the time?
  • How much of a mess do I generally make when I cook?
  • Are there kids who will be joining me in my kitchen to cook?  What should or should not be accessible to them?
  • Will I constantly have to move _______ item so I don’t worry about messing it up or getting broken?

In my cooking zones, I like to have very little “decor”.  In fact, I do not have any decor in these zones that are just for decor sake.

Here are some functional decor items that could be useful in the cooking zone:

Payton baking in kitchen with ingredients spread out on kitchen island.
Freshly plated mill cooked in the Ninja Grill, with bread crate in the background.

Fresh Zone

How do you dress up kitchen countertops?

We will call this the “Fresh Zone” because there are several different ways you can approach this part of decorating your kitchen.  Even if you have a small kitchen, reserve a small zone for a pretty spot.

In this pretty spot, consider a vignette including some accessories that make your kitchen feel welcoming, calm, and fresh.  For example, a vase with inexpensive grocery store flowers and a favorite candle are always great options.  Add a pretty dish with freshly washed and rolled up kitchen towels, ready for use, to finish up this pretty space in your kitchen!

To create this cozy spot in your kitchen, try following this formula:

  1. Tray, flat basket, or flat bowl to hold everything.
  2. Taller item, such as a vase or pitcher of flowers
  3. Medium item, such as a seasonal figure (think a cute bunny for spring!)
  4. Smaller item, such as a pretty candle or bowl of fruit

Essentially, you are following the same steps as you would to style an accent table.  You can find my fail-proof formula for coffee table styling over on THIS POST!

Here are some staple items that I use in my fresh zone:

Glass cloche on white bass with white chocolate desserts.  Gray Bunny sits behind it.
Grouping of gray bunnies in vintage crate.

How to decorate a kitchen island countertop?

Decorating a kitchen island countertop is another popular question I often receive.  Depending on the main purpose of your kitchen island, you will want to treat it as one (or possibly more) of your zones.

Do you prep food on your island?  Do you do actual cooking there?  Is it more of an eating area?  Perhaps it is homework and laundry station like it is at our house!

How you decorate and stage your kitchen island will probably partially determine its use too.  I find that have a pretty centerpiece helps define the zones on our kitchen island.

For example, I have a large scale in the middle of our long kitchen island.  This creates a nice statement piece and also allows me to add a pretty vignette on the scale, whether it is a plant, vase of flowers, or even a candle.

On one side of the scale, the island is used more for snack and cold food prep because it is right beside the refrigerator.  On the other side, it is more often used for baking because it is beside the oven.  Having the large scale in the middle allows for a pretty space and also gives definition to the large, otherwise open countertop.

Here are a few tips to decorate a kitchen island:

  • Determine the priority functions.
  • Establish work zones, just as you do for the rest of your kitchen.
  • Incorporate a pretty spot, even if it is simply a small tray, flowers, and candle.
  • Use beautiful accessories for functional purposes, like a pretty vintage basket to hold fruit or an antique scale to hold a potted herb that you use for cooking.
  • Establish “rules” for no-clutter on the kitchen island and set a routine to clear it at the end of each day.  It feels good to start each day with a clean (or at least relatively clean) kitchen!
Vintage heavy white scale with candel and potted plant.

How to decorate a small kitchen?

You may be reading all of this and thinking, “that sounds nice, but my kitchen is small!  What do I do?”  That is a fair question.

However, the principles are the same no matter the size of the kitchen.  I have seen large kitchens that looked cluttered and tiny kitchens that looked beautiful.

Here are a few tips for a small kitchen:

  • Keep gadgets to a minimum.  You probably don’t actually need or use all the small appliances anyway.
  • Weed out extras.  Whether it is extra coffee mugs, dishes, or bulk pantry items, try to keep extras to a minimum.
  • Develop a habit of “a place for everything and everything in its place”.  This is true for any space and any size, but especially necessary in a smaller room!
  • Make room for a pretty spot.  Even if you are working with a kitchen in a studio apartment, have a pretty zone.  That may consist of a small tray with a single bud vase and a petite candle.  You can easily move the tray for food prep.  The pretty zone is needed to make your kitchen feel welcoming and cozy!
  • Make sure that every single item is both functional AND pretty!  If you have minimal amount of dishes, make sure they are beautiful dishes that you really love!  For example, gorgeous kitchen towels hanging on a hook serve as decor and for drying your dishes.  A pretty dispenser for your dish soap serves a very functional purpose but also becomes a beautiful vessel displayed in your kitchen!
Vintage Tray with pretty towels & potted plant.
A pretty view of the kitchen stove with fresh snacks sitting on island.

Now you can decorate kitchen countertops with confidence!

Just remember, if you’re feeling overwhelmed with how to decorate kitchen countertops or other parts of your kitchen, take it one zone at a time.

Here are the basics to follow:

  1. Remember the number one rule for kitchen decorating: Everything should be functional.
  2. Establish work zones and pretty zones.
  3. Completely clean out and declutter the kitchen.
  4. Deep clean the kitchen.
  5. Slowly add back in items that you love and that serve a specific function too.
  6. Add additional pretty elements that you love.
  7. Edit the decor after a few days so you can see how it all functions for your family.

Decorating doesn’t happen overnight like we see on HGTV or a social media time lapse.  Taking time to curate your decor, experiment with it, and get it “just like you love” takes patience.

Follow the basic steps to decorate your kitchen, fill in with your own unique style, and you’ll end up with a kitchen that truly feels like the heart of your home.

Viewing Kitchen Island from Dining room, complete with white vintage scale and wicker vessel.

I’d love for you to follow me on social media!  You can find my home decor inspiration on Instagram, Pinterestand Facebook!  











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