Finding ways to make spaces work for us has always been a special skill I enjoy employing, and as our family and its needs have changed, I’ve been able to utilize my skills to make our spaces work for us. Nothing has challenged me like having two virtual learners and two work from home situations all under one roof, but something else has been sticking out like a sore thumb driving me crazy, and I just had to address it: the pantry.
I’ve spent the past year or so browsing the internet, trying to find a pantry that would suit our needs. Our current pantry is in fact an armoire that was passed down to us, and though I’d painted it and added a shelf, it was a mess. It was hard to see what we had, hard to get to our ingredients, and things often got put back in the wrong spot. It was an OCD organized me’s nightmare, and I was facing it multiple times a day.
After being unable to find a pantry that fit our space, budget, and desires, I decided to turn our current pantry into the pantry of my dreams. I used paint I already had, but otherwise spent $125 on supplies. I’m thrilled with the result, and no longer want to cry tears of heartbreak every time I need to get the pasta out.
Here’s the Before photo, though please forgive me for forgetting to get a photo until I’d already emptied half the bottom shelf and removed a drawer.
I hated how easily this white showed smudges, and how the knotholes were visible. The shelf liner was mismatched, and the zones were all mixed up. My main goals were to make it pretty, super organized, and easy to find what we needed when we needed it.
And here’s the after:
If you look closely, you’ll see the top of the pantry changes between the second and third images. I was waiting for the baskets to arrive, and needed my counter space back. So I switched my kitchen towel basket from its usual spot to there, so I could move the spices where the kitchen towels go, and bake brownies. The third image is the final result, how it looks the day before this article published.
If you want to makeover your pantry, I recommend a lot of planning. First, choose your pantry zones. Mine are cooking, baking, breakfast, snacks, drinks, special ingredients. I drew out the shape of my pantry and used lines to demonstrate the shelves. Then I color-coded the zones, writing where I wanted to put them. I used to organize my pantry zones by when I used the ingredients, from breakfast at the top to cooking ingredients on the bottom. Now that I have small children, I base the zone location on if my kids need to reach it. Cooking ingredients go on the top shelf, then baking is one shelf down, and breakfast and snacks are on the bottom shelf. Since our pantry has drawers, the top drawer is drink supplies (chocolate milk mix, juice boxes, tea, hot chocolate mix). The bottom drawer is specialized ingredients for dishes we make sometimes, such as special Japanese noodles, tofu, and masa.
Next, choose your supplies. I love labels, so I bought these gorgeous labels off of Amazon. . I love how many options there are, and that it comes with a page of blank ones and a chalkboard marker to make your own.
I also chose these bins for the storing ingredients, these bins for organizing items and these baskets for the top. Clear was key, and I read a lot of reviews to make sure it was truly clear and not foggy. I use the organizational bins to divide up snacks, crackers, lunch box sides, popcorn supplies, cooking oils, and small baking items that could get knocked over and lost. I decanted ingredients into the clear bins with airtight lids to better see and organize our ingredients, and I love how it came out. Since multiple members of my family deal with object permanence, having items clearly visible helps us use what we have and find items quickly.
I painted the outside of the pantry in Annie Sloane Aubusson Blue chalk paint, and the interior with a coral latex paint I had on hand. I painted the shelves the same coral as the sides and interior door frames. I put adhesive contact paper on the back wall of the pantry, the inside door frame, and the drawer fronts. I love the pattern, and it has a bit of a rough texture that I like. This pattern inspired the design of the rest of the pantry, as it has both the dark blue and coral shades of paint I had on hand. I loved framing the interior doors with the coral paint, and having the pattern inlaid.
This project was a huge undertaking. Emptying out your pantry is no joke, and painting multiple coats and waiting for it to dry was exacerbated my having all of our dry foods on our countertops and in boxes. It took about 4-5 days before it was complete, since I was waiting on Amazon to deliver the bins, boxes, and contact paper (which I needed first, and of course arrived last!). Also, this is what my kitchen looked like for a solid two days, with the pantry in various stages of painting:
Yes, I did use boxed Macaroni and Cheese to lift my cabinet door off the table so I could paint. #PaintingHacks, anyone? My favorite painting hack is actually using shower curtain liners as drop cloths; they’re much less expensive than drop cloths and do a great job.
We often see these gorgeous transformations on TikTok or Instagram without the ugly bits in between. It always looks worse before it looks better. And my back hurt for a week from painting the interior of that cabinet with a brush, because I was inside, it’s winter, and I don’t have a paint sprayer (ahem, and I’m old now, apparently).
Caveats: The airtight Rubbermaid bins I ordered had several that were taller than I was expecting, and didn’t fit on the shelves where I needed them; that’s why they’re on the top of the pantry instead of an interior shelf. It all worked out in the end, but I do recommend comparing your shelf heights with your bin heights before purchasing. I also recommend not painting until all of your ordered supplies arrive, as several of mine arrived days after they were supposed to, causing all of my pantry contents to be on my counter for longer than necessary. And yes, remove all the hardware before you paint. It’s much better than thinking you can paint that straight line, misjudging, and then having to scrape paint off the hinges… Ask me how I learned this.
I absolutely love the finished product, and I’m so glad I did this. It has improved our daily lives, and is a much more functional space for us. Since our kitchen cabinets are painted this same shade of blue, it ties the pantry in with the rest of the kitchen beautifully.
What area of your home has been driving you crazy? How could you make that space work for you?