Closets | Free Printable Labels | Home Organizing | Kitchens | Room Makeovers

Small Pantry Closet Makeover

Before and after small pantry closet makeover. How to make a small closet into a functioning pantry on a budget and basic DIY skills. 


I finally am going to show you how I made over the small pantry closet right off my kitchen.  In my previous house I had a large double door pantry that fit everything from big bags of pet food, canned goods to paper products. It held everything I needed to buy from the supermarket and more.

I was a little spoiled by it and when we moved to the lake house, I missed having that large and highly organized pantry. I loved that I could open it up and see everything at a glance.  The problem with the lake house small pantry closet was that it only contained deep shelves that made finding anything that migrated to the back almost impossible. Plus visually it was dark and dated with yellow plaid shelf paper.

As with everything I DIY, this makeover was very budget friendly. The most expensive item I needed to purchase was the solid wood door that replaced the bi-fold louvered door. I even made a sign for the door to say “Pantry” to coordinate with the signs on the doors in the “hallway of darkness” that is just around the corner from this small pantry closet.  Here is the post on how I made the sign to look like a French enameled one.

Small Pantry Closet – BEFORE MAKEOVER

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

Here is how the pantry looked BEFORE – The small closet had a louvered door that I painted white the first year we lived in the house. It worked, but was underperforming since the door itself could not hold any storage in the way of racks or shelves.

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

The inside shelves were well spaced, but the shelf paper was old and ripped. The wall paint inside was yellowed with age. I wanted clean, light and bright.  I looked into removing the existing shelves to add roll-out shelves, but that was too costly and I don’t have the carpentry skills to make them.  I also would have lost about 6″ of storage space on each side of each shelf as roll-outs would only be as wide as the door opening. The inside of the closet is 12″ wider.  I came up with an easy and affordable option that I will explain further down in the post.

First up was painting the inside of the closet using Sherwin Williams Pure White in semi-gloss to lighten it up. I then removed the shelf paper and replaced it with white vinyl contact paper.

Replacing Bi-Fold Door with a Solid Door

Adding a Storage Rack to the Door

Next up was replacing the bi-fold louvered door with a solid wood 6-panel door. I painted it using the same paint I used to makeover my kitchen cabinets. A hollow 6-panel door would have been about $70 cheaper, but….

… the ClosetMaid wire door rack we were adding to the inside of the door, needed a solid door to hold the weight of the items that will be stored on it.

Adding the door rack also doubles the amount of food we can store in this small pantry.

I have linked to all the products I used for the makeover at the end of the post.

The wire door rack was very easy to install with screws on the new door. We did have to make one modification so it would fit the width of the door.

We had to cut one vertical rail that is screwed into the door so it would not be blocked by the doorknob. Once it was cut, we made sure the holes below the doorknob that hold the wire shelves were even with the vertical rail on the opposite side of the rack.

I was going to add stick-on light strips that a reader had mentioned she used. I bought them, but where I wanted to place them to light up the entire closet, they didn’t allow the door to close.  I was not too upset about this though since I was surprised to find after painting the walls inside and lining the shelves in white vinyl, the closet brightened up quite a bit.

Even with all the items stored inside the closet is quite bright now.

Pantry Closet Makeover-

The shelves on the door rack can be easily moved and adjusted to your needs. I had to place each shelf on the door rack so that when the door is closed the bottom of each wire shelf is above the wood shelves in the closet.

Do You Need Large Pantry Ideas?

If you are serious about finding a way to store a whole lot of food in an organized way then you may find inspiration from the large pantry I created in my previous house. You can find it here:  How to Make a Large Double Door Pantry

How I Organized My Small Pantry Closet

Pantry-Closet-Makeover-removeable-bins

I mentioned earlier that I looked into adding roll-out shelves. I didn’t do this, but did find an alternative that I am happy with. I used various sizes of clear organizing bins with handles to store similar items in. When I need something in one, I can simply slide the bin out. Also, since the bins are clear, it makes it easy to see what they hold.

To help me keep the bins organized, instead of labeling each bin, I decided to use clear shelf label holders. This way if I change the contents in one of the bins, I don’t have to remove a label on the bin.

Using the shelf label holders, the item labels can be simply moved, swapped out and re-sued.

The clear label holders will work on a standard shelf thickness of  7/8″.  My shelves were a tad bit thicker, but the holders still fit over the edges of the shelves with a little effort.

Pantry Closet Before and After Makeover

I reattached the two puck LED lights I had before. I figured since I had them, I would still use them, although since the makeover, I have not needed to turn them on since the white paint brighten the closet up quite a bit.

Pantry storage idea

I also used the label holders on the edge of the canned goods shelf and placed one in front of each 3-tiered rack that holds each canned good item by category. The tiered racks allow me to see even the items placed in the back of the pantry.

The shelf label holders can be moved or slid along the edge of a shelf where ever you want to place them. To remove one, you simply pull it off.

Below in the post I have two free printables of the labels I made to fit into the holders.

On the floor, I have two cardboard tubes where I stuff and store plastic supermarket bags. They come in handy at times. I have had the tubes for quite some time and even used them in the large pantry in my precious house. They keep the bags neat, tidy and easy to retrieve. On top of the HVAC vent I placed foils and wraps.

The makeover did not take long to complete I did need Ed’s help to hang the door, but the rest of the makeover was simple DIY. Total cost was approx: $300.00. The solid wood door alone used up half of my budget.

Pantry sign on door

Free Printable Pantry Labels to Fit Clear Shelf Label Holders:

sheet-of-shelf-labels

Click link to print: Clear Shelf Label Holder LABELS  – Filled In

Click link to print: Clear Shelf Label Holder LABELS – BLANK

  1. Print out either sheet of labels. One is blank that you can fill in yourself with a marker. The second sheet of labels has basic pantry items all ready filled in.
  2. Cut labels out with scissors or paper cutter.
  3. Place in label holder and place over the edge of shelf.

How to Make Labels for Wire Back of Door Shelves

For the wire shelves on the door rack I needed to use a different type if label.  What I found worked was a simple strip of paper with the name of the item written on.

supplies needed:

  • Computer/Printer/Paper
  • Self-Seal Laminating Pouches or sheets
  • Scissors or paper cutter
  • Small Brass/Silver Fasteners – found in the scrapbooking aisle in the craft store.
  1. To make the wire door rack shelf labels, I simply typed out the list of item names I needed on my computer using Microsoft Word.  I left a space above and below each item name in my list as I was typing  them in to the document so that when I cut them out there was some extra white space on the top and bottom.  I printed the sheet out and then used only the sticky side of a Self-Seal Laminating sheet to protect the paper.
Pantry shelf labels

2. To attach:  I marked the center of the rack with tape. I then found the center of a label strip and centered the label on the front of the wire shelf. I wrapped the ends of the label strip around the 4th wire from the center on each side.

3. On the label strip, I marked a dot where to place the silver fasteners. I removed the label strip from the shelf keeping the ends that wrapped around the wire, folded as I punched a hole in the ends of the label.  When I unfolded the ends, you will see two holes.

4. I placed the label strip back onto the shelf and attached with the fasteners by lining up the holes and placed a fastener in.

Sharing this post over at Tip Me Tuesday on Tip Junkie

Small pantry closet organizing ideas that are doable on a budget. Plus free printable labels to use to label and organize the contents of your pantry.

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39 Comments

  1. This is such a great use of a closet. Thanks so much for posting. I currently have a pantry. I’m thinking of buying a home that doesn’t have one, but it does have a coat closet right by the kitchen. This would really help! Many thanks, Diane!

  2. Your pantry looks great! Love the idea of putting racks into the back of the pantry door. Everything was very organized and I can’t wait to see more of your home makeovers.

  3. Very late comment, what can I say, I’m a late bloomer. I bought Elfa Mesh for my pantry door. It’s going to move to the linen closet where it can contain taller items like large shampoo bottles and mouthwash etc. which are crowding under my sink. I discovered I cannot see what’s in the baskets. The wire is much better for a pantry. I found three unopened cream of tartars that due to their short height I never realized I had.

    We had, instead of bifold door, two hollow cabinet doors, one over the other. There was one shelf that came all the way out to the face frame of this two door monstrosity. When I scour Zillow for ideas I see every single house in my floor plan had replaced the cabinets but not this pantry. I decided to be a pioneer and rip it off totally. A new solid door $$$ but better storage that can hold weight.

    So glad I (re)found this post. Now, back to the mount Vesuvius of spices.

  4. Each time you do a project I think- “Now that is the best one .She won’t be able to top this!” and every time you do.
    I really like this. It is amazing how much of a difference lighter paint makes in reflecting light.

      1. Hi, Diane. I love your small pantry redo! I also have a small pantry that I want to look nicer and more organized. When I clicked on the link for the self-adhesive vinyl for covering the shelves, a metal pitcher on Amazon pops up. I’m not sure what white vinyl will work with my stained wood shelves. I need something opaque enough so that the stained wood does not show through. Can you make a suggestion for that?
        Thank you!

  5. Re-doing our pantry is on my list for this year, so I will be pinning this for future reference. Thanks for sharing so many fabulous pantry ideas all in one place! ?

  6. January is the time to clean, and organize, and straighten, and spruce. Your ideas are amazing to get you in the mood to tackle your cluttered pantry.

  7. This is one of my favorite projects on your blog!

    I wish I had a small closet to convert into a pantry, but our house is so quirky and small that I have been using a 5 ft bookcase for my pantry in our tiny kitchen. :)

  8. For those who don’t want to/can’t change out to a solid core door…check out the Container Store Elfa over the door options. It grabs the door on the top AND bottom, so it’s very stable and the brackets are VERY small/discrete on the outside of the door.

    Thanks for your shelf organizing ideas. I think that’s what’s missing from the pantry in our new home. It’s driving me crazy and seems very chaotic!

    1. Hi Jen – Thanks for taking the time to share the info about the Elfa from The Container Store. I know readers love options! It took me two years to come up with a do-able and affordable way to make my pantry work. The new door and rack made it all come together.

  9. I just ordered the shelves from your link, they are perfect for my pantry. Until we measured the pantry we hadn’t noticed the shelves are actually recessed several inches, so there is plenty of room. No more scrounging around on those bottom shelves! Thanks for another great post with so many good ideas!

      1. Hubby installed them over the weekend – we can’t believe how much more space we have in the pantry, and it ‘s great to have often-used items so accessible on the inside of the door. Thanks for showing us this great idea for the pantry!

  10. I am curious, did you not lose space in the shelf area, by attaching the wire racks on the door?
    It looks wonderful, you are inspiring me to do mine!

    1. Hi Sonia – I only lost about an inch of shelf area along the front of each shelf where the door rack goes over each of the closet shelves. The depth of the door frame allows for the depth of the racks, so no real loss of shelf space for my closet.

      If you plan to add a door rack, check the measurement from the edge of the closet shelf to the end of the door jam. This will help you determine if the rack will touch the shelves and not allow the door to close or if the wire door rack shelves will take up space over each in-closet shelf. The more inches between the edge of the in-closet shelves and the end of the door frame the better. Some door frames are very deep and adding a door rack won’t cause any closing or overlap issues at all.

  11. Love how this pantry turned out and your labels … Thank you for allowing us to download

  12. Your pantry looks wonderful! So bright and perfectly organized to utilize every inch of space! I like the font you chose for the labels. This has motivated me to revamp mine! Thanks so much for sharing how you did it and taking the time to provide all of the helpful photos. Great job!!

    1. Hi Linda – It usually lean meat, veggies, soup, stew and a salad. I don’t enjoy cooking, but know if I want to eat healthy, I must embrace it. :-) Having the organized pantry is helping me stock what I need to make recipes I find in magazines, cookbooks, and online. If I ever won the lottery, the first thing I would do would be to hire someone to make all our meals. Until then, I gotta keep organized, plan and make the effort to make dinner.

  13. Your pantry looks amazing! You truly have a talent for making the best use of what you have. I also have the closet maid shelves on my closet-turned-pantry door, and they hold a fantastic amount of stuff!

    1. Hi Judy – I am so happy with the door rack, like you mentioned, it does hold a fantastic amount of stuff, plus I love that when I open the closet now, I see a wide view of items spread out over the two areas. Makes organizing and seeing what is available at a glance easy.

  14. What a great idea, Diane! I love the bins. My late husband built a cabinet in the stairways to our basement so that I could have more storage space. The only problem is it is hard to reach anything in the back and sometimes I don’t know what I have. The bins and label holders would be great for this. Thank you for the printables too. ?

    You have motivated me to revamping my cabinet!

    1. H Mary-Jean – Your built-in cabinet sounds very nice. I am sure the bins will help you to organize your items so that you will be able to see everything or at least slide a bin out to see what you have. Not being able to see what I had because I couldn’t see what was in the back of each shelf was the biggest reason I wanted to makeover the pantry. I can’t even count how many times I bought something I didn’t think we had, only to find it hidden behind something else a few days later after buying a new one. :-)

  15. Isn’t it great to have everything in its place? My pantry is one of my “must have organized” areas and I especially am fond of the door mounted rack. Mine holds all of my 32 spice bottles and I don’t know what I’d do without it. I do need to get some of the plastic containers with handles since I have a tendency to forget just what canned tomato products and canned beans I have (I make a LOT of soup) and end up buying things that are just in behind something else in the back. Great job – and your new door is beautiful.

    1. Thanks Susie – I enjoy doing major before and afters, but sometimes it is the little home improvement projects like making a pantry more functional that have more impact making our day-to-day lives easier and run more efficiently.

  16. Love the change…when we move to my current home 20 years ago, my husband purchased the door mounted wire rack for our very small and dark pantry, and it’s so helpful.

  17. Looks fantastic so fresh & bright! I’m painting my pantry doors soon, I just finished painting my kitchen and need a break. But I’m not tackling the inside, though its dark with old laminate stapled inside. One day! I just don’t have the energy for that right now. I have a question for you – how do the puck LED lights turn on & off? Are they screwed into the side?

    1. Hi Holly – Thanks. You have the option to attach the puck lights to the wall using either adhesive tabs or screws. To turn the light on, you simply press the center of the light to turn on and off.

  18. Thanks Diane for these great ideas! I need to do the same in my pantry!
    Love all the white and NAVY blue!

    1. Hi Nancy – I have always gravitated to cool colors like blue, turquoise and purple. Paired with crisp white…LOVE! Navy and white is a color scheme that makes Ed feel comfortable, too. :-)