How to Create a Functional (AND Pretty) Pantry!

March 02, 2018

How to add functional storage that looks great to your pantry. 

I'm back with another tour of sorts...this one is probably my favorite "room" in the house. When I realized how big our pantry was I'm pretty sure I squealed out loud and did a fist pump or two. Our old pantry wasn't the smallest I've seen for sure...but it was a small closet size and I had to get creative to make the most of that space. (See the end of the post for more on that.)

This room has been quite the disaster since we moved in more than four months ago. I literally threw food and stuff on the shelves when I unpacked and said see you later. 😂 Since then we've just put stuff wherever it fits. Finding that one item we were looking for was always fun. It was a MESS:
Messy pantry before and after

There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to any of the shelves -- I quite literally just filled them up and knew I would deal with it at some point. 

Around the corner it got even better!:
How to organize a messy pantry

I was so excited to be able to add an outlet in here -- I planned to keep small appliances in the pantry instead of on the kitchen counters. 

Well when decided on placement of the outlet, I didn't think to ask how the shelves were going to be hung. So the outlet isn't on a wall where we have shelves. Wahhh wahh. I've figured out a solution to that (crossing my fingers it works) and plan to tackle that project soon! 

We're the non-coffee drinking family that has a it for quick hot water (it's always the perfect temp!) and cider, hot chocolate, etc. I had it on a small rolling cart:
Organizing a messy pantry

This room was such a mess, whenever I showed this side of the kitchen the light was always off:
White kitchen with wood and gray island

But now I'm happy to show it off!!:
White kitchen with gray island

This took FOREVER to organize. Well, at least most of a day. There's a TON of stuff in there! But when I have the time I find this kind of project cathartic and dare I say, even a little fun. I'm weird. 

Before I started organizing anything I did a couple quick projects a few weeks ago -- I installed a dimmer in here and also replaced the incandescent bulbs with daylight bulbs. I prefer daylight bulbs in rooms with no natural light: 
Boxwood wreath on door

Goodness it is SO much brighter in here! And the dimmer makes it so we can keep the light low for the animals in the evening. 

Of course I had to repeat my boxwood wreath on the pantry door like our old house! I really wanted to take advantage of the wall space in here so I hung my apron with a cute hook from IKEA and we use that wire piece for fresh produce:
Using the wall space in a walk in pantry

I used it in our powder room in the old house and almost got rid of it because I didn't have a spot for it here. I'm so glad I thought to hang it because it's GREAT for a pantry! It lets the air flow and gives us easy access to things like oranges, avocados, potatoes and bananas. 

I'll go through each set of shelves with you all cause I really thought about how we use this room. This space needed to have a higher focus of function over form...but I did think about the view most visitors would get (this door is open most of the time) as they walked by. So I did want this first row of shelves to be slightly appealing:
How to create a pretty and organized pantry

By that I mean anything that we keep in containers went over here like pasta and that jazz. I guess I should warn you -- this is NOT one of those gorgeous pantries that you'll drool over and then go -- "But WHERE is the food?" Ha!! I love those as much as the next person, but I've really gotten away from keeping so much in containers. For some items I love it -- for others I just don't find it to be helpful. 

And by the way -- I figured out where to put those cute herb/kitchen printables I showed you last weekend. I'm going to find some frames and hang them above this line of shelves!

Now organizer kind of gadgets...I'm totally into those. ;) On this side this is how I organized: 
  • I put anything pasta-related at the top -- I like pasta in containers just because they're easier to organize than the bags.
  • Most canned items (for dinners primarily) and boxed meals are here for easy access.
  • Our animal food goes into containers because we just find it easier to scoop from these instead of pour. And our dog only gets a measured amount each feeding. These keep the food nice and fresh too -- more so than bags I think.
  • I went through our kitchen towels (did you see that pile of them on top of the shelves in that pic up there??? I would literally wash them and throw them up there!) and only kept the ones I loved. Most of what I had up there were seasonal anyway. Towels and washcloths are now in the basket for easy access. My cookbooks are there too. I used a magazine holder to keep smaller books organized:
Tips for a pretty and functional pantry

The next row of shelves is where the bulk of the food is. Again, I wanted the stuff we reach for most to be closer to the door. 
  • Spices and cooking oils are layered on top with tiered organizers like the canned goods. These are life savers!! They make it so much easier to see what you have on deeper shelves. 
  • Breakfast stuff is on it's own shelf. I keep packets of hot cereal in a basket so we know when we're running low.
  • Baking necessities and sweets are on the next shelf. I tried to keep the foods we reach for the most often on eye level. I don't bake that often so those are best a little lower. 
  • The bottom baskets hold snacks -- bags of chips and crackers. I only added baskets to the bottom shelves because when we pull them out it's easy to see what's inside. (Up higher and you have to pull them all the way out to sort around):
Using baskets and containers in the pantry

As we move around we get to less food and more appliances and paper goods. This corner spot is nice and deep and holds a TON, but it's also harder to get to. In hindsight I would have asked for the corner to be squared off so these aren't so deep. But I'm not complaining!
  • Our small appliances that I use IN the kitchen are on the top shelf -- meaning those that I take out and use on the counter. This will make more sense in a minute.
  • Next shelf is alcohol -- I know it looks like a store. 😂 We used to keep most alcohol in our basement, which was nice, but we would buy more of what we already had because...out of sight, out of mind. We keep extra lime juice and mixes here too.
  • The next shelf is stuff we grab for lunches -- peanut butter, crackers, bread. In the bin I have the small lunch-sized stuff like chips. It makes it super easy to pack our boy's lunch in the morning!
  • The bottom is the random stuff -- there are always items you don't know what to do with! The bag holder could go on the wall but it felt in the way anywhere else. The little fabric basket holds our trash bags. Plus extra foil and storage bags are here too: 
Tips for organizing the pantry

And finally, the side I'm most excited about! I moved the shelves around here a bit to make this work.
  • Tea and hot chocolate are at the top
  • The second shelf is where I keep our K-cups (isn't that organizer so cute!) and our vitamins 
  • The third shelf is for appliances we use in the pantry -- and I have a project in mind to make this even more functional! I'll let you know if it works out! You can see that the outlet is on the wall to the right. 
  • The bottom shelf is for extra paper/plastic stuff and our trash compactor bags:
Storing appliances in pantry

Here's a closer look at that cute organizer for the K-cups! I found it in the check out lane at HomeGoods and thought it would work great. It is perfect!:
Cute organizer for K-cups

When we got the Keurig I realized it was much easier to keep our mugs in the pantry. I got this cute mug holder about a month ago and love that we can grab what we need right there:
Wire mug rack from Amazon

This room is the smartest and most functional in the house and I LOVE it! I love it even more now that we can find exactly what we need when we walk in. And it's so much nicer when we're putting stuff away too. I should've done this a long time ago!

I found the Groceries sign at an antique shop a few weeks ago (but it's not an antique) -- isn't it perfect? I love touches of green in our mostly white kitchen:
white kitchen with wood accents

There you go! This space is finally organized and working well for us! During the process I was a deer in headlights at times -- I would just stand in there and stare at the mess. But if you slow it down and really think about how you USE a space, it's easier to work it out in your head. 

And it found it helpful to remove EVERYTHING off the shelves -- every counter in our kitchen was covered! Then I went by section and added everything back in. I gave the shelves a good cleaning too. 

I would move all over again just for this pantry. :) It's amazing -- I love that we can keep more than just food in here. I did get rid of a few things and moved just a couple items to the basement. But overall what you see in the befores is what is in there now! We also keep the dog and cat food in this room (on the floor). 

Here's a resource list if you're interested in anything. We had everything but the mug rack and K-cup storage and I made the rest work in here. (Affiliate links included for your convenience!):
Black pantry door with glass
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  1. Love that you are so 'real', Sarah! It looks GREAT, and inspires me to tackle my closet this weekend... EVERYTHING OUT! ;-)

  2. Looks good. When I saw that extra space up high, I was also thinking about the need for some art and I think that the herb ones would be great.

    Have you considered putting a small 12 bottle wine rack on the top part? I sometimes buy wine by the case to take advantage of a discount and to get a variety of wines.

    Concerning the electric outlet - do you other areas where you want to add outlets? If so, consider bringing in an electrician to add them. I had some added in hallways but they were placed in the same section of studs so it was easier to access current lines. In one case, the light switch was on one side of the wall and they put an outlet on the other side.

  3. That is amazing!!! I might even sleep in there. It's got everything you need. :-)

  4. Looks great Sarah! I have a smaller corner pantry which makes it tricky, but I have same construction (thanks to current husband, wink) when we ripped it all out and rebuilt it. So we have the same deep corner shelves; appliances too! hope you have a great weekend. Denver is sunny, but windy! laura

  5. The pantry looks great afterwards, Sarah! I wish I had a home big enough for a whole pantry space of my own! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  6. I got the same sign for my pantry from Michael's, just in case you want to find a link to give your readers.

  7. Great pantry, Sarah!
    I have the groceries sign from Michael's too!

  8. A cheap fix for the outlet use a surge protection bar. It'll plug into the outlet and the cord will reach to the shelves & have multiple outlets to plug the appliances into.

  9. Looks great! On both the pasta shelf and the baking shelf there is a little portable shelf. Do you have the source for those?

    1. I wish I could remember! I think maybe the Container Store?

  10. Oh my gosh it looks AMAZING!!!! I love the added touch of the boxwood wreath even!

  11. Great job! Now I'm definitely avoiding looking at my pantry closet ... located in the 1st floor half bath!

  12. Looks great! Please tell me where you bought your pendant lights. I love them!

    1. Thank you! We got them through the builder but these seem to be the same! (Linked at the bottom of the post.)

  13. I just moved into my new houses a little over 5 months ago and my pantry looks like your before pictures. Still not organized. The size is beautiful but it's my "room of shame" right now because it's so untidy. I look forward to taking many of your suggestions, clearing out and making it look great. I never had so much space for pantry items. Loved reading your article.


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