Renovation & Design

Top-shelf idea leads to great little pantry

Photos by Marc Labossier e / winnipeg free press

The bi-fold doors to this pantry provide a space-saving way help to maximize the shelving area inside.

With the doors open, we can see the considerable capacity of the adjustable shelves within.

Oak casings and rosettes, as well as the bi-fold door, were stained to match existing oak trim.

The pantry sits on the main floor in corner of hallway, just a few feet from the kitchen.

There is never enough space for anything — especially when it comes to storage in older homes.

Other than the larger closet in the foyer of my main floor, there are only two other closets in my house. They’re smaller closets on the second floor, one in each of the bedrooms. No linen closet, no broom closet, nothing. In my main bathroom of the second floor, I had to introduce a narrow area of shelving for a set of floor-to-ceiling basket drawers, just to have a hiding place for extra toilet paper rolls on hand. Truly annoying, yes… but this wasn’t what bothered me most.

Everyone believes my house looks so huge. I suspect it’s because from a curbside vantage point, it does appear to take up a large two-storey footprint. What people fail to realize is that the triple-attached garage and foyer eat up most of the main floor, leaving only 625 square feet for the living room, dining room, kitchen, small bathroom, hallway and stairwell to the second floor. If you do the math, each of these areas are partitioned into very small individual spaces — it was necessary from the onset to make the best use of the space I had.

Despite its condensed size, the kitchen, surprisingly, is quite functional. There are cupboards high and low along the two adjacent walls, and plenty of counter space that continues along the peninsula island, home for my slim dishwasher and slide-in stove. The main issue was food storage. Without a pantry, the cupboards were littered with canned goods, bagged goods and anything else that didn’t belong in either the fridge or freezer. It was a nightmare; every cupboard shelf was crammed with stuff!

When you first enter the main part of the house from my foyer, a baker’s rack is visible to the immediate right; it sits in front of the window, on the way into the kitchen. That corner between the wall adjacent the foyer and the baker’s rack quickly became the clutter area, where everything that had nowhere else to go ended up. Brooms, mops…if you couldn’t find it elsewhere in the house, it was likely "in the corner by the baker’s rack."

While staring at the ever-growing heap of things in that corner one day, it suddenly dawned on me and inspiration took hold — create a pantry in the corner, and solve all the clutter issues at once. This was the genesis of the pantry project, born out of sheer necessity. The design was quite simple. Frame-in a slim closet-like area with shelving within, then close it in with a bi-fold door. With my list in hand, the materials were purchased, and the project was underway.

The existing baseboards along the affected walls were removed and salvaged for recycled use. Oak casings and rosettes were stained to match the existing baseboards, for later use while finishing. The panelled pine bi-fold door also was stained to match the existing trim. While the stain was allowed to dry and cure, the frame for the pantry was established. Based on the measurements of the existing corner space, taking into account both the window and doorway positions along each respective wall, I determined that a four-foot-six-wide pantry, 19 inches deep, could be built in keeping with the aesthetics of the area.

To minimize inner waste of space, two-by-three studs were used to build the pantry walls; this includes a rough opening for the bi-fold door on the long face. Once the framing was properly secured to the adjacent walls, drywall was fastened to the frame and the taping and mudding stages could begin. Between mud coats, the adjustable shelving spines were affixed to the back wall of the pantry, and 16-inch brackets were placed at 12-inch intervals from floor to ceiling. White shelves roughly four-foot-three long and 16 inches deep were then set into position within the pantry space. Following the final mud coat and some light sanding, the exterior pantry walls were painted to match the existing walls. The bi-fold door was installed and the casings and rosettes were affixed along the perimeter of the pantry bi-fold door. Finally, the recycled baseboards were mitered to fit along the floor of the newly created pantry walls. And it looks like it’s always been there.

The introduction of a main-floor pantry a few feet from the kitchen has proven to be invaluable. It has transformed an otherwise cluttered area into a highly useful food storage space — everything now has its place. The cost to build it was almost negligible and the entire project was completed over the course of a weekend. I can’t even remember what I did with all my canned goods before I had a pantry… oh well, doesn’t really matter now because the pantry is only a few steps away and here to stay.


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