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How to Plan a Walk-In Kitchen Pantry Design

Keep dry goods, dishware, cookware, small appliances, cleaning supplies, and more at your fingertips with a well-planned walk-in pantry.

By Jan Soults Walker

A walk-in pantry is likely on your wish list if your cabinets and countertops are overflowing, or you often trek to another part of the house to retrieve kitchen necessities. Use these planning tips to help you think through a walk-in pantry design.

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Jerry Locati

Finders, keepers

Creating a walk-in pantry for an existing kitchen tends to be more challenging than designing one for a new space. Take stock of nearby options and determine if you can dedicate part of another space as a walk-in pantry, such as a closet in an adjacent hallway or an area within an adjoining mudroom or laundry room. You may also consider carving out a pantry from an attached garage, as long as it shares a wall with the kitchen and you can cut a doorway to create direct access from the kitchen into the new pantry.

Location, location, location

Whether you're building a new kitchen or remodeling an existing one, locating the pantry near where the work happens is crucial to minimize steps and optimize efficiency. The key is to select a location that lets you enter and exit the pantry without interfering with other kitchen activities.

"Your pantry needs to be convenient for unloading groceries but also for retrieving items while you're cooking," says blogger and professional organizer Jaime Price of OH! Organized Housewife. "If you have kids, for example, locate the pantry where they can access it without walking through your work space."

As you wish

Take inventory and list the items you plan to store in your walk-in pantry, paying particular attention to current "clutter trouble" spots in your kitchen. Also, if you typically stock up at warehouse stores, make room for bulk-size supplies such as multi-roll packs of paper towels; plan shelf lengths and heights accordingly.

Shelf discovery

Ken Kelly
What shelf depth will work best for you? "Evaluate how you live and determine what is reasonable for you in maintaining an orderly pantry," Price says. "If you tend to maintain order well, I love 
16-inch deep shelves for more space to line up canned goods and have a bit of space in front of storage pieces."

Price cautions, however, that if you "tend to stuff items anywhere they fit, then go with a 12-inch deep shelf, which doesn't allow much room for things to pile up and get lost."

When choosing between wood versus wire shelving, keep in mind that wood and wood-compilation products are more costly but exceptionally sturdy for heavy loads. "I think the laminated MDF, or medium density fiberboard, shelving is a good option because it is moisture-resistant," Price says. "The key is to not use a raw wood surface or you may experience problems with moisture retention, odor buildup, and mold issues. You can find and configure the white laminated or wood-look MDF shelving systems at local home improvement stores for a very reasonable price. There are also amazing custom-built closet systems (what you would envision using for a master closet) that would be ideal but come at a cost."

Wire shelves are another great option for your pantry that are less expensive and allow you to easily view items stored on shelves higher than your head. To prevent smaller items from falling through slats on wire shelves, add storage bins or baskets as well as clear trays where needed.

Maximum storage

Make your pantry even more efficient by adding storage accessories. A half-depth shelf on legs, for example, can rest at the back of one standard-depth fixed shelf to elevate items such as canned goods into view and double shelf capacity. Other helpful pantry organizers include turntables (lazy Susans), spice racks, vertical slots for lids and trays, and bins or baskets. Don't overlook the back of the pantry door—add shelves here to take advantage of valuable storage real estate.

More than food

As you plan, keep in mind that a walk-in pantry can solve more than food storage issues. Your walk-in pantry could stow small appliances such as a stand mixer or food dehydrator as well as formal dishware, oversize platters, ubiquitous storage containers for leftovers, and bulky pots and pans. You may even want to tuck a desk area into a large walk-in pantry. "The kitchen is the hub of your home, and often times kitchen clutter is not made up of the things that traditionally go in a pantry," Price says. "Consider a space for posting papers and taking notes, meal planning, making a grocery list, posting recipes you plan to make, or keeping track of school hot lunch schedules."

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