Decorating kitchen countertops – how to style a kitchen beautifully without it looking cluttered

Decorating kitchen countertops is about striking the balance right between adding personality to the space while remaining clutter-free

a modern grey kitchen with decorated kitchen countertops
(Image credit: Adelina Iliev c/o Katie McCrum Studio)

Decorating kitchen countertops is the fun part at the end of your kitchen renovation, and really helps create personality in your space. 'Whilst streamlined work surfaces are more practical to keep clean, a completely clear worktop can leave a kitchen looking sparse and soulless,' says Richard Davonport, founder of Davonport Kitchens. 

The kitchen should be treated as yet another room in the home where you can put your mark on your interiors, so don't shy away from expressing yourself through decoration. Surfaces are a great place for display, so use your island and counter space wisely. 'Objects on kitchen counters help tell the room’s story,' says Leila Touwen of kitchen company Pluck. 'They show who lives there, how they use the kitchen and what their personal taste is.'

With this in mind, we've put together our favorite ideas for displaying personal trinkets and accessorizing your kitchen. Read on for our favorite modern kitchen ideas to decorate a kitchen counter.

Expert tips for decorating kitchen countertops tastefully

Make sure you get the balance right and choose tasteful additions to your kitchen that aren't too cluttering. Think about how it ties into the rest of the color scheme of the room, and make sure your counter decoration serves some practical need.

'Kitchens are an area of the home where hard materials such as stone and marble tend to prevail,' explains Caroline Milns, head of interior design at Zulufish, 'creating an architectural and aesthetically seamless finish that is hard-wearing and practical.

Think as well about texture. 'Adding accessories that bring color such as plants, flowers and fruit, or a different texture, like wood, will soften the utilitarian feel and make the space feel instantly more homely,' she adds. 

1. Think practical yet stylish

a shake style kitchen with styled countertops

(Image credit: Phil Crozier. Design: Reena Sotropa)

Practically should not be compromised on your kitchen accessories, so use your counter as a space to display pieces that are often used in the kitchen, but are at the same time stylish and matching to your aesthetic. 'Don't hide away handy things like pots of salt and pepper and cooking implements,' says Leila Touwen of Pluck (opens in new tab). Do your research and buy a practical necessity in your favorite brand or color so they aren't garish and incongruous with the rest of the scheme. 

'Decanting dried goods into airtight glass jars on the counter is an aesthetically pleasing way of displaying food and if it’s anything like my overflowing cupboard, a good way to add kitchen storage too,' says designer Anna Haines (opens in new tab)

'Position practical accessories together in groups of three,' suggests Richard Davonport of Davonport (opens in new tab). 'It is a nice way to add interest.'

2. Add a touch of nature

A kitchen decorated with a bunch of flowers

(Image credit: Hux)

A fresh bunch of flowers can bring a real freshness and feeling of nature to your kitchen and makes for a great kitchen countertop idea. Placed artfully on a kitchen island or countertop is a great way to display them in all their glory. Think carefully about where in the kitchen they might sit. 

'A bunch of flowers brings a softness, but think about placement as these items in the wrong zone,' says Leila of Pluck. 'For example, a fresh bunch sat next to a cooker feels incongruous.' For a thoughtful touch, have your bouquet reflect the time of year, with a change in colors for fall and a festive bunch around winter, or take cuttings from flowers growing in the garden. Potted plants can also make a nice addition to worktops.

3. Display a simple fruit bowl

a kitchen island coutnertop with a vase and fruit bowl

(Image credit: Andrew Frasz. Design: Jessica Gersten Interior)

Reinforce the idea that your kitchen is a happy and healthy heart of the home by placing a bowl of fruit on the island. Members of your family, friends and guests can come and go, grab a piece of fruit, and it gives a friendly and welcoming feel to the space.

If you're dedicated to curating your kitchen aesthetic, you can make fruit choices that complement and bring color into your scheme. At different times of the year, a fruit bowl can become a seasonal piece of decor that grounds your space with whatever is in season at that time. 

4. Show off your collection of potted herbs or plants

a pink concrete countertop with plant pots on

(Image credit: Woody's Concrete Company)

Encourage the space to be used as an extension of your garden, and grow herbs in small pots and vegetable containers on a countertop. Basil, parsley, cilantro and mint are all easy to look after herbs that will thrive in the kitchen if looked after well. 'I love placing herbs in a tall glass both for cooking and the welcome scents they weave through the kitchen,' says interior designer, Anna.

You can buy wooden herb crates that give the room a pleasant rustic kitchen feel, or use old tin cans once used for chopped tomatoes if you want to reinforce the idea that your kitchen is a place centered around food and cooking. 

5. Use your kitchen counters to place artwork

a kitchen with coutnertops decorated with vases and artwork

(Image credit: Kelsey Leigh Design Co)

The kitchen is not often used as a place to display art, but showing off your favorite prints in beautiful frames can really add personality to the space.

'Where possible, we like to introduce a bit of artwork or something sculptural – just to please the eye – but better yet if it can serve a purpose,' says Frank Webb of New York interior design studio, White Webb (opens in new tab). 'Find a spot to lean a piece of art, or maybe it's a retro-looking toaster that adds a touch of industrial kitchen chic.'

6. Display your favorite recipe books 

A kitchen with recipe books on display

(Image credit: Pluck)

Recipe books often come with beautiful hard-back covers and great pictures on the front of the jacket, much like a tasteful coffee table book, so think about your favorite recipe books and have them on display, rotating every so often. Place your favorite on a cookbook stand, and stack the rest stylishly on your countertop or kitchen shelving.  

The added benefit is that you'll be actively encouraged to use the books when planning dinner ideas, instead of storing them away.

7. Use the space for candles

Candle holders make a nice addition to a work surface

(Image credit: Pluck)

Candles make a nice addition to a kitchen scheme. Pick some stylish candlestick holders and dot them across the work surfaces. This brings a nice aesthetic to the kitchen and hints at the space being used for socializing. 

When the daylight begins to fade, your kitchen will be bathed in the natural glow of candlelight, or you can move them into the dining room when hosting a dinner party. 

8. Collect an array of rustic cutting boards

A kitchen counter accessorised with a selection of rustic chopping boards

(Image credit: deVOL)

Cutting boards are the perfect example of a kitchen essential with practical use that can be artistically placed to add tasteful decor. 

Wooden cutting boards of varying sizes should be leant against the wall and layered, with different tones of wood creating a textured overall look, as in this colorful kitchen idea created by deVOL. 

How do you decorate a kitchen countertop while keeping clutter at bay?

There is a fine line between expressing your personality in the kitchen and creating a build up of clutter. Your kitchen often gets taken over by gadgets and cooking accessories. 'From a practical perspective, having too many items on the worksurface can make it difficult to keep clean, and if the room doubles as a dining room/living space, too much clutter will draw attention away from the rest of the interior,' says Richard Davonport of kitchen brand, Davonport. Weed out the kitchen gadgets that add to the room's aesthetic and store them away, displaying only pieces that make the room look extra nice - a coffee machine, or a brightly colored KitchenAid for example.

'Over the last decade kitchen design has been focused on concealing the clutter and creating streamlined worksurfaces,' points out Richard. 'However, post pandemic, we are seeing a growing trend for homeowners seeking designs which feel more homely,' he adds.

Oonagh Turner
Oonagh Turner

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.