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Pantry Designs

There are many different pantry designs for different types of pantry, and each needs a slightly different approach. Butlers’ pantries, kitchen pantries, cold storage rooms, larders, pull-out cabinet pantries and walk-in pantries have different requirements and may serve different purposes.

A butlers pantry is usually set between the kitchen and the formal dining room (or the place where you do your entertaining) and it’s where the heat and rush of the kitchen becomes calm, cool, elegant food service. Fine china and glassware is often stored there, sometimes with a sink and dishwasher so the dirty dishes never even reach the kitchen.

A pantry for dry goods and bulk foods is best if it’s as dry as possible, and ideally reasonably cool, although not as cold as a traditional larder or cold room. A north wall location for coolness, and top and bottom ventilation for the chimney effect will help. However, you definitely need metal screening over the vents to keep out insects and rodents. If your north wall is exposed to high winds or rain, you may need more protection for the vents in the winter.

A walk-in pantry can be ideal if you have a lot to store. You can see everything at a glance, reach things easily, and if it’s right off the kitchen it’s very convenient. It’s also much cheaper than the same amount of storage in the form of cabinets, because you don’t have to buy fancy doors and drawers, just plain shelves.

If there’s no space for a walk-in pantry, a pull-out or unfolding pantry cabinet can store a lot of stuff in a small space. Most are full height, so they blend well with fridges and wall ovens in a full-height wall when you’re designing your kitchen. However, they also come as wall cabinet or base cabinet units, in many widths as small as 3″!

Many of your pantry design decisions will depend on what you plan to store there. General categories of items which make good pantry storage candidates are:

Bulk items – paper goods such as bathroom tissue, paper towels (but consider using rags instead) and facial tissue, dry goods like pasta, sugar and flour, canned or packaged goods, home-canned food, home-dried food, pet food, etc

Seldom-used or “extra” equipment – small appliances and large pots and pans, the canner, fish cooker, pressure cooker, big platters and serving bowls, extra china and flatware, plastic containers, and empty canning jars plus spare lids and rings.

Fresh food – food which doesn’t need to be refrigerated but takes up too much space in your kitchen cabinets might include potatoes (if you can provide cool and dark storage), onions (cool and dry), winter squash (cool to warm and dry), ripening fruit for eating soon, nuts in the shell, etc

Some people store cleaning supplies in the pantry, but I’d recommend separate storage for that if at all possible. Mops and brooms are not the cleanest things in the world, and cleaning fluids, detergents etc often smell – you don’t want your food picking up soap or detergent scents!.

If you do have a walk-in or step-in pantry, the door can be a real decorative accent in the kitchen if you wish. There are some beautiful etched-glass pantry door designs here:

  • An Array of Etched Glass Pantry Designs! – At Sans Soucie Art Glass, the designs are custom, made to order with no limit to the possibilities! Turn an ordinary kitchen pantry door into beautiful decorative accent, with a design specifically suited to coordinate and compliment ..


The Butler’s Pantry

Since the butler’s pantry serves a different purpose to food storage pantries, the design and style are usually different, too.


Traditionally, a butler’s pantry was the place where food was arranged for final presentation at the table, fine china and silver were cleaned and stored, and wine and other alcoholic drinks were prepared for service at the table. Nowadays the butler’s pantry handles the modern versions of those same tasks, as well as others that may not fit exactly into the kitchen or the dining room. Your own version of the butler’s pantry should be designed to work for the functions you expect to use it for.

Food Service

  • Carving meats
  • Arranging food on individual plates
  • Transferring from cooking utensil to serving dishes
  • Arranging appetizer and buffet platters
  • Re-heating food
  • Keeping food hot or chilled

China and Silver

  • Dish and flatware storage and display
  • Washing dishes, especially delicate pieces that need hand washing
  • Cleaning silver

Drink Service

  • Opening wine
  • Decanting wine and spirits
  • Bar service for parties
  • Storing wine and other drinks
  • Making and serving hot drinks

Other Uses

  • Arranging flowers
  • Tending to house plants
  • Making table centerpieces
  • Making place setting decorations
  • Keeping household accounts


The traditional location was a hallway or an actual room between the kitchen and dining room, sometimes with swing doors at either end similar to those you see in a restaurant. The space can be quite small, and is often a galley-style with cabinets or storage shelves on both sides of a central though aisle. Narrower spaces may have storage on only one side.

If there’s no room for a space between the kitchen and dining room, then the next best option is a space that opens off one of those rooms near the door to the other room. This space may be a U-shaped dead-end rather than a through route.


Because the butler’s pantry is intended to be a public room it should be decorated to match either the kitchen or the dining room, or to act as a transition between them. Ideally, those rooms as well as the butler’s pantry will blend with the age and style of the home as a whole.

Style features commonly included in a butler’s pantry are glass door upper cabinets and open shelves, to display decorative china and glassware


While the butler’s pantry is sometimes intended only for storage and display, most will need counter space as well for carrying out service tasks. The actual storage features you need will depend on what you plan to store: for example, if you have and use a lot of fine tablecloths, you might want a special rack which stores them hanging rather than folded, to reduce creasing and wear on the fabric.
Depending on how you use the room, these are some of the things you might need to store:

Table linens: tablecloths, napkins, place mats, table runners, tray cloths, buffet cloths

Cleanup equipment (for minor spills at the table): dishcloths, tea towels, hand towels, stain remover

Place Settings: plates, dishes, cups and saucers; flatware/cutlery/silverware; glassware

Serving pieces: serving dishes, tureens, platters, trays, salad bowls, sauce dishes, trivets and mats for hot dishes, salt and pepper shakers, mustard container, gravy boat, pepper grinder, ladles and serving spoons, carving knife and fork

Table Decorations: flower vases, candles and candleholders, napkin rings, centerpieces

Drink Accessories: corkscrews, decanters, glasses, punchbowl, shaker, blender, ice cube molds and maker, decorations


What you build into your butler’s pantry as well as basic storage depends on how you plan to use it. Which of these items will you need?

  • Sink
  • Dishwasher
  • Dish drainer
  • Wine cooler
  • Wineglass racks
  • Wet bar
  • Under-counter fridge
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Kettle
  • Ice maker
  • Warming drawer
  • Salamander grill
  • Computer
  • Telephone
  • Desk
  • Filing Cabinet
  • Stools

As you can see, your butler’s pantry can be very useful and decorative as well, and your version will be different from that built by anyone else. Make sure your design takes all your functional and storage needs into account as well as looking good.


How to Clean Your Kitchen Pantry Shelving

Pantry shelving tends to get grubby with use, no matter what material or finish it is. Dust gets in, things get spilled, packets leak – after a while it becomes clear that something has to be done. Here’s a quick guide to cleaning the pantry shelves and setting things up so they stay cleaner.

If you can remove everything from the pantry to clean, that’s ideal, but not always practical. If you can do so, you’ll be amazed at the amount of stuff a pantry holds! If not, just work a shelf at a atime, and consider using a dustcloth to cover the shelf below the one you’re working on, to minimise the amount opf dirt that gets carried down from shelf to shelf.

Start from the top. Dust and drips will fall downwards as you work, and you’ll catch them on the next shelf down, rather than messing up where you’ve already cleaned.

  1. Vacuum the ceiling. If the ceiling is really dirty, consider taking everything out of the pantry completely so it doesn’t get covered in fallout, but a normal ceiling with a bit of dust and a few cobwebs shouldn’t make too much mess. While you’re up there, check for gaps at the wall/ceiling join or around light fixtures which need caulking: gaps here can let in dust, dirt and insects, and let out conditioned air into the attic.
  2. Remove everything from the shelf you are working on. Yep, everything. Playing “musical chairs” with the cans and jars, moving them around so you can clean in patches, just doesn’t do the job.
  3. Clean the shelf. How you do this depends on the construction and materials: if you can remove the shelf, it’s often easier to do that to clean it rather than to clean it in place. Sticky patches will need wet washing if they are sugar-based. Stickiness that’s oil based may come off with soap or detergent, but if it’s old and hardened you may need to use a solvent such as paint thinner. Take the shelf outside to do this if you can: if you must do it indoors, make sure there’s plenty of ventilation. Test any solvent in a hidden area first, to make sure it doesn’t damage the finish on the shelf.
  4. Decide whether the shelf needs refinishing or even replacing. Is it bowed from years of overloading? Is the finish dinged up, discolored, chipped or rusting? Check the pantry shelving ideas page for more information on your options for replacement shelves.
  5. If you have removed the shelf, clean the walls around its location before you put it back in. Otherwise, clean the walls above the shelf.
  6. Decide whether you want to line the shelf. Shelf paper is traditional, lacy paper edgings are decorative, cushiony plastic sheets stop noises and china getting chipped, solid liners stop things falling through wire shelves. Decide what will work for you, and line the shelf if you want to.
  7. Replace everything on the shelf, cleaning all items as you go, discarding any that are outdated or will never be used. Place items in some logical order that will help you find what you need and keep track of what you have. You may well decide to reorganize your storage system during the cleaning process, and space may be freed up as you discard unwanted items.
  8. Repeat for each shelf, working your way down. Check at each stage for holes or gaps in the walls that may need caulking. I know I’m going on about this, but I have an 80 year old house and filling gaps is a part of every project!
  9. Once you’ve cleaned the bottom shelf, it’s time for the floor. With all the detrirtus that’s probably fallen down as you cleaned the shelves above, it may be pretty dirty, so vacuum and thoroughly clean as you normally would for your floor finish. Now think about whether and how you store things on the floor. Do large bags of pet food tend to burst open? Flour spill? Is it hard to move large crates of soft drinks? Now is a great time to revamp your floor-level storage to make it easier to use. A dolly, crate or set of drawers on casters can be a good choice for storing things at floor level while allowing you to pull them out and get at them easily.

Once you’ve replaced the last few items, step back and admire your work. Now all you have to do is find a new home for the things you’ve pulled out that don’t belong in the pantry!

Kitchen Pantry Storage Can Save You Money

How can your kitchen pantry storage save you money? Well, it all depends on how you use it…

Having pantry storage available allows you to buy food and other household essentials in bulk. If you have a large walk-in pantry you can take this to the limit and buy as much in bulk as possible, but if, like most of us, your pantry storage is limited in size, you’ll have to pick and choose what you buy in bulk. Take these factors into account:

  • How much of this item do you use?
  • How quickly will you use it up and free up the space?
  • How much money will you save by buying in bulk, compared to the storage space used? $1 off on a 12-pack of toilet paper is not as good a use of storage space as $1 off a packet of spices.
  • Will any of the bulk buy go bad before you can use it? This can wipe out any bulk buying savings.

More Ways A Pantry can Save Money

  1. You have a better chance of using the food before it goes bad if it’s in front of your face on a pantry shelf rather than stuffed in the back of a base cabinet because that’s the only space available. Less waste means less money spent.
  2. You can reduce the number of shopping strips you take – reducing time aqnd gas costs for the travel, but also reducing the opportunity for impulse buys at the supermarket.
  3. You can organize your coupons inside the pantry so you see them and use them when you see stocks getting low
  4. A pantry helps you cook from scratch instead of buying processed meals
  5. You can eat from the pantry instead of ordering out.
  6. You have plenty of storage space for home-processed foods (e.g. dried or canned) which are cheaper and better than industrial versions bought at the store
  7. The pantry provides storage space for equipment that saves you money: canner, dehydrator, vacuum bagger… and supplies for the equipment like jars and lids.
  8. Having food stored evens out price variations – if something spikes in price you can usually avoid buying it till it goes down again, and you can buy more when the price is low.
  9. You spend less on fancy kitchen cabinets – pantry storage space is often cheaper and is easy to build yourself.
  10. A large pantry can provide space for long term processes that can save you money – making your own vinegar, wine and beer; rising bread, or drying foods, for example.

Small Kitchen Designs: How to Include a Pantry

You might think that a pantry is something that will only fit in a large kitchen, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our grandparents’ kitchens were mostly small, and they had pantries: in fact the kitchen could be small partly because much of the food and “stuff” was stored in the pantry, not in the kitchen. Given that we have a lot more “stuff” to store now, a pantry can be even more useful.

So, how can pantries be squeezed into small kitchen designs?

Types of Pantries and Multiple Pantries

First, open your mind to more than one type of pantry. While we often envisage a pantry as a small room we can walk into, with a door and lots of shelves, that’s not the only type.

A “step-in” pantry is like smaller version of a walk in – more the size of a deep closet, you step in and are surrounded by storage shelves, bins or drawers.

A pantry cabinet is not even a separate room: it’s a regular kitchen cabinet (full height, base or wall) outfitted with storage units that make every cubic inch of space usable and accessible. If you don’t want a single full height cabinet, it’s quite possble to have several smaller pantry cabinets in your kitchen, perhaps with each one devoted to a different type of storage.

One more type of pantry is a shallow cabinet, often full height, that makes use of space where a standard wall or base cabinet would not fit.

Where to Put a Pantry

Including a walk-in or step-in pantry in a small kitchen design will often mean either using an existing or previous pantry space, or stealing space from a nearby room.

If you have an older house with several small rooms in the kitchen area, the trend in previous years has been to knock down the walls and make them into one big kitchen. That may not be the best use of the space, though: consider using one of those smaller spaces as a pantry.

Stealing space from a nearby room may mean a laundry room, mud room, garage or even bedroom, and can be as easy as putting a door in a non-bearing wall and building another short wall section behind it. You’ll need to consult a construction expert before juggling walls around, to decide where the bearing and non-bearing walls are.

Another option is a corner pantry. If you have an L-shape or U-shape work area, one possible use for a corner is a pantry which takes up a little more than the footprint of a regular corner base cabinet, and has a door the goes diagonally across the corner. Inside, the whole space can be shelves and you never have the “out of reach back corner” of a base cabinet. A tall corner pantry like this works well lined up with a fridge or wall oven stack.

Pull out pantry cabinets can be placed anywhere in the kitchen, although if you want a full height pantry you may want to line it up with other full height appliances and cabinets.

Hallways are often good candidates for shallow pantry shelving or cabinets: if you have 6″ of depth you can build a wall of shelving (with or without doors) which will hold an amazing amount of cans, jars and small packets. On an interior wall this can even extend to between-the-studs storage, which again is a great place to store cans and jars. If you are truly stick for space but you have wider-than normal stairways, shallow wall shelves and cabeinst up the stairs or on a landing may be an option.

So, don’t rule out a pantry if your kitchen is on the small side – pantry designs can be an integral part of small kitchen designs and improve the looks, style and function of your new kitchen.

The Best 7 Small Kitchen Remodeling Improvements

If you’ve got a small kitchen, like I do, and you’re thinking about remodeling, there are some things you can do which give you a better “bang for the buck” than others. These projects can make your kitchen work better, feel more spacious, and look better into the bargain.

  1. Paint – the walls, ceiling, cabinets, even the floor! Paint is the quickets and often the cheapest remodeling project you can do, and can make a huge difference to how spacious and how welcoming the room feels. If you have open or glass-fronted cabinets, the interior color makes a surprising difference too, so consider painting the insides.
  2. New counters are more expensive than paint but also make an amazing difference. If you have old laminate counters which are in good shape (no laminate coming unglued from the substrate) and which have square edges, not the curved “post-formed” front and back edges, you can glue new laminate right over the top. Other economical counter upgrades include new laminate counters (custom edges and realistic-looking laminate patterns make these better looking than the old type), tiling (even over top of laminate), and butcher block coated with a hard-wearing finish. Replacing old counters with an expensive option like stone or solid surfacing requires you to think hard about whether you plan to upgrade the rest of the kitchen to match, and whether that later upgrade will allow you to re-use the new counters.
  3. Replacing appliances can be simple if yours are all standalone and standard sizes. You can easily replace a standalone fridge and range with new trendy appliances. A dishwaster is a little more awkward, although the sizes are fairly standard and you might even be able to get a new front panel for your existing dishwasher to match other new appliances, instead of completely replacing it. The most difficulty arises when you have older built-in appliances like ovens and cooktoips where the sizes of the newer models are different and would require modification of your cabinets.
  4. Flooring – if your flooring is worn before its time but the rest of the kitchen is still OK, a new vinyl tile, sheet finyl or laminate floor is an easy fix which will make a big impact, given the size of the visible floor. Floating laminate floors are especially useful to cover surfaces which are not completely smooth, like tiles.
  5. Cabinets – now we’re getting into serious investment territory. Replacing cabinets can be the most expensive improvement you can make to a kitchen, although less so in a small kitchen. Simple repainting may work if your cabinets are still in good shape, or refacing which requires rather more work and considerably more expense, or even replacing teh doors and drawer fronts while keeping the old cabinet boxes. All these options assume that the old cabinets are in good shape structurally to make the work worthwhile.
  6. A new backsplash may not be your first thought for a remodeling project, but it can completely change the look of your kitchen and can improve the function too. Subway tile, mosaics, and glass or stone materials are “in” at the moment and can all give you a good-looking and mess-proof backsplash, although mosiacis leave you with a lot of grout lines to clean. Even better, replacing a backsplash creates much less mess and upheaval than most other small kitchen remodeling projects.
    Backsplash storage is another good idea: narrow shelves, hanging rails and grids, or storage accessories which hang under the upper cabinets can all make good use of the easy-to-reach backsplash area.
  7. A pantry in a small kitchen? Yes! Some older houses may already have a step-in or walk-in pantry combined with a small kitchen, and optimising the pantry space can make the kitchen itself work and look better. Squeezing a pantry (separate, or a pull-out in a cabinet) into an existing small kitchen can feel like a juggling act but because pantry space is usually extremely well-packed storage, if you can find the space for a pantry it will help free space in the rest of the kitchen.

Pantry Designs Dos and Don’ts

Pantry designs are like most things – others have been there before you and made mistakes, and you can learn from them. Check out these do’s and don’t’s before you go ahead with your pantry:


  • allow for more shelf space than you will currently use. Once you have a pantry, you’ll find new uses for it and more things you need to store there!
  • use simple fittings and fixtures which will improve storage access. Wire baskets running on rails under a shelf are a good example.
  • critter-proof your pantry. Cover all ventilation openings with metal mesh which will keep out both insects and rodents.
  • use your pantry! Don’t let the contents sit there unused, and make sure you go in there regularly.
  • bulk buy when you see a great deal on something you eat normally – now you have somewhere to store it!
  • transfer food from the bags or boxes it came from into better containers once you’ve opened the original container. Glass or plastic jars are often more airtight and critter or moistureproof than the original packaging.
  • use overhead space for hanging items
  • store heavy things where you can get at them easily: that means, on a shelf about hip level ideally. Or, don’t lift the heavy things at all – use a appliance lift, or move heavy bulk food into smaller containers.


  • make all your shelves the same distance apart. You’ll need some shelves for large boxes with plenty of headspace, and others for very small things which can be close together.
  • store newer food in front of older food. Tuck the new purchases in behind so that the older food gets used first
  • keep things indefinitely. Unless something is intended for multi-year storage, like emergency food, if you haven’t used it in a year then maybe you never will, and you should get rid of it and use the space for something more yummy.
  • use your pantry as catchall storage space. Once the detritus of baseball bats, old plastic shopping bags, hats and shoes builds up in front of the food, you won’t be able to use your pantry properly as a pantry.
  • close off ventilation completely – stored food needs some air and heat transfer.
  • waste the door space – if you have a solid door you can hang racks, shelves, clipboards, chalkboard etc on it
  • waste wall space where there’s no room for shelves – pegboard with hooks, hooks in the wall, spice racks, or pot lid racks may fit.
  • make all your shelves the same depth, front to back. Higher shelves should be narrower so you can see what’s on them.

Troubleshooting Pantry Ideas: When Pantry Designs Go Wrong

Food packages are “double parked” on the shelves, with things stuffed behind or on front of other things, so you can’t see the ones in back.

How to fix:

  • use shallower shelves that only take one item deep
  • space shelves closer together vertically so you can fit in more shelves and have more shelf space
  • use wire organizers to double-deck your shelves
  • continue to double park but only put identical items behind each other

You can’t walk in to your walk in pantry because there’s so much stuff on the floor!

How to fix:

  • Pull out anything that shouldn’t be in the pantry at all, and store elsewhere
  • Add bins to the pantry for bulk foods which come in large sacks, if that’s what is blocking the floor
  • Move small packets from large bulk boxes and store on shelves or in baskets
  • Add a rolling cart, store the floor stuff on that, and move it out when you want to go in the pantry

Shelves are sticky or dusty

How to fix:

first clean them, then…
  • Place drippy containers on a tray or saucer which can be easily removed or cleaned
  • Screen oprnings to stop house dust getting in, and weather strip doors
  • Make sure ceiling is clean and not dropping dust
  • If you have wire sheves and spliis migrate downwards, line them with plastic, hardboard, wood, even cardboard.

Lighting is too dim to see what you’ve got.

How to fix:

  • Install a higher wattage bulb (if your fixture supports it)
  • Install a new double-bulb fixture
  • Install a track fixture which allws you to direct light in several directions

Your pull-out pantry sticks and won’t pull out

How to fix:

  • If food packages are jamming the operation of your pull-out, pull it out a little way and use something which will fit through the gap (coat hanger wire, chopstick, knitting needle, etc.) to reach in, find the obstruction, and un-hook it. Then de-clutter the shelves so there’s not so much stuffed into them.
  • If the mechanism itself is jammed, WD40 in strategic locations may help. Once you’ve got it out, remove all the contents and check for rollers not on their tracks,  obstructions in the tracks, or the cabinet or mechanism itself being out of square or not level. If something is broken, check your warranty or call the installer to get it fixed.

Food gets lost in the back of the pantry, goes out of date and has to be thrown away

How to fix:

  • Rotate duplicate food packages: e.g. when you buy more jars of pasta sauce before finishing all the old ones, put the new ones in the back and pull the old ones to the front
  • Use a clipboard and list to check items in and out, noting the date bought and the use-by date.

7. There isn’t enough space for all the items you want to store

How to fix:

  • Pull out anything that shouldn’t be in the pantry at all, and store elsewhere
  • Use the fixes listed above under “double parking” to increase the shelf space available.
  • Use a rolling cart to add storage space and pull it out when you need to walk into the pantry

8. Tiny packets fall through cracks in wire shelving

How to fix:

  • Store the small packets in baskets, bins or boxes
  • Add a rack on the door to hold small items
  • Line the wire shelves with something solid like plastic, masonite, or thin plywood.

The best pantry designs in the world won’t help much if you don’t use the pantry in an organized way, or if you have more to store in there than can fit.

How Pantry Designs Can Improve Your Small Kitchen Remodel

A pantry can help  with your small kitchen remodel even though you may think pantries are only for people with lots of space. How can this be?

Well, there are several ways this can happen:

  • A pantry saves on the need for cabinets in the main kitchen, so you don’t have to squeeze as many in. It’s also much cheaper storage space than cabinets if you can use a walk-in (or even just step-in) pantry with open shelving.
  • It allows you to use space which is not quite within the kitchen proper (because your pantry items are things you don’t use every day, so it’s OK if you have to take a few steps to get there). That means you can steal space from other rooms to make a pantry.
  • A pantry cabinet, such as the fold-out, swing-out or pull-out models available from cabinetry companies, squeezes the most storage possible into the smallest square-footage of floor space, making all shelves accessible right to the very back without having to crawl on the floor to get to the back of a base cabinet. If you have a pantry cabinet which stretches right to the ceiling you may well need a small ladder or a step stool to reach the very top pullouts, but it’s still easier than reaching to the back of a deep cabinet. The shelves in pullouts are also height-adjustable, so you can set them to match their contents and squeeze in as many shelves vertically as possible.
  • Pantry pull-out type cabinets are available even for small spaces, as small as 3″ wide from some companies, so you can use them to make use of every inch in your small kitchen.
  • Having most of your food in one place instead of scattered around the cabinets not only makes it easy to find things (because there are fewer places to look) it also frees up space in the other cabinets for the utensils and equipment you use frequently.
  • You can store seldom-used china and equipment in the pantry as well as food, keeping it out of the main kitchen and reducing clutter.

More Counter Space!

A pantry can also help maximise counter space in a small kitchen, in several ways.

  • If you have a walk-in pantry outside the kitchen, there’s less need for tall cabinets in the kitchen itself and so more potential counter space.
  • If you have room in a pantry to store small appliances, or if you can store them in cabinets because your food is now in the pantry, it frees up counter space.
  • If you have cabinet pantries, although the most common ones are full height you can also get them as base cabinets and wall cabinets, so you can still have counter space between them.

As well as saving on cabinet space and free-ing up counter space, a pantry can save aggravation too – if the pantry is at one end of the kitchen and snacks are stored there, it minimises multiple people wandering through the kitchen as kids and spouses can get what they need without entering the work core.

So, when you’re planning a small kitchen remodel, make sure you include pantry designs in your thinking.

Pantry Shelving

Pantry shelving doesn’t need to be as pretty as that in the main kitchen, but it does need to be strong, durable, easy to clean, and safe to use. It also needs to be reachable by everyone who will use it, even if that means access by ladder or step-stool.

There are a number of different options to consider for the shelves themselves and the support brackets. You can also use free-standing shelf units if your space lends itself to that, althouigh any kind of odd-shaped pantry will do better with built-in shelves to make the most of the space.


Solid wood or plywood, painted or varnished. Thickness requirement depends on how far apart your brackets will be: this information is readily available for bookshelves, which carry a lot of weight, so unless you are planning to store huge heavy cases or glass carboys on your shelves you can probably use those figures. Edge banding may be needed for plywood to cover voids and pretty it up: you may also choose to edge shelves with a strip which does double duty as extra support and an edge finish.

Here’s a tool for calculating the amount of sag in wood shelves given the type of wood, thickness, span, and load. You can use it to decide how thick your shelves need to be to carry the required load.

Melamine-coated MDF or particleboard. This is the white plastic coated shelving available at most home centres or lumberyards, and while it is crisp looking and easy to clean it’s neither strong nor hardwearing in the long term. The commonly-available kind is only 1/2″ thick: if you can find a thicker type, that would be a good thing. You’ll need closer bracket spacing than for solid wood of the same thickness.

Wire, chrome plated or plastic coated. These shelves are similar to (or even the same as) those used in closet systems, so you’ll have a variety of shapes and accessories to pick from. Chrome plated wire can come as restaurant-style shelves or racks, and be very stylish.

The plastic coated wire types are often not made to carry heavy loads – sweaters are a lot lighter than cans of food! – so increase the number of supports or plan to store light items only. Supports are made to fit a specific shelf system. There are pantry-specific wire shelf systems which have closer wire spacing than closet shelves, which reduces the problem of small items falling over (or even right through the gaps!). Spills can also pass through the gaps and a spill on the top shelf may extend itself all the way to the floor, making a mess on every shelf on the way down. This can be solved by using shelf liners or clear sheets of plexiglass, which has the advantage that you can still see through the shelf from underneath to find high items. Plexiglass liners are expensive, though.

Occasionally you will see people recommend glass shelves in the pantry. While the occasional decorative glass shelf may be OK, for regular food storage you would need very thick, well supported glass shelves which would be much more expensive than wood.

Supports and Brackets

All supports and brackets require very solid fixings into the wall structure – that means framing studs, posts or beans, never drywall or other weak paneling. Drywall anchors are not strong enough to do this job!

Some support systems come with a horizontal bar which is attached to multiple studs, then the vertical tracks which hold the brackets are hung from the horizontal bar. This makes it easy to screw into studs. Vertical support tracks alone, and individual brackets, need to land right on studs to take the weight of food-laden shelves.

Metal track and bracket systems are very good for creating adjustable shelf systems and are available everywhere in several different grades of strength and sizes. Realistically though, adjustable shelf systems seldom get adjusted after they are first set up! You can use these systems with wood or particleboard shelves.

Wood brackets are much larger than metal but this can be a plus point as they can also be decoratively shaped and look very charming. Once they are attached to the wall you aren’t going to want to move them, so they are not very adjustable.

Single metal brackets come as basic utility brackets (which blend with the wall if you paint over them) or decorative brackets in curly, swoopy or streamlined shapes. They all need to be attached direct to studs.

Alternatives to brackets

If you don’t want to or can’t attach things directly to the wall, or there’s no framing to screw into, what can you do? You can hang things from the ceiling or support them off the floor.

Ceiling support involves hanging ropes, chains, or metal rods from a very strong ceiling attachment point (preferably THROUGH a beam or joist, not just screwed into it), and then supporting the shelves from them using nuts and washers or crossbars. Rope and chain systems tend to be rather flexible, but rods can be quite rigid.

Floor support can involve rods or posts which extend from floor to ceiling. Better systems attach directly to the floor and ceiling using screws, but expansion rods which hold in place by spring pressure also exist. I would not want to rely on these for holding heavy food items.

Freestanding shelf units

If your room or pantry space is fairly straighforward and regular in shape, simple shelf units in wood, metal or plastic can work very well. There are many utility systems intended for basements and garages which can also do sterling service in the pantry.

Movable shelves

Rolling carts in metal, wood or plastic can be used as storage in the pantry which can move out to the kitchen or dining room at a moment’s notice. These can even be used to entirely fill the floor space in a step-in or closet pantry if you are really short on space: you’ll have to move the cart every time you want to get at the other shelves, but this may be an acceptable trade-off to get the extra storage space.

Your options in pantry shelving are quite wide, and your decision depends on what you need from your pantry in the way of looks and function, and also on your budget.

Pantry Ideas for Your Kitchen

If you’re thinking about including a pantry in your new or remodeled kitchen, you’re not alone. While pantries were out of fashion for many years, lately their usefulness has been rediscovered and pantry ideas are in all the shelter magazines.

Finding Space for a Pantry

If you don’t already have a pantry, and you want one, the first question is probably where to put it. First, let’s think about possible locations for a walk-in pantry:

  • Steal space from a closet that backs on to your kitchen, and add a door from the kitchen
  • Stack the washer and dryer to make space in a laundry room
  • Shrink your breakfast area or dining room into a nook or eating bar and use the rest as a pantry
  • Construct a bump-out from the kitchen or other service room
  • Use part of a mud room
  • Build a small room for the pantry in a corner of the garage near a door to the kitchen
  • Use part of a spare bedroom closet
  • Build one in a corner of the kitchen or eating area, either alone or integrated into a run of cabinets
  • Use part of the basement

“Walk-in” in pantry terms doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be able to walk in and walk around: it can mean that you step through the door and are surrounded by storage, all within arms reach: more of a “step-in” pantry.

If you absolutely have no room for a walk-in pantry, then a pantry cabinet is probably the solution for you. There are many designs or swing-out, fold-out or pull-out pantries made to fit in full-height cabinets, base cabinets or wall cabinets, from large to small.

Inside Your Pantry

Inside your pantry, once you’ve found the space, you have a long list of choices for the storage structures you choose to build. Many of them depend on the type of things you want to store in the pantry.

Shelves – narrow so you don’t lose things at the back, easily cleanable, labelable if you want to have specific areas of your pantry for specific types of goods. The vertical space between shelves can be customized to the height of your stored objects. Adjustable shelving is a great idea if you think you’ll change your mind about heights, but in reality most people find that they never change their adjustable shelves once they’ve initially been set up.

Baskets – these can be hung under shelves, stacked on shelves, placed or stacked on the floor, racked up in rolling carts, and made of natural materials like wicker or seagrass, or of wire (chrome or plastic coated). Plastic baskets are also available, and cheap, but they tend not to last very long unless they are seriously heavy duty.

Bins – made of metal, wood or plastic, with or without lids, stackable, with open, glass or solid fronts or lids, placed on shelves, the floor, or in drawers.

Drawers: can be solid or open (wire); wood, plastic, basketry or metal; compartmented or otherwise organized or subdivided inside; large and deep or small and shallow, with or without label holders, full extension, or removable to carry to a work area.

Hooks – to hold bags, aprons, clipboards, strings of onions or garlic, etc

Barrels, clean garbage bins, or sacks for holding seriously large quantities of bulk foods

Racks on walls or the inside of door(s) can hold smaller packages, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, etc. Pegboard racks are especially useful for walls or spaces where you can’t stick out into the room much and so don’t have space for shelves. A plate rail at the top of the wall can decorate your pantry while storing extra plates or platters.

You might also consider including these other items in your pantry:

  • Lighting on an automatic switch which goes off when the door closes
  • Yellow sticky cards to warn of insect infestation
  • Small appliances and gadgets (for example a can opener, lid gripper)
  • A notepad and pen for lists – perhaps on the door or wall outside the pantry, or right by the door inside: maybe on a clipboard
  • Labels and a pen or pencil for noting dates on foods, and labeling containers
  • A basket for carrying things back and forth to other storage areas or the main kitchen
  • Spare empty containers
  • Scissors and a knife for opening recalcitrant packaging

Safety in the Pantry

If you live in an earthquake zone, your pantry ideas should take that into acount. Breakables need to be held in place, and heavy items like canned goods should be stored so that they can’t fall, break other things, block the door closed, or hurt people.

Your pantry contents would be part of your emergency food supply if an earthquake happened, so you want them to be in usable condition and accessible.

What to Keep in Your Pantry

  • bulk foods
  • home canned foods
  • home dried foods
  • pet foods
  • people foods
  • soft drinks
  • emergency supplies – water, candles, flashlights, matches,

More Pantry Ideas

  • Paint the inside bright white with semi-gloss or gloss paint so you can wash it down and keep it clean
  • use a smooth, easy-clean flooring such as sheet vinyl so spilled food can’t hide in cracks
  • caulk all gaps so insects can’t get inside
  • make it rodent-proof
  • use a solid door and hang racks on the inside, clipboard with lists and notes on the outside, or paint with chalkboard paint.
  • use a glass door and leave a LED light on inside to look decorative, especially frosted glass with patterns on or the word “pantry”
  • If you have too many doors leading off the kitchen, disguise the door so it blends into the wall