A well-stocked kitchen dresser is full of everyday items, anything from jugs and plates to graters and wire salad baskets. People who choose to keep their kitchen equipment on view are usually very particular about what they buy, and will look for things they like or consider to be well designed so that the dresser is an exhibition area as well as a work unit. In the same way, a simple, narrow kitchen shelving unit allows the packaging and labeling of tins, jars and bottles to create their own entertaining and decorative display.
Another example of mixing the practical with the decorative is to intersperse shelves of humdrum objects (folded towels or the family’s toys and games) with one or two shelves in the middle set aside for a display of pretty china. The eye will be drawn to this collection and will ignore the rest, particularly if the display shelves are lit from the back by concealed strip lights so that the china stands out in a warm glow. Other possibilities are to use the central shelf or shelves for a vase of flowers or a collection of intriguing objects.
Shelves in themselves can be a source of interest, particularly if they are asymmetrical and thereby add a shape of their own. Modular shelving systems, which can be built up in various ways, will fit into almost any space. Another way of combining utility and decoration is to place small sets of shelves at random on walls between pictures or prints. Here they will provide space for those small objects which are always difficult to display but which it is a shame to have to relegate to the permanent darkness of chests-of-drawers or the backs of cupboards.
Small, awkwardly shaped alcoves provide a good balance between the useful and the decorative. A tiny alcove can become a highly personal showcase fitted with just two shelves, comparatively wide apart, so that the top shelf can house the music centre (out of reach of young children) while the lower shelf can hold a selection of small prized possessions and perhaps a painting tucked in at the back.
Some restaurants make a feature of their wine collections by fitting wine-racks all around the walls, up the stairs and over the doors. Wine connoisseurs could take a leaf out of their book and use wine-racks as decorative additions to the room. They can be fitted into the alcoves made by a chimneybreast or the alcoves created by building a deep-arched division between one room and another. The simplest wine-rack, filled with bottles, looks exotic.
Some things are awkwardly shaped for storage— umbrellas, walking sticks, ladders, hats, tennis rackets, and so on. Yet all these things together, perhaps with some purely decorative additions such as hand-carved decoy ducks, can look picturesque. It helps if you hang them from something with more character than the normal nails or screws—try small brass or china cupboard door handles, or colored cup hooks, coming practicality and interest.