Designers and homeowners agree that ample, easily accessible storage is one of the most important aspects of a great kitchen, and one of the best ways to achieve that is through the use a pantry. Pantries take two basic forms — the pantry cabinet, which is essentially a tall, wide cabinet that is part of the overall kitchen, and the walk-in or semi walk-in pantry, which is a separate space similar to a small closet.

Because the pantry is intended to store larger quantities of food in all shapes and sizes, the key to its functionality is organization. Many pantries end up as a somewhat scattered mess, with the groceries from the latest shopping trip being tossed onto whatever shelf happens to have some open space. But a few accessories and a few organizational tricks can turn chaos into order in just a few hours.

Before you begin, take a little time to think about what you want to store in the pantry, as well as how often different items will be accessed. Group frequently accessed items near the center of pantry, and those that you need less often above and below center. Also, grouping the foods either by similar types — for example, keeping all the different canned vegetables together — or by common recipe or meal requirements will really simplify your search.


Walk-in pantries come in many different shapes and sizes, from rooms that are large enough to walk completely in to and having shelves on two or more walls, to smaller areas with shelves on one wall only. Either way, on the plus side walk-in pantries offer a tremendous amount of storage possibilities. But on the negative side, the larger the space the more disorganized it tends to get, and the harder it is to find things.

First of all, your pantry needs to have good lighting. Depending on the size, layout and applicable electrical codes for light placement, consider can lighting, tracking lighting or fluorescent fixtures with adequate wattage to illuminate the entire space.

Next, don’t think that deep shelves are always the answer. Deeper shelves definitely hold more stuff, but because many of the food items you store are relatively small, they tend to get lost at the back of the shelf.

Instead, consider one or two 18- to 24-inch shelves lower down on the wall to hold large, heavy items such as cases of drinks, with shallower 12-inch shelves at about eye level, as well as just below eye level. These shelves should hold most of your commonly used items such as canned goods and boxed dinners. You might consider a "medium"-depth shelf, perhaps 16 inches deep, above these shallower shelves to hold larger but less often accessed items, such a bag of sugar. If you have the room, another alternative is to group deep shelves on one wall and shallow shelves on another wall.

For spice bottles, Jell-O boxes, envelope packets and other very small items, use shallow wooden or wire storage bins. These small bins can be hung on the wall or on the back of the door, and there are even some styles that screw or clip to the underside of larger shelves. For bulky items such as bags of chips, consider placing some simple baskets on the shelves, which are both decorative and very functional.

Keep a shopping list on the door. That way whenever you take the last one of a particular item out of the pantry, you can immediately make note of it for the next shopping trip.


With a pantry cabinet you don’t have the same number of options you have with a walk-in pantry, simply because you don’t have as much space. However, a well-organized pantry cabinet can still offer you tremendous storage opportunities.

Many of the organizational strategies you apply to a walk-in pantry will apply to a pantry cabinet as well. For example, you definitely want to stay with a mixture of deep and shallow shelves. Depending on the size and style of the cabinet, you may be able to meet your needs with "split shelves," which are essentially deep shelves cut in half — half the shelf remains in the cabinet, and the other half is attached to the cabinet door. Another trick is the U-shaped shelf, which is basically a deep shelf with the center cut out, forming three shallow shelves in the shape of a U. A wooden or wire bin can then be hung on the inside of the door, and when the door is closed the bin will fit neatly into the cutout part of the shelves.

Another excellent way to maximize storage space in a pantry cabinet is through the use of roll-out or slide-out shelves and bins. These are available in several different sizes and configurations, offering you loads of storage possibilities.

As part of your initial planning process, visit your local home center or hardware store, or do an Internet search for pantry organizers. You will find an incredible array of organizers what will definitely transform your pantry in no time at all!

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at


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