When remodeler Dave Tyson thinks of pantries, he thinks of three things, storage, storage, and storage. Most clients of David Tyson & Associates, Charlotte, N.C., think of a pantry as a closet near the kitchen. However, today's cabinet manufacturers offer accessories to maximize storage within a cabinet box. Remodeler Robert Kraft of Kraft Custom Construction, Salem, Ore., says the beauty of a pantry is that it is not pre-defined and can be tailored to the client. Whether in a closet or in a cabinet, it is important to place the pantry in an optimum location in the kitchen plan. If clients store rarely used items in the pantry, it can be placed outside the ring of daily circulation. Kraft says that for daily use, the active space must be easily accessible. He usually includes an adjacent countertop to provide a place for clients to put grocery bags for loading and a staging area for removing items.
Closet or Cabinet? Designers include a walk-in pantry if they have the luxury of a large space. Some homeowners like the idea of shutting out the clutter, but Kraft points out that a door requires additional space for clearance.
In his walk-in pantry designs, Tyson includes a cubby or a rack for brooms and mops, and lines the walls with shelves. He places the first shelf 2 feet from the floor so that the space underneath can be used to store taller items. He specifies this shelf at 16 inches deep, with subsequent shelves narrowing until they reach a width of 8 inches. “If you have a 2-foot-deep shelf at a 5-foot height, you can't reach in there to get everything,” he explains.
Some clients combine a walk-in pantry with a mudroom or a laundry. With the space constraints of most remodels, designers and homeowners generally prefer cabinet pantries. “If we can save remodel costs by not tearing down adjacent walls to create a pantry,” Kraft says, “we can use that money to creatively build storage into a cabinet.”
Within Reach Tyson says that placing a tall, deep pantry cabinet next to a refrigerator helps visually balance the large box. Because neither of these items provide counter space, it's better to place the pair separate from the main work area, says Paul Maxim of Case Design/Remodeling in Bethesda, Md. He installs roll-out drawers inside the pantry cabinet. “The trays roll out into the light where you can see the contents,” he says. However, the drawer contents are not as visible over 5-feet, so for higher storage, the designer uses open chrome baskets.
Another option to maximize storage without using full-height pantries is to use wall cabinets that come down to rest on the countertop, but instead of making them the standard 12 inches deep, Maxim installs 15- or 18-inch deep boxes. “They are less bulky and provide less visual obstruction, with almost as much storage space,” he says.
Kraft sometimes purchases storage accessories and installs them in custom cabinetry. However, the price of all the accessories can really add up, and some owners find a cabinet box with standard shelves a more affordable option. Though Maxim uses semi-custom or custom cabinets for his projects, he says that stock cabinet companies offer the same type of hardware. “You don't have to spend a lot of money to get the roll-out trays,” he points out.
A Light Within
Lighting is also a critical part of pantry design. Remodeler David Tyson sometimes opts for long, slim fluorescent lights on each side of the door on the interior of cabinet pantries. “It lights everything from top to bottom,” he says. Paul Maxim once ran rope lighting along the inside back wall of a pantry cabinet to help an 80-year-old client view the contents. However, he says, if taller items are placed in front, they tend to block the light. He prefers to line the ceiling in front of the pantry with recessed lights and to use roll-out drawers so that the homeowner can pull the contents into brighter light.