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Pantry Goals: 7 Ways to Create Your Best Kitchen Storage

Over the past few months, the pantry has become one of the busiest parts of the kitchen. It doesn’t get as much love as a backsplash with beautiful marble or a chic French range, but when you’re hungry, the pantry is the first stop.

pantry with open shelves and cabinets
Photo credit: Emily Minton Redfield for House Beautiful

Not only does it hold cans of chipotle chilies, dried beans, bottled water, and oversized bags of chips, but it’s also the spot for onions and potatoes and extra grocery bags. If you’re not careful, the pantry can become an unorganized space that’s the equivalent of a junk drawer. And it can happen to the best and busiest of us–even House Beautiful editor Jo Saltz had a cluttered pantry until designer Jean Stoffer came and worked her kitchen magic. 

Pro tip: There are two different kinds of pantries in the cabinet trade. The kind in the corner with shelves is called a “tall pantry.” The one that you can walk into (surprise) is called a “walk-in pantry.”

To help you up your pantry game, Sarah Robertson of Studio Dearborn shares some of her best pantry space-planning and design tips. 

Level Up with a Larder
Photo credit: @studiodearborn

If you’re considering a full or kitchen remodel, think about installing a larder-style pantry. The term larder dates back to at least 1305, in the days when pork fat was a precious commodity and meat would be cured and hung in a cool breezy cabinet. The larder is the place where people stored their pig fat aka lard.

These days, a larder is more likely to be a pantry that includes vented pullout drawers designed to keep onions, garlic, potatoes, and citrus fruits that don’t need refrigeration. You might even include bins for dry goods flour and sugar. Robertson likes them because they take pressure off the refrigerator and keep canisters off the counter. 

Make Room for Appliances
Photo credit: @studiodearborn

The pantry makes a perfect place to store your KitchenAid mixer, air fryer, instant pot and other appliances you don’t use very often. But you need to make sure the shelves can accommodate them. “You need to have them on pullouts, especially when they’re heavy,” she said. “And the shelves need to be deeper.”

Install Pullout Shelving
Photo credit: @studiodearborn

Even if you don’t have room to expand your corner pantry, adding pullout shelving will practically double the space. Customize them for your height: the highest shelf should be at shoulder level, around 48 inches from the floor, for ease of use, Robertson says. The shelves above that point should be fixed since you don’t want cans of peas toppling off and onto your head. 

Let There be Light
Photo credit: @stellar_distributors

Having lights that go on and off automatically is a sweet feature. Use motion-activated lights in a walk-in pantry. For a tall pantry, add a pressure-activated light that comes on when the door opens and off when its closed. In both cases, you’ll want low-heat LED lighting. “It should be cooler temperature light instead of warm,” Robertson says. “Warm lights oxidize things faster.”

Use the Space On the Door
Photo credit: @studiodearborn

Just like you do in the rest of the kitchen, you want to maximize your space inside the pantry. “In a tall pantry you can put racks on the door so you can use the front six inches for that instead of having deeper shelves,” Robertson says.

Coordinate Your Storage Containers
Photo credit: @thatorganizedkitchen

While it doesn’t affect the functionality of your pantry, it sure is a good look to have storage containers that coordinate. Clear glass or lucite containers make it easy to see what’s what. Or if you’re a bin person, choose ones that are made from similar materials, like bamboo, wicker, or seagrass. 

Make It Pretty
Photo credit: @studiodearborn

A pantry is mostly functional for sure, but there’s no reason the front can’t be pretty or even striking. You spend so much time going in and out of the pantry, so why not make it a pleasant experience? The chevron door was one of the most challenging design features in this Larchmont kitchen. But in the end, the client was thrilled. And this kitchen won the 2020 Kitchen of the Year from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and it was the first Incredible Kitchens video feature from House Beautiful. The hard work to make this pantry stand out was worth it.