Adding Tons Of Pantry Storage & Function

Let the pantry party commence! I never thought organizing a space that sat behind a closed door 90% of the time could be so cathartic, but working on this pantry with Sherry has made us both feel like the whole kitchen – nay, the whole house – is more functional. Clearly it has even made us more prone to hyperbole.

First we got an outlet added, switched up some shelves, and moved the microwave in. Next we moved the trash out. Then it was time for a few fresh coats of primer and paint.

Sherry and I briefly debated choosing a happy or bold color in there (either on the walls or the shelves or both), but with all the colorful food labels that end up in a pantry we decided white made sense to keep things as calm as possible – especially since we don’t have a light in there, so we didn’t want it to get too shadowy or dark in the back corners.

So we removed all of the shelves and lined them up in the dining room. Note the strip of painter’s tape so they could lean without marking the wall. It took one coat of primer (Kilz Premium) and three coats of paint (Advance paint in Simply White, leftover from the kitchen cabinets) which we applied with a small foam roller for the most part, although we did break out a brush for the trim and corners in the pantry.

Once the shelves, walls, and trim dried, we put things back together and rehung the door, which we removed for easier priming and painting access. Each shelf was made up of two boards, but after a fair amount of debate and experimentation, we opted to only use one board for the two upper shelves. We decided that shorter depth would prevent things from getting pushed way back where we couldn’t see / reach / use them anymore.

Next up, we added this $35 back-of-the-door wire shelf system since no fewer than two dozen of you recommended it in the comments of this post. It can be hung over the door, but we opted to screw it directly into the door (using anchors whenever it didn’t hit something solid) so we wouldn’t have any hooks peeking over the door when it was closed.

We still wanted to do something to make the bottom area of the pantry work harder (since the trash can was no longer hogging all of the space), but before we made any decisions we figured it would be smart to load things back in and see what sort of help we still needed down there.

We debated some vertical dividers, or maybe some stacked bins, but ultimately decided that another shelf would do the trick for now. Thankfully it was pretty speedy to add one because we already had two spare boards ready to go (since we only added one to make those two top shelves shallower, that left us with two extras that were already primed and painted). So I just screwed a couple of wood strips to the walls (like I did in this post) and in no time we had a spot for paper towels and cloth napkins (those were in the laundry, so they’re MIA in these pics).

You’ll note the two under-shelf wire baskets that are also helping maximize the space, which came as part of this $15 shelf organizer set. We like that they allow us to compartmentalize the shelf a bit more without having to add more permanent systems (the wire cubbies just slide on and off, and we can remove them or place them somewhere else if we want to reconfigure things down the line).

It’s looking a little sparse in there because we have to go shopping again pretty soon. Or maybe it just looks that way because we suddenly have so much more storage space in there? Either way, by the end of this little pantry re-org, Sherry and I were both itching to go to the store just to see how much more we could cram in there. Maybe tonight’s the night…

On the top shelf we put baking items and meal items, including things like bread crumbs, boxed rice, brown sugar, and baking soda. On the right there’s also a box that contains sprinkles and icing for decorating cookies and cupcakes. Below that is a shelf that we devoted to snacks, cereals, and other boxed items like oatmeal, granola, and crackers. Then below that one, on our narrow shelf, we lined up all of our shorter items, like cans and jars of soup, salsa, peanut butter, tuna, etc.

The wire shelves that gave us a little bit of extra stacked storage were part of the same 5-piece set that included the two under-shelf baskets that I called out a few paragraphs ago. And the fifth piece from that same set was a wire basket that hangs against a wall or inside a cabinet door. We screwed ours into the side wall to store spare plastic bags. It’s so much nicer than the giant bin on the floor that we used to haphazardly toss them into.

Oh and although a ton of Pinterest pantries have awesome glass or plastic containers like these (which are from The Container Store), we thought long and hard about how we really live and decided that even though we have some clear containers already on hand (like the ones you see in this shot of our first house’s makeshift “pantry’) it felt like they’d be more for show than anything else. We tend to go through things fast enough within their own packaging, so putting them in pretty jars just didn’t feel like something we’d honestly keep up with these days.

But back to the pantry. The wall across from our plastic-bag-holding wire bin has a similar spot where we could hang something else, but it’s empty for now, at least until we have a specific use for it. You’ll also notice some empty shelf space in front of the cans. We can always use it if our can & jar stock expands, but for now it’s mostly to protect the top of the microwave from anything that might “jump” off one of the top shelves. It has also proven helpful as a spot to temporarily put things down or spread them out while we’re organizing or looking for something.

And thanks to the narrower shelves on top of that one, it’s still easy to grab those cans and see what we have (we stacked the same items in front of each other, so there’s nothing different lurking in the back that we’ll forget about).

We used our new door-hanging system to stock the items that would most easily fit into those baskets (they’re only 5″ wide). So it mostly ended up being random stuff like tea-and-coffee-related items on those top two shelves, along with a shelf for nuts and other snacks, one for pasta, and one for other items like granola bars.  There are still a couple of leftover baskets from the set that we could have hung, but we found that cramping the shelves closer just made it tougher to access things. So we’ll add those extras if we need to down the line, but for now it’s nice to have some space above the long boxes of pasta to actually pull them out without banging into another shelf right above them.

We also dedicated one shelf to some Clara snacks, which are right at her height, so she can help herself. She already loves ducking into the fridge to get packs of carrots or little containers of hummus that we keep on a shelf in there for her, so having a snack-zone in the pantry has been a big hit as well. We also appreciate that this shelf is full of easy-to-grab items for packing preschool snacks more quickly in the morning.

The space that will probably evolve a bit more for us is the floor. We didn’t end up doing anything except adding a basket (that had previously housed our plastic bags) to corral big packages of a few bulk items, and tossing down a couple extra-tall cereal boxes before they’re called into action (i.e. poured into the glass containers that we keep on the counter). But this probably foreshadows the purpose of this area as a spot to house more bulk items. For example, now that our pantry feels under control, I’m tempted to stock up on some things. Nothing too crazy, but it’s nice to have a little “growing room” down there.

So besides fine tuning the floor area and seeing how it functions after a grocery trip, we’d consider this pantry makeover complete. And now I have the urge to go organize something else. Wait, am I nesting?

What did you guys do this weekend? Did anyone else who got snowed in end up organizing or re-thinking how a cabinet or closet works for your family? Are you now craving Nutella or Craisins? Ain’t no shame in that, my friend.


  1. says

    Awesome awesome awesome guys, and organization can’t help but feel amazing. This weekend I found us 4 solid wood dining chairs on craigslist for $35! Planning on painting them white, but I’m just baffled over the deal of them! Craig did us good. :))

    • says

      That’s awesome, congrats Lisa! This weekend we found a few awesome secondhand scores that we can’t wait to makeover for the showhouse! Must have been some good thrifting mojo in the air…


  2. Bethany says

    Looks awesome! Have you thought at all about building rolling drawers that pull out on each shelf? My hubby swears he’s going to make those for me (we have two large pantries) because we always end up losing stuff in the back. Hasn’t happened yet, though… ;)

  3. says

    Looks awesome. Can I ask how you store your paper and plastic bags? We currently use an IKEA bag holder for our plastic, but the paper bags are just folded and slid next to our recycling bin. I’m always curious how others do it.

    And this weekend was another productive one. I finally painted the rest of teh master bedroom after 2 years of having only one wall done. yup.. 2 years. Started the project, got pregnant and all desire to pick up anything for DIY fled my body. :) Back on it again.

    • says

      Our paper bags are folded flat next to the trash can we installed in the cabinet last week (it’s where we’re putting recycling stuff so far) and our plastic bags are in a new wire bin that we added to the side wall in the pantry – that’s in this post for ya :)


  4. says

    Hmmm.. I was totally having pantry envy when I saw that door rack! I think I just figured out a cool way for me to use it though. I will need to measure a little bit.. but they just might fit the back of some lower cavernous cabinets.. I could just cut the height to fit!

    I am so needing those undershelf baskets too.. that seems like a great deal. Were these things in stock at Lowes? or did you have to order them online. I was in HomeDepot this past weekend and the one on Broad Street doesn’t seem to have much in stock.. in fact a lot of their stock is old..very dusty!

    • says

      Yes, both of those systems were in stock at Lowe’s right in the shelving/org aisle. And as for cutting the door rack, it comes in small sections so you might not even need to cut it, you could just leave off the top section. Hope it helps!


  5. says

    I’ve got pantry envy, now. I also have ammunition. I’ve been trying to convince the hubs we should move our over-the-stove microwave to the pantry and add a pretty range hood. You know, for resale’s sake. :) Now I can add: “See, YHL has theirs in the pantry.”

    We shirked all our Little House projects and drove down to San Antonio to go camping this weekend!

  6. says

    Wow! The pantry looks great! It’s amazing what paint and organization can do! It looks so crisp now. I love all of the growing room too!

    I started organizing our bathroom closet. Progress was made, but I still have a lot more to do. Always.. HA!

  7. Rachel says

    Hold. On. What is going on with the dining room built ins? Did I see a fancy paper in there? I thought you took out all the wallpaper? Am I forgetting a post where they got a fancy paper treatment? Is this going to go ignored for future post reasons? SO MANY QUESTIONS ABOUT PAPER!

    Pantry looks awesome btw :)

    • says

      Haha, I wish it was something exciting! Alas, that’s still just the old wallpaper. We mentioned in this post that we couldn’t remove it from that surface so we’ll either paint over it or cover it with new backs that we paint/paper… someday!


  8. Rachel says

    Looks fantastic…I’m terribly jealous of the pantry. We have nothing of the sort. When I read your “jars & cans” label I immediately started singing “Bottles and cans, just clap your hands, just clap your haaands….Where it’s at! I got two turntables and a microphooooone.”

    Anyway, nice pantry. :)

  9. says

    Amazing transformation! I am saving up for a press unit from Ikea that I can create a pantry in and seeing your amazing organised one has me itching to get mine as soon as possible!! Great job as always you guys :)

  10. Kaitie says

    Can I just say I love that you guys put a before and after preview right at the beginning of the post? Instant gratification before reading the details is excellent.

  11. says

    I’m craving some Nutella right now. There’s an italian grovery near my house and they have what seems like imported italian Nutella. I’m always tempted to buy it, but it’s double the price (9$ Canadian) for a big jar. I always wonder if it tastes different… Great job on the pantry! Lookin’ good!

  12. Shala says

    We redid our pantry and in the bottom made a cedar lined dog house for our spoiled dogs (lab mixes). The top is totally separate to keep appliances and food clean. It is so nice to close the door and no one is the wiser when the dogs are outside and when inside the dogs have a nice dedicate space to lounge out of our way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *