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Pantry Inspiration + Makeovers

kitchen with black cabinets

The onset of the New Year always inspires a desire for fresh, organized spaces, and the pantry is a great place to start. If yours is lacking in either style or function, we've got some ideas for real-life solutions that will elevate your space and make the time spent in your kitchen more relaxed and enjoyable.


  • Cut the plastic and paper packaging. Take stock of your most-used dry goods and invest in a set of glass or ceramic containers to hold them, rather than keeping the original packaging. If the containers are large enough, you can even buy in bulk going forward, which is easy on your grocery bill and reduces package waste.

  • Organize with common sense. Your most-used items and products should be the most close at hand, while things you pull out only occasionally can occupy less-convenient storage spots, like high shelves or corner cabinets.

  • Use baskets to hold small items. Cans and small bottles can be stored neatly in baskets, which also make transfers in and out of the pantry easier. If the baskets aren't see-through, consider adding attractive labels.

  • Don't hesitate to make it beautiful. A simple coat of paint and minimal wood shelves and brackets can make any pantry into a beautiful utilitarian space.

  • Edit frequently. As with most spaces in your home, taking a few moments here and there to straighten up and remove unnecessary items not only keeps your spaces tidier, but is easier and less stressful than long cleaning sessions.

pantry with green shelves and subway tile

This 1920's cottage had charm in spades, but the floor plan was dark and outdated. We turned a sunroom on the back on the home into the new kitchen and opted to maximize the natural light by forgoing upper cabinetry. To make up for the lack of storage, we included a small pantry that houses bulk pantry items and small appliances. Since we used a pair doors with glass panes, we painted the shelf a lovely shade of green and applied classic subway tile to the walls.

kitchen and pantry with checkerboard tile

Photo by Ryan McDonald

In the Laurie renovation, I was inspired by the clean, functional utilitarian spaces I have had recently seen on a trip to the South of France and wanted to bring that aesthetic back across the pond. We swapped the location of the original kitchen and mudroom, which opened up a storage space adjacent to the garage that was ideal for a walk-in pantry. We continued the kitchen cabinetry and flooring into this space and separated the two with a custom pair of swinging salon doors. The new layout is much more functional and better fits our clients needs, while bringing a classic, bespoke feeling to their home.

butler's pantry with dark cabinets and quartzite

Photo by Ryan McDonald

This handsome butler's pantry is adjacent to a kitchen that we renovated to achieve an elevated, modern country feel. Our clients were seeking improved traffic flow and better organization, so we relocated the bar area to the existing butler's pantry and updated it to match the aesthetic of the rest of the space. We continued the quartzite counters and shaker-style inset cabinetry, but in a darker color. On the walls, oversized subway tiles and metal-and-glass upper cabinets have the European utilitarian vibe our clients love.

pantry with cabinets and open shelves

We were brought on to this project during construction to choose finishes and fixtures and assist with space planning. We chose to paint the pantry millwork a light putty color that would establish it as a separate space from the adjoining dark kitchen, which is a nod to the color contrast found throughout the home. We used a combination of open and closed storage to keep often-used items close at hand but provide a hiding spot for the more unsightly tools and goods. The backsplash tile has a reflective quality, which is always a nice addition to a window-less space.

small pantry with wood shelves

Photo by Ryan McDonald

In our River Forest project, we gave a small pantry some warmth and texture by using wood shelves. We hold no illusions that these shelves will always have so much margin, but this is a good example of a house-keeping tip that to which we wholly subscribe: Edit. Edit often. Especially in a place where items can expire or go bad, it's important to not only the appearance of your home but to the cleanliness to regularly assess the contents of your pantry and remove things for either trash, recycling, or to be donated.

pantry with tongue and groove paneling

Photo by Ryan McDonald

This kitchen renovation was accompanied by an addition to the back of the colonial-style home, which meant an extensive loss of cabinetry. To make up the storage, we relocated the door to an under-used coat closet that opened around the corner in the foyer. We chose two slim doors instead of one full-sized door to minimize the traffic disruption when they are open, and added a charming pair of porcelain knobs. Nickel-gap vertical paneling made several appearances in the kitchen, so we continued it into the pantry and chose painted-wood shelving and brackets for a minimal, classic look.



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