Learn how to transform a coat closet into a highly organized pantry for food, dry goods. and more. Learn how to add pantry shelves and space them right to hold all the food your family needs while using simple organizing containers that will store everything in an accessible and stylish way.
You know that “nesting” feeling – getting everything ready in the fall so that you are all comfy and cozy all winter long. It is kind of like a squirrel gathering as many nuts as he can and safely storing them so he doesn’t go hungry over the winter.
He doesn’t have a pantry – just a safe hiding place for his stash. I have a pantry to do this, but I didn’t always. I had to make it happen.
This is the mudroom in my previous house – it is right off the kitchen and it is where my very functional pantry is located. I consider a pantry one of the best features any kitchen can have – large or small.
You need a place to be able to see and organize all of your food.
When we first moved into this house, the double doors you see in the photo above used to be half this wide – it used to be a single door coat closet. A very overstuffed single door coat closet!
The house we lived in previously to this home had a walk-in pantry – it was an entire room. I was pantry spoiled! The kitchen in this house had a pantry cabinet – it was small and I could never find anything as it was cramped and deep.
I was frustrated until I finally came up with the idea to move the contents of this coat closet out to the garage and extend the closet to make a double door pantry.
When the double doors are open, they allow you to see everything in one full swoop. Big items are easy to move in and out which makes it easy to organize, restock, create a shopping list by just glancing, and keeping like things together.
I like being able to see everything at a glance, but it did take some work to get it this way.
After removing the outer side of the closet, we framed out the new double size closet with 2 x 4 studs. Added drywall and spackle. Then primed and painted the inside and out of the new closet.
How To Create a Pantry in a Coat Closet
This is what we did to complete this closet to pantry makeover.
1. I Made a Plan
You can see where the old wall used to be in the photo below. We filled in the space with some scrap flooring pieces we had left over from a previous project.
As with most DIY projects – we ran into a few problems. One was the new door I bought for the left side of the expanded closet at Home Depot. When we hung the new door, the recessed panels didn’t match up with the existing right side door.
I went to Lowes to see if they had a door that would match – they didn’t.
Then I had an idea and it worked. Since the new door was the same overall size as the existing door and all the other closet doors in the house.
We took the door from our bedroom closet – that matched and hung it here in the pantry and put the new door on the bedroom closet. Easy! Just took some “brain time” to come up with that fix.
We also ran into the problem of how to keep the doors closed since there would no longer be center door jam. What we came up with was to add these “male” push ball latches on the top of each door…
…and their “female” counterparts at the center top of the door jam. The doors stay closed perfectly.
The latch function on the two doorknobs that came on the doors became obsolete, so I hot glued them to the “in” position so they would not pop out anymore.
2. Customized Space to Fit My Family’s Needs
Since we were constructing this pantry, we could customize the space to fit our needs. I measured the width and height of every item I wanted to store in the new pantry from cereal boxes, jars, canned goods to bulk ingredients and essentials like paper goods.
Then I figured out the height that would be needed between the pantry shelving to accommodate all different heights of items and packages.
The fixed shelves were made with pine boards that are 12” deep. They sit on 1 x 2 supports that are mounted along the back and side walls. You could also construct the pantry space with adjustable shelving if this makes more sense for your needs.
We painted everything white. I covered each shelf with freezer paper with the shiny side up. It is inexpensive and lasts a long time. It can also be wiped clean which is an added benefit.
The closet is 8 ft high by 6 ft wide, and 23″ deep. Shelves are 12 ” deep. The doors are regular size doorway doors – 30″ wide each.
3. Organized The Items
Group items by size. It is the best way to use the space efficiently. Big items go on the floor. Bulk items from Costco, pet food containers and two baskets that hold cleaning and utility supplies.
- I use baskets for small items and organize them by category – Baking, Snacks, Etc.The baskets act as drawers that I can pull in/out to easily find what I need. They also make it easier to move things when I need to re-organize the shelves when something new comes in.
How To Organize Plastic Grocery Bags in a Pantry
- I re-use plastic storage bags and store them in cardboard tubes of all sizes to keep them under control. I use mailing tubes to store plastic grocery bags and paper towel tubes to hold smaller produce size bags. The big basket on the floor is for large bags.
- I only transfer long-term dry goods in containers – flour, sugar, dog treats, etc. Everything else stays in its own box. I found that some containers didn’t hold the entire box and I would end up with a storage container and a half filled box – that was just too complicated. I like simple.
- I hung three racks on one side wall to hold aluminum foil, parchment paper and Ziplock bags.
- On the other side I added hooks to hang a few cleaning supplies.
4. Add Labels to Hidden Storage
I label all baskets and containers. That way everybody can easily find them. Some are tied on tags.
This top shelf is where I store my 30 Minute Party Supplies – accessible but out of the way.
Others are attached with brass fasteners or glued on. I make them on my computer using Microsoft Word and a favorite font. I then laminate them with self laminating sheets that I buy at the office supply store. This way they last longer and can be wiped clean.
To learn more on how I make my laminated labels, find them here.
You can tab the link to see the tutorial on how I made the Dog and Cat Food Containers.
5. Make it Pretty – Budget Update
Now that my pantry is customized, organized, and labeled I wanted to make it pretty, but had no budget to do it.
I like the white walls, but wanted to show you an easy way to add some color without the time and expense it would take to paint or removable wallpaper. This could be as permanent or as temporary as you want it to be.
I went to Walmart and bought 2 rolls of giftwrap and found 3 marked down rolls of black ribbon – exactly the amount I needed to add to the edge of the shelves with silver tacks that I had. When that happens I always say to myself that is was meant to be. Cost: Under $10
I attached the giftwrap to the back wall for a pop of pattern and color. I would have loved to have added trim molding to the edge of each shelf, but I am thrilled with my budget ribbon version.
I trimmed the edge of each shelf with ribbon and silver tacks. Ribbon can be added to any shelf in your home for a little luxe.
Look around your home – bookshelves, linen closets, any shelf. It makes a nice inexpensive option in place of decorative molding.
When I tire of the pattern on the paper, I can easily remove it and I am back to my classic white walls.
- To attach the gift wrap to the walls, I simply cut each piece to the size of the back of each shelf.
- I then attached each section to the wall with GlueDots that scrapbookers use. It was very easy! I didn’t use a lot of them – only a few to hold it up. Worked perfectly.
I store mostly food and party supplies in my pantry, but I also store extra dinnerware, trays, cookbooks, candles, and all of my pitchers.
I also always keep a bottle of wine wrapped and ready to go to give as a hostess gift when my hubby and I are invited to an impromptu get-together.
Just a plain bag that I gussied up with some ribbon and a vintage earring. Ready to grab and go.
So I may not have a big walk-in room pantry anymore, but after planning, organizing, labeling, and adding a touch of pattern – I do have a pantry that I am very happy with.
Want More Pantry Organizing Ideas?
- Check out how I transformed a very small pantry closet to hold the maximum amount of pantry staples without the need of power tools.
Do you have a large cabinet or closet that can be transformed in your house? If not, how do you store your food stuff – any tips or tricks that help you stay organized in the kitchen?