How to Design A Pantry for the Modern Home

A modern kitchen needs a well-designed pantry.  With today’s emphasis on convenience foods, pantries are often considered a thing of the past.  A recent National Association of Home Builders survey, however, reported that a pantry was the most sought-after kitchen feature among new home buyers.  A pantry provides a convenient space to store groceries and, with careful planning, can prove invaluable for cooks and snack-seekers alike.

A pantry needs to be large enough to accommodate at least a week’s worth of groceries.  Simplicity, organization, and location do more to enhance the functionality of the pantry than size alone.  Convenience, visibility, and accessibility characterize the well-designed pantry.  A pantry that is located in or adjacent to the food prep area is convenient.  This doesn’t mean it has to be in the kitchen, but it should be easily accessible to anyone preparing food.  Additionally, a well-designed pantry is organized so that everything is visible and can be reached without moving other things around.

Basic Pantry Types

It is important to consider the type of pantry best suited to your kitchen before you design it.  A large kitchen may have more than one pantry.  The three basic pantry types are reach-in, pull-out, and walk-in or walk-through.  The kind of pantry you choose will depend on the configuration of your kitchen and the amount of space you have available.

Reach-in pantries should be shallow so that everything is visible and items cannot be shoved to the back of the shelves.  Maximum depth is 16″, but 14″ is preferred.  If the pantry is deeper, shelves should be converted to roll-out trays so that items are easier to reach.  The “bat-wing” style is ideal for a reach-in pantry.  The doors on either side of a stationary storage area are equipped with shelves, too, so that when they are left open, the entire contents of the pantry are visible and within easy reach.

A reach-in pantry turned on end and placed in a cabinet with a door panel in front becomes a pull-out pantry. If the pantry is accessible from both sides, shelves can be as wide as 24″.  Otherwise, the 16″ rule for reach-in pantries applies here, too.  A pull-out pantry is not as convenient as a reach-in, as the entire pantry must be extended and then pushed back when no longer in use.  The heavy-duty hardware required is more expensive than what is needed for a reach-in pantry.  However, the pull-out design is a good option for small kitchens to make the most of limited space.

A walk-in pantry is a small room or closet designed primarily for food storage.  These are not as convenient as smaller pantries but are ideal for storing bulk quantities of food.  Most walk-in pantries are separate from the kitchen.  Therefore, there is usually an additional pantry inside the kitchen that is stocked with items from the walk-in to make daily food storage and preparation easier.

The walk-through pantry, on the other hand, is primarily a hallway, a means of getting from one place to another.  Its secondary purpose is storage.   Many homes have a pantry-mudroom, or, in older homes, a converted porch that you pass through on the way to the kitchen from the garage.  This type of pantry allows you to unload groceries as soon as you get out of the car.  Pantry storage space, however, needs to be organized so as not to make the walkway inaccessible.  A walkway of at least 36″ is recommended.

 Shelving, Lighting, and Landing Zones

Consider the types of items you want to store in your pantry and designate shelf space accordingly.  While depths of 14″ are preferred to allow all items to be visible, cans and bottles require as little as 6″ of shelf space.  Shelves should be adjustable.  Shelving above eye level should be more shallow as it is less visible.  Open-grid shelves are easier to clean and tend not to collect dust and debris.  Solid shelving is better for small objects that might fall through the grid.

Lighting can be a challenge, especially with pantries contained in cabinets.  Each shelf should be illuminated well enough that all items are equally visible.

A landing zone is a place to set bags of groceries while they’re being unloaded into he pantry.  A pantry should always be adjacent to a landing zone of countertop height, unless a landing zone is incorporated as part of the pantry.

These suggestions will help you design the best pantry for your home.  Designing the right type of pantry will help you keep track of groceries and avoid kitchen clutter.