A good pantry design offers just the right combination of features.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Featured in Summer 2023
Whether you have a large or small kitchen, the best kitchen designs are as much about the storage as they are about the amenities, and including some type of pantry can make all the difference. When you begin with a plan, add some key features, and finish with a dash of something special, you’ll have all the ingredients you need to showcase a pantry design that looks as good as it functions.
Start with this
Woodharbor’s Jammie Pekarek says, “The first question is always, ‘Do we have the space to create a pantry?’”
“The size and layout of the kitchen will determine the type and features possible in a pantry,” says Jean Nicholls of Kitchen and Bath Company. “Walk-in pantries and butler’s pantries are always popular, but not every home has the square footage available.”
Danielle Frye of Moehl Millwork says she always starts with one key question when designing a pantry, especially if it’s a built-in. “I typically ask what they plan to store in the space. Food? Appliances? A coffee area? An undercounter fridge? Based on the client’s response, we can then work together to select the appropriate cabinetry to fill the organizational needs.”
Even basic pantry cabinetry is more than “basic” these days.
“Cabinet manufacturers offer a variety of storage options to make even basic kitchen cabinets much more functional than they used to be,” says Nicholls.
Pullout storage options are available for everything from canned goods to small appliances, as well as pullouts for trash and recycling, which free up floor space within the kitchen.
Pekarek says, “Cabinets can come with deeper drawers, peg systems for organizing dishes, or any number of accessories to offer more organizational options for each client’s specific needs.”
She advises clients to make a wish list of items they’d like to keep in their pantry or features they’d like to include. “Once we have that list, we can work through the pros and cons of having those items in there, and we can prioritize to design the most efficient and functional space for their budget.”
“Having that list—and the sizes of the things you want to store—is so handy when you work with a designer,” adds Frye. “Inspiration photos are a huge help as well.”
You won’t regret that
Once you have the necessities covered, a skilled designer can guide you through the selection of features or products that will not only enhance the style of your pantry but will increase its functionality and efficiency.
For example, although most homeowners envision a walk-in pantry as the ideal storage solution, Pekarek says that isn’t always the best option. “Built-in pantries add storage in less square footage,” she says. “And because they’re smaller, you can more easily find what you’re looking for, and it’s right there in the kitchen instead of in a separate room.”
Whether you opt for built-in, walk-in, or even a butler’s pantry between rooms, design experts say the most important consideration is you.
“You want to personalize the space to your needs,” Nicholls says. “What small appliances could be stored there to free up counter space in the kitchen? Where would outlets be helpful?”
Frye says, “In a walk-in or butler’s pantry, a sink can be especially helpful so the space can be used for prep. If there’s a pet in the home, this is a great place for the food and water station as well.”
Although a walk-in pantry can be as simple as built-in shelves, Frye says clients never regret the decision to include more customized storage. “Deep drawers and pullout storage make any pantry so much more convenient and tidy. And incorporating cabinetry allows you to include counter space as well.”
Consider other ideas
The little extras are what make any design effective. That’s true for pantries, too.
Depending on the location, a traditional butler’s pantry can become an entertaining hub with space for everything from serving food to beverage fridges and a wet bar.
“Customized features like retractable doors and customized sizes can add that extra functionality and style,” Frye says.
Nicholls says, “Counter space, drawers, and open shelving can take a pantry from functional to fashionable. We’ve had clients add personal touches like built-in coffee stations and wine storage to a place for their cookbooks.”
“Open shelving allows so many options for organizing in a stylish way,” says Pekarek. “Drawer cabinets can incorporate baskets. You can have a peg system in deep drawers for dishes. And if you can include a window to bring in some natural light, that’s always good.”
If natural light isn’t an option, recessed and undercabinet lighting along with task and decorative lighting can be sufficient. Nicholls says, “In that situation, I recommend using light colors in the space for paint and finishes both.”
From the smallest built-in to the most spacious walk-in, the pantry’s most important quality is how well it serves its purpose. Whether you’re looking for efficient storage space or the ideal spot for mixing drinks and serving coffee, your pantry should include the perfect combination of this, that, and the other that meets your needs.
And there are plenty of options to choose from. •
- Jean Nicholls Kitchen and Bath Company
- Danielle Frye Moehl Millwork
- Jammie Pekarek Woodharbor