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Pantry Redesign Tips for Better Organized Kitchen Storage

Before and after pantry redesign
From old to new pantry design.

Everyone loves a well-stocked kitchen. It's the place we turn to when we have coffee with friends, ask the kids about their day, crave a snack, and cook a family meal. As such, it's important to keep this room running smoothly. Effective storage for food, dishes, and other sundries is essential. Shelving is key to making it work and that usually means some sort of pantry. But what if your kitchen storage is outdated and inefficient? No problem. These pantry redesign tips are sure to improve the function of any kitchen storage system.

7 Key Ingredients for Good Pantry Redesign:

  1. Shelving
  2. Vertical storage
  3. Include both dry and cold storage
  4. Drawers and baskets
  5. Spice storage
  6. Bottle storage
  7. Hooks

Just like your favorite food recipe, a pantry redesign needs certain ingredients in the correct amounts to succeed. Without the right mix of materials, your new kitchen storage is certain to flop like a cake with a sunken center. This means disorganization in what is arguably the most important room in the home. To avoid creating havoc through a misguided pantry remodel, be sure to include these key items in your kitchen storage.

Pantry Shelving

The backbone of all pantries is shelving. It is by far the most important ingredient in pantry design. The more shelves you have, the better your storage will be. But not all of it is created equal. Materials, depth, and type are all shelving considerations that have a big impact on functionality.

Pantry Shelf Materials

Pantry shelves can be made from wood, laminate, glass, or metal. There are pros and cons to each depending on application.

  • Wood is easy to cut and can be painted any color or finish. The downside is that it is expensive and involves the harvesting of trees.
  • Most high-end pantry closet systems utilize the more economical laminate material for this reason. Today's laminates are safe, easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth, and contain an eco-friendly particle board core made from recycled materials. However, it can be difficult to change the color later.
  • Glass shelves are used mainly for display. Use them with glass door cabinets and LED puck lights because light can easily shine through a glass shelf. But be sure to use glass that’s at least 3/8-inches thick for safety. If you're worried, smoked, and frosted glasses are a type of laminated material that is less prone to breakage.
  • Metal pantry shelves usually mean wire. The advantage to wire shelves is the price. That's pretty much the only advantage. But when you're tight on money, wire shelves are better than nothing.

How deep should pantry shelves be?

At least some of your pantry shelves need to be 14-inches deep. This shelf depth that will allow you to add the most pantry organizers. That's because items like pull-out spice racks and bottle racks are made to fit standard 18-inch-wide and 14-inch-deep closet sections. You will have the best options using 14-inch-deep shelves.

Pantry Shelf Types:

Shelves can be fixed, adjustable, pull-out, or rotating. Your top, bottom, and often the middle shelves are fixed. You can't move them because they are structural. Pull-out pantry shelves are like shallow drawers. They slide in and out and have low sides to prevent items from rolling off. Use them for organizing small items that might otherwise get lost in the back of a shelf. The bulk of your shelves should be adjustable. This means they sit on removable pins. These shelves can be moved around to accommodate different size items, offering flexibility in your storage. Rotating shelves turn on a lazy Susan principle. Use them primarily to maximize corner storage. However, rotating shelves can also be used as a stand-alone pantry system.

Close-up of pantry shelving
Close-up of pantry shelving.

Include Dry and Cold Storage

The ideal pantry closet stores both refrigerated products and dry goods. This means an extra refrigerator or freezer in your walk-in pantry. Cold storage can be in the form of a full-size refrigerator freezer or just a small, supplemental beverage refrigerator. Some families opt for a chest style freezer unit so that they have room to stock up on frozen goods when items are on sale. No matter which you choose, surround the remaining walls with shelves. The shelves can be used for boxes and canned goods plus dishes, small appliances, and serving pieces.

Pantry closet with dry and cold storage
This pantry includes a refrigerator in addition to numerous shelves for food storage.

Add at Least One Vertical Pantry Organizer

If you keep anything other than food in your pantry, vertical storage is important to make the space truly functional. Vertical closet organizers store cookie sheets, broiler pans, serving trays, muffin tins, and other large serving pieces used in food preparation. Place these items upright and on their sides for the most effective use of space in the pantry. The vertical storage organizers keep everything organized and in place. They'll prevent your large, flat pieces from sliding into a heap and prevent damage as well.

Close-up of vertical pantry shelving
Close-up of vertical pantry shelving for trays, broiler pans, cookie sheets, and other flat, oversize items.

Use Pantry Drawers and Baskets

Drawers and baskets are an important part of pantry storage. They serve similar functions in protecting and organizing small items in the pantry, but each has distinct advantages and disadvantages. Drawers are more expensive than baskets. However, they are better for storing dish towels, napkins, and small cooking implements like can openers and potato peelers. Pantry baskets, on the other hand, are fairly inexpensive. Some even come with built-in drawer glides that mount to the pantry cabinet walls so that the baskets move in and out like a drawer. Baskets are better for storing root vegetables and bags of chips because of their open weave. But small tools and linens might fall through the slats or get lost in their depths. For these reasons, the best pantry designs include several baskets and at least one drawer.

Pantry with drawers and pull-out wire baskets
This pantry includes four drawers and pull-out wire baskets for storing chips and root vegetables.

Don't Forget Spice Storage

If you cook at all, you've got small bottles of spices to store. Spice racks that hang on the wall used to be all the rage. But recent preferences for simpler, minimalist, modern designs dictate that the spices need to be kept behind a closed door or drawer. Hiding them away provides a cleaner aesthetic, but they still need to be easily accessible and highly organized if you want any flavor in your cooking. That's why any pantry storage system worth its salt will include some sort of spice bottle storage. The most common type of spice organizer is a stationary rack mounted to the wall. However, if you have a laminate closet organizer system, slide-out spice racks are a better choice because they hold more and take up less space than the wall-mount racks. These slide-out spice organizers are made of metal or heavy-duty wire and move in and out of a bank of pantry shelves like a drawer. The easy-to-install units mount to the vertical panels of the pantry shelving system with the same holes used by adjustable shelf pins. Each rack holds 16-22 spice jars but takes up next to no space in the pantry. Organize a large cash of spices with multiple units. Your spices will always be ready when you need them.

Pantry with pull-out spice storage
The 14-inch-deep spice rack slides in and out like a drawer for easy access.

Store Bottles on Their Sides

Everyone has bottles of something that are kept in the pantry. Typical bottled food products include cooking oil, sauces, juices, beverages, and more. That's why the ideal pantry needs to include storage for bottles. And the most efficient way to keep many bottles is on their sides using some sort of rack or organizer to prevent rolling. This way, you can store corked products like wine in addition to other types of beverages without worrying that the corks will dry out causing the beverage to lose flavor. Use a sliding rack, a x-shaped beverage cube, or wine cubbies for your bottled beverages. The sliding rack that mounts alongside your pantry shelves takes up the least amount of space but holds the fewest bottles. You may need several racks with this solution. X-racks and cubbies are another possibility and can be especially helpful for wine storage. They hold more and can handle diverse size bottles. But these bottle organizers also require additional space in the pantry or kitchen. They work best when used with walk-in pantries or dedicated wine closets.

Pull-out rack for storing bottles on their sides
The 14-inch-deep bottle rack not only slides in and out like a drawer to conserve space, but it stores bottles on their sides at a slight angle so that corks don't dry out.

Include Hooks

One of the most overlooked elements of good pantry design is the humble hook. They're generally the last thing added but their importance can't be overstated. Place hooks in your odd corners, back of the door, or sections of wall that are too small for any other type of organizer. Hooks are extremely versatile. Use them for your barbeque tools, mugs, aprons, dish towels, mops, brooms, and more. There are so many uses for hooks, you're sure to find a use for them in your kitchen.

Pantry shelves and hooks for aprons
Hooks are ultra-convenient in the pantry. These are used for hanging aprons.

Ready to remodel your old pantry?

Pantry redesign is often given the lowest priority in a kitchen remodeling project because it isn't as visible as other elements of the kitchen. However, it has major impact. An organized and well thought out pantry storage system can keep your entire household running more efficiently. And it's easier to choose a healthy snack over junk food when it's sitting at your fingertips. Another advantage of a redesigned pantry closet is the peace of mind that comes with organized living. Everything is easier when you're organized. And although a nice pantry can't improve your cooking skills, it can still make you a better home chef because you'll always have access to all your ingredients and spices when your pantry closet is organized. Why delay? Invest in a pantry redesign today.