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Tackling My Next DIY Project…The Small Pantry

After taking a break the past few months from doing big projects around my house, I started one this week.

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

Meet my pantry closet.  She is small, but I am determined to make her shine.

how to paint over stained louvered doors

You may remember when I painted the stained brown trim and louvered doors, white.

Small pantry closet makeover

My small pantry is not a walk-in style pantry, but a small closet right off my kitchen in the hallway that runs between my studioffice, hallway of darkness, and the foyer.

It is teeny compared to the pantry in my previous house that I wrote about here: How I Transformed a Coat Closet Into a Pantry

We made this pantry by adding onto and doubling the size of a single door coat closet that was in the mudroom. It made for one easy accessible and organized space that stored quite a bit.

I even covered the walls in gift wrap one year to change the look.

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

Back to present day in the lake house.

There is no way to expand this small pantry, but I am going to restyle it to make it work for me, both functionally as well as visually. Gotta make things pretty :-)  There is HVAC housing on the left hand side that has to stay.  I have learned to live with it as it can’t be moved.

The first change will be removing the bi-fold door and adding a 24″- wide solid wood white door in its place. We may need to cut the sides of the door to fit the door opening since the opening is smaller than 24″ inches. Power tools will help us to customize it. Once the new door is in…


Photo credits: Custom rack – Unknown | Mass made rack: Nina Hendrick

…I plan to add something like one of these racks on the back of the door to hold canned goods and more.  I am not sure which way I will go yet, but having storage on the door will practically feel like I have doubled the space. :-)

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

As far as making this small pantry closet visually more appealing, I plan to remove the rest of the yellow and white contact paper on the shelves that was left by the previous owner.  Then paint the shelves or install new paper.

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

I store mostly can and dry goods in the closet. Right now they are a jumbled mess. I need to find shelf racks and organizers that will fit. Adding these will make seeing and getting items in and out easier. I have a few from my previous pantry, but need more.

Pantry Organizing and storage ideas

As for lighting, there are a few puck lights that do help at night to see inside, but they are not ideal. I need to find a better way to add light.

Making the pantry closet over is not a huge project, but one that will surely make a difference.  The hardest part of the project is going to be getting the new wood door home.

When we lived in Pennsylvania, there was a Lowes about a mile away. Getting big items home was easy or we took a few trips.  Here in SC, Lowes and Home Depot are a 25 minute ride on the interstate. We usually wait until we need a lot of supplies and then rent a small U-Haul. For one door though, this seems like an unnecessary expense. Instead we will put the top on Ed’s car down and strap the door into the back seat.  I hope the temps stay warm or we will be in for one chilly ride home. :-)

Small Pantry Organizing Ideas

It was fun while browsing online and in magazines for inspiration. I was dreaming big, but found many ideas that could be incorporated into a my small pantry closet.

The Lily Pad Cottage Butler's Pantry door

Even though I can’t add a rolling door to my pantry closet,  I love the rolling door on this one that Kelly designed for her new house over at the Lily Pad Cottage. If there is wall space on one side of your door, you can easily replace an existing door with a rolling door.  They are not hard to install.


Interior Crowd

This one is pretty sweet, too.  I love chalkboards in a kitchen.  They make the space instantly feel warm and homey. I would like to add one to my closet in some way or form.

Dreamy walk-in pantries

 The Kitchn

This pantry is a bigger than my closet, but I like the fact that it has a counter in it! It is a mix between a butler’s and a food pantry in one.  The bi-fold doors are pretty nice too. :-)

Pencil and Paper Pantry

Pencil & Paper Co.

I love the clean lines of this pantry, but I always wonder what happens to the actual box of cereal, crackers, or whatever when all of the contents doesn’t fit into one of these pretty and labeled glass canisters. Do they have a storage area for boxes that still have contents in them somewhere else?

What inspires me about this pantry though is the high level of organization. What’s not to like, right?  I love the slide-out drawers. I would like to add these to my closet, but sadly, my closet opening is narrower than the closet itself. Sliding drawers would not be able to extend past the door.


Pantry Labels

I know you have seen these labels designed by Jo at Zuer Designs and Cyndy over at The Creativity Exchange.  I love them and just want to eat them up. :-)  They definitely add the pretty factor to a pantry of any size.

Free printable labels to use around your home to help you stay organized

I may use some of them in a different way for my pantry using opaque labels like these .


Here is a great idea for a small closet pantry like mine. Placing a Lazy Susan at the front of a shelf will help corral a few smaller and frequently used items. I like the wire mesh stacking drawers in this photo, too.

pantry organizing ideas that use clear bins and containers

Photo: The Container Store

Currently I use woven baskets to store like items, but after looking at many pantry photos I am thinking that clear see-through containers may be better than using the baskets. They will allow me to see everything inside at a glance.

Large handled storage bins

I like these colorful handled and stacking containers.  It looks like they would make it easy to pull out items like flour and sugar from the closet, plus visually… I love the colors. :-)

There is a quite a lot of pantry inspiration to be found and after viewing quite a lot of it, I have come up with a plan using some of the ideas I have gathered. My goal is to make my small pantry closet the best it can possibly be and… of course, all done on a budget.

I will share the reveal with you as soon as I have it completed.

Do you have a pantry?

What do you use to help you keep it organized?

Pantry Organization Product Resources:

Clear Bins and Containers

Back of the Door Rack

Large Handled Storage Bins

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    1. Hi Lisa – For my pantry makeover, I replaced the bifold doors and added a 24″ wide solid wood door so we could add a large organizing rack to the inside of the door. I am not sure if you saw the AFTER post. You can read that post here: http://bit.ly/314VxBh

      The bifold doors came with the house so I don’t have a source for them. They were stained a dark wood tone that I painted white. If you need a set of 24″ wide bifold doors, here is one that I found: https://amzn.to/3cXmm0D

      You can also check Lowes and Home Depot as they sell traditional sizes of bifold doors.

  1. Wow, Thanks! This gives me an ingenious idea! As a person like me who really loves to arrange and organize stuff and obviously hates mess, this one is a must!

  2. Could you take out most of the shelves and build narrower shelving – sort of U-shape in the interior? Then you could do your measuring for your boxes, containers, etc. to decide the height and width. The bottom shelves could be deeper for your appliances, dog and cat food, etc. The idea for the solid door with extra shelving is such a great idea!

  3. Even if your door is narrower than shelves, pullout shelves might make sense because you get easy access to the backs of every shelf. We have pullouts in base cabinets, and I’m not sure how happy I’d be with them if I couldn’t look down at the contents.

    Our pantry has wire shelving, which means I can look up through the shelves to see what’s hiding on the top shelf before I haul out the stepstool.

    No matter what organization system you use, though, none comes with automatic re-organization and cleaning the pantry needs to get done—far more frequently than I get around to it. It takes what feels like an hour just to remove everything and hours more to sort, toss, clean, and replace what’s getting kept. It’s a good snowy day project, and those days are coming.

  4. I know your pantry will look great when it’s done and can’t wait to see your after photos. Your projects have given me inspiration many times! Those labels are charming, but I feel that they add a bit of visual chaos in that photo where there are so many of them. The photo above that one with the baskets and clear containers looks cleaner and I bet it would be easier to see what you have. My two cents…and worth only that! ?

  5. I have a small kitchen so my late husband helped out with building a cabinet in our stairwell to the basement.. This is my pantry. It works and I appreciated the extra space, but I sure wish we had room for a real pantry, even a small closet pantry.
    The ideas you posted are great and I’m sure you will come up with something really terrific.

  6. I’m lucky and have two pantries. A small one in the kitchen and a larger one in the laundry room. I use racks on the doors to store spices, storage bags, boxed papers, i.e. waxed, aluminum foil, plastic wrap. I highly recommend using the space on the inside of your door. Like you said it doubles your storage ability. My problem space right now is my linen closet. It is narrow and deep which means “items” get lost in the deep abyss. I need to check out the linen closet organizational tips on the internet. Do you have any good ideas for organizing a linen closet? Vikki in VA

  7. Hi Diane,
    We recently did a pantry makeover, by installing slide out baskets, and replacing our door with saloon style doors. Our pantry is a walk-in style with shelves on both sides when you walk in, but it had one major hurdle. After we had A/C installed and rerouted the return inside the pantry under one of the shelves on the left side, the louvered door (we replaced the solid pantry door) didn’t allow enough airflow into the HVAC system. So, we opted to have saloon doors installed. We love them. They stay open either inside the pantry or into the kitchen, and now that the doors are half the width of the original pantry door, we have more room to walk in our “corridor” style kitchen. As for the slide out pantry baskets, they keep everything very accessible, and since they are a bit narrower than the pantry shelf, we have extra room on the side for plastic wrap, and other longer and narrow items.
    I like the idea of “decorating” the shelves or back wall with printed paper, wallpaper or other… food for thought.
    Thanks for your blog – still enjoy getting inspiration/ideas from reading your posts.

  8. Count me as another that is eager to see what you come up with.
    I’m hoping more maps!!
    No pantry for me. We have to store everything in the basement.

  9. Hi Diane, I can’t wait to see your After photos. You always have such clever and interesting ideas. Thanks for the links above, too. I just might be interested in those large handled storage bins. Have a great weekend!

  10. Looking forward to seeing how you organize this little pantry. I need to reorganize mine and move some things around.
    i think clear bins are great. but you could definitely still use your baskets for those overstocks, paper towels or whatever doesnt stack neatly.

  11. Oh, so many good ideas, and I love those labels! I’ve not yet evolved my organization enough for labels–I still change my mind and rearrange a lot. So for now I use a red chalk marker to write on my glass canisters. I can wipe the label off when I change things yet again. I look forward to seeing what you do.

  12. I’m very lucky to have a good sized pantry with a light. The shelves are deep enough to hold all the canned goods etc, but not so deep that we can’t see what we have. I also use lazy Susan’s for some items and that’s helpful.
    On the door I have the wire rack that you featured. Really great for all my spices and oils.
    Up on the top shelf are items that aren’t used everyday and extra napkins/paper plates.
    I can’t wait to see how your pantry turns out! Time consuming but will be worth it once it’s done ?

  13. My laundry room is 6×20 and was empty except for the utility tub, washer, and dryer when we moved in 20 years ago. I designed a pantry with a counter, eventually got front-loading appliances (extends the counter space), and actually have more storage space out there than in my kitchen. I use lazy susans and plastic baskets (picked up from rummage sales and thrift stores) for organization; the bottom shelf in the tall pantry cabinet has a roll-out drawer on it. It’s still a bit messy and overloaded, but although we’re almost empty nesters, mentally I’m still in feeding-several-growing-boys mode and probably stockpile too much! I also use mason jars (my own new ones and my grandmother’s from 80 years ago) to store dry beans and custom mixes for things like doughnuts and dog biscuits.

  14. I also have a closet-sized pantry in my kitchen, it had a full-size door that I removed and replaced with a louvered bi-fold that I modified – I removed the hinges connecting the two panels into a bi-fold, creating two narrow doors and mounted them like French doors. Love it.

    Inside the pantry itself, I removed all the permanent shelving and installed rails and brackets for movable, custom shelving. I can change the size, height and location of the shelving as I need to. 8″ deep shelves are at the very top holding my crockpot, steamer; I bought an Ikea Algot storage unit on casters, it sits on one side of my pantry holding the Kitchenaid mixer on top, baking supplies in the two top drawers, potatoes and onions in the bottom two.

    I installed narrow, movable wire shelving from Rubbermaid along one side wall, wire shelf risers, 3-tier risers – all movable, reconfigurable accessories to make the most of the space.

  15. I love my lazy susans in the pantry. I couldn’t find the right size so we picked up lazy susan mechanisms at the hardware store and used E6000 glue to attach them to a mixture of vintage round trays I found at thrift stores for just a few dollars a piece. And you can never go wrong with glass containers – you can see right away when you need to refill and keeps the items much fresher than if they were stored in their original containers.

  16. I’ve learned from YOU to get racks, jars, storage bins, etc. from the Dollar Tree! I got a wire rack for cans – my husband does most of the shopping so we always have too much of everything! He can’t leave a bargain in the store. We have always used door racks for bottles of bbq sauce, salad dressings, syrup; floor baskets for potatoes/onions. i’m about ready to get some more wire racks to double up cans w/o them falling over. I use baskets for packets of mixes. Spices are in cabinet next to where I cook – they’re a mess! huge containers of stuff I use a lot of, small bottles of regular things. I need to weed out old ones! I like those tiered shelves and lazy susans. You mentioned what to do with the left over cereals that don’t fit in the pretty containers – I just force myself to buy bigger containers that might not be as pretty. I have canning jars from 40 years ago that I put flour, sugar, rice, etc. in. Those are big enough. I am not sure if those are still available.

  17. If you have a Container Store in your area, a visit there will tell you everything you need to know about storage for your pantry. For an organizer like yourself (and me) it is heaven on earth. You also can visit online but it’s not nearly as satisfying. However, you may find the things you need – and new ideas that no one on Pinterest has thought of yet. They have items for every size closet/pantry – and those back of the door wire racks – not all require a lot of inside space – are a lifesaver. I don’t have to house food for a family since it’s just me, but I do love to cook, so my on the door spice rack leaves a lot of space for other things on the shelves. Nothing better than a tidy and organized pantry.

  18. I’m sure most of us don’t want to hear this, but we store way more stuff in our pantries than we really need. I gave up my nice-sized hallway pantry to add more room, style, and organization to my laundry room. In return I got a floor to ceiling cabinet next to the refrigerator. It was so hard at first, but as I used up my excess stuff, I realized the smaller version was just the right size. It’s deep, so pull out shelves were a necessity. Even if you can’t arrange for a pull out the entire length of your shelf, you can install one that fills part of the left-to-right space. Use the surrounding space on the shelf for larger items that are easily seen. The back of the door systems are nice, but need space to nest into the pantry. Love the idea photos. Whatever you come up with will be awesome and amazing! Can’t wait to see your finished version!

  19. We just moved into a house with a small pantry with bifold doors:( Now I need to get down to business and fix ours!
    Thank you

  20. Diane, your blog is one of my favorites, I have learned so much. One day we will be downsizing and I’m getting ideas to fit my craft ROOM, into something smaller! If I start now, I’ll be ahead of the game!

  21. I don’t have one; always said it would be a requirement in my next house. However, I live alone, so I really don’t need one. Before, I made one out of my linen closet, back when I was ‘extreme couponing.’ Mother asked me who I was buying all this stuff for :-). I like using lazy Susan everywhere–refrigerator, spices, oils, etc. I also like the OXO containers. Mother had problems opening containers. The popup containers worked well for her, and now me and my daughter in the future with carpel tunnel issues. I can’t wait to see what you do. Food for thought–those little round push led lights. Usually you can get three in a pack.

  22. Ha, I thought I was the only person in the world that would try to make my pantry pretty and pour the dog biscuits into a jar and end up with more biscuits than container and then be in a quandary what to do with the extras? and I would invariably have pretty glass containers that were empty and boxes on the counter, lol.

  23. The LED light strips are what I’m planning for my small pantry. I read that light strips can be hot glued, so I plan to hot glue them to the inside door molding, top to bottom. The electrician is coming next week to wire power for me. In our area, anything electrical inside a closet must be on a door-activated switch to automatically shut off when the door is closed, so I won’t need the motion sensor ones, but it’s cool to know they exist!

    About sliding shelves…if you have to replace the door anyway, is it possible to widen the doorway and install a bigger door? You probably couldn’t get it quite as wide as the interior, but perhaps it could be close enough to justify losing a small amount of space on either side of the shelves and have those pull outs.

  24. I have hated my small pantry for 20 years even trying different ideas. No remodeling because of ductwork here either. I look forward to seeing what solutions you use in case any work for me. I don’t even care if it’s pretty! I just want to find things and be able to know what’s in there so that I don’t end up with 6 cans of diced tomatoes!

    1. Hi Linda – Your comment made me laugh out loud. I, too have 6 cans of diced tomatoes because I think I don’t have any when I go grocery shopping, but of course there were 5 in the back. :-) I hope I can design the organization in my pantry so this scenario doesn’t happen anymore.

  25. I’m excited to see what you do. I need extra lighting myself…. in more than one spot.

    1. Hi Sheryll – I need it for more than one spot. Finding something that will illuminate the entire closet will be nice. It is hard since a light from above is only going to light the top shelf or you would need to install glass or clear shelves. :-)

  26. I have a big pantry but it’s not in the kitchen…it’s in the downstairs laundry room. (It was the same in our former home.) Makes for good amount of stair-stepping throughout the day :-)

    I’m glad I saw this post. Gives me ideas for much needed organization in my cupboards where all the spices are.

    1. Hi Connie – So happy to hear that you got a few ideas from my post. This time of year it feels enjoyable to organize a pantry, just like animals that look for places to store their nuts for winter. :-) Enjoy organizing your cupboards.

  27. I have two pantries….I would NEVER EVER move to a house that didn’t have at least one good size pantry. Now….I’m frugal so I find a lot of my bins/baskets/etc at the dollar store and I use lazy susans and spice rack stair step things (not sure what they are called but great for canned goods to see behind. I LOVE an organized pantry.

    1. Hi Sharon – After having a wonderful pantry, a house is just not a house without one. You are lucky that you have two. I think the step racks are called tiered racks? I have a few white wire ones I bought years ago. They do work well to lift things up in the back of a shelf. The dollar store is the best for finding organizers. It can be hit or miss, but when you hit, you can save a lot of money since organizers can get pricey when you need multiples of them.

  28. Hi Diane!
    I have the same problem with my pantry!
    Looks a lot like yours!
    So I am so happy that by doing yours, I can make mine organized and pretty!

    1. Hi Nancy – Even though Pinterest and the internet are filled with large and walk-in pantries, I think the size of both ours is …. real life. :-)

    1. Hi Glenda – Thanks for the link. These light strips may be exactly what I need. The price is right, too. It is funny how we put up with things for years. I bet the first thing you said after the lights were installed… Why didn’t we do this sooner? :-)