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3 Ways to Add a Pantry Closet to a Kitchen That Doesn't Have One

How to Add a Pantry Without Undergoing Major Remodeling

Pantries are an age-old solution to food and houseware storage needs. At one time, just about all houses included some sort of walk in pantry or store room off the kitchen. They were a necessity in an era before the existence of supermarket chains, and when most food was home canned. However, starting with the post WWII building craze, storage pantries were dropped from the majority of home plans in favor of simple upper and lower kitchen cabinets. This trend has seen a reversal in recent years and pantry closets are once again popular in new home builds.

Nowadays, pantries are a highly coveted feature in kitchens. They rank alongside kitchen islands and high-end appliances as one of the most wanted features in the kitchen. A lot of older mid-century homes, however, don't have one. Many people with smaller kitchens lacking a full pantry will try to make up for it by adding extra shelves above the sink, stove, or even over the doorway to gain more storage. Skinny pull-out cabinets that can fit into the narrow space between a refrigerator and wall are also popular solutions. While all the additional storage is good, it's not the same as having a real pantry closet for kitchen storage. If you are one of these homeowners who loves the idea of having an actual pantry for storage, but lacks this feature in your current kitchen, don't despair.

There are ways to add a pantry closet to an older home without undergoing major remodeling. These include the installation of a wardrobe closet as a free-standing pantry, reallocating existing space with a closet to pantry conversion, and building a new pantry as an annex outside the existing kitchen.

  1. Install a Wardrobe Closet as a Free-Standing Pantry:

    Wardrobe closets are the "go to" solution for old homes that lack closet space. A free-standing pantry is basically a built-in wardrobe or armoire style closet with all shelves instead of hanging space. Constructing this style of closet along an empty section of wall is one of the easiest ways to add a new pantry to your kitchen. The standard wardrobe closet is only 24 inches deep. Its small footprint can usually be incorporated somewhere into an existing kitchen. For example, a breakfast nook can provide the perfect place to add a free-standing pantry. The loss of eating space is not very noticeable and can be made up for by going to a smaller table, or by switching out the chairs on one side in favor of a bench. Alternately, an empty section of wall near the back door or basement stairs will often do just as well. If there are no empty walls, a narrower built-in can be added to an adjacent hallway or mud room. There is bound to be an empty wall somewhere in the home that can accommodate this style of pantry.

    free-standing pantry
    This free-standing pantry was added to a breakfast nook in the kitchen of the home. Its construction is very similar to that of an L-shaped wardrobe style closet. The owners of this house simply removed one leaf from their breakfast table to make room for the new pantry. No other modifications were needed. The increased storage more than makes up for the loss of eating area, and the home does possess a large formal dining room to accommodate larger gatherings of family and friends.

  2. Reallocate Space with a Closet to Pantry Conversion:

    Another way to add a pantry to a smaller kitchen is by converting an existing nearby closet into a pantry closet. Two common locations that are ripe for this type of pantry installation include a coat closet near the back door and the cupboard/closet under the stairs in a two-story home. The jackets that accumulate near the rear entry of the home are often better kept on hooks or in mud room style cubbies rather than in a traditional closet. Hooks allow for quicker, easier access to frequently worn items. Most children won't hang their coats on a hanger anyway. Hooks are much better for them and keep their jackets off the floor. Other closets also work for a pantry conversion. The awkward space left underneath a staircase is frequently inefficient in its use of space and ripe for some type of closet makeover. Depending on its location in the home, it can be a perfect spot for a pantry. However, other closets could be converted as well. A tiny broom closet can also be the perfect place for a small pantry. By simply adding a few shelves, the space can be totally repurposed as a food storage area. Skinny brooms can find a new home in the narrow gap between the refrigerator and wall.

    closet to pantry conversion
    This home had a small coat closet next to the back door near the home's kitchen. The triangular space was somewhat awkward as a coat closet and wasted a lot of space. One wall was reconfigured into a small, but highly functional, pantry closet for food, beverages, and serving pieces. The awkward angled wall was outfitted with hooks — one for every jacket usually kept in the closet. This way, no storage for coats was lost, but a lot of storage was gained for the kitchen.
    pantry closet under the stairs
    This home had a cute little closet that is located under the stairway to the second floor. It didn't really have a defined purpose and ended up as a catch-all for miscellaneous junk. It was an ideal spot for a pantry conversion. This tiny, awkward space was made very functional for food and housewares storage through the installation of stepped shelving that works around the steeply pitched ceiling. These new shelves offer just as much storage capacity as the existing cabinets in the kitchen, and literally doubled the pantry space in this home.

  3. Build a Pantry Annex Outside the Kitchen:

    Sometimes, a kitchen is simply too tiny and offers no blank walls to accommodate a wardrobe style pantry addition. If there are no existing areas near the kitchen that can be converted over to a pantry closet, it may be necessary to look outside the kitchen area for a place to add new organized storage.

    Many homeowners have been keeping extra refrigerators in their garages and basements for years. Expanding on that concept to include a complete pantry in these spaces is sometimes the only way to get a new pantry into the home without having to resort to increasing the overall footprint of the house through a room addition. A basement pantry is not necessarily a dark and gloomy space. A finished room with bright lighting and light-colored walls, cabinetry and shelving to reflect the maximum amount of light can be quite effective. Mirrors inserted into window frames can further the illusion of daylight.

    build a pantry in the basement
    This basement pantry adds a lot of storage to a small, mid-century ranch home. The light-colored shelving, attractive flooring and lovely décor lead you to quickly forget that this is a below grade space. This room provides abundant storage for all pantry related items the homeowner could want or need and doesn't cost a lot to build. Note the use of the mirror above the right hand corner of the countertop. Its window-like design could easily be mistaken for real access to the outdoors and daylight, further enhancing this small house pantry solution.

Try these ideas on how to add a full pantry closet to an existing kitchen.

You can definitely find the space to add a pantry closet to a kitchen lacking in this feature by considering all your options. First, check for space along an open wall that could accommodate a new wardrobe style closet outfitted with shelving. This is often the easiest way to add a pantry closet to the home. If you can't find an empty wall like this near your kitchen, take a good hard look at your existing closets. Are any of them ripe for a closet to pantry conversion? It doesn't have to be a large closet, as even a small broom closet can be customized with shelving and pantry organizers that will provide a lot of storage. Finally, if neither of those solutions are going to work, look outside the kitchen for any unused space in the home where a pantry could be built, including the basement and garage. If you already keep an extra refrigerator in one of these spaces, it's only a small leap to imagine the build out of a full pantry closet in this space. Whichever solution you choose, you are bound to enjoy the benefits gained by increasing the amount of organized storage in your home.