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Pantry Ideas & Types of Pantry Shelving Systems

Pantry Storage Systems To Take You Through the Holiday Season & Beyond:

It's hard to believe that fourth quarter is here and the end of the year is fast approaching. Soon, the indoor holiday entertaining season will be upon us in full force. No matter whether you are preparing a Thanksgiving feast for 50 people or hosting an intimate gathering of family and friends, food and drink is bound to be a major part of your entertainment scene. People may drop by unexpectedly. Last minute guests may be added to your dinner parties. You may be asked to bring something to a friend's home. If impromptu gatherings are part of your holiday tradition, a little planning in the pantry and some organized storage solutions can ensure that everything goes smoothly, allowing you to focus on your guests and enjoy the season to its fullest.

The key to easy, spontaneous entertaining is being organized and prepared. Knowing that you have a well stocked pantry full of quick and simple treats or beverages that can be dished up on a moments notice makes these opportunities easy and enjoyable, even when they are unplanned.

Of course, if you intend to keep extra foodstuffs and pantry items around, a good shelving and storage system goes a long way to keeping your kitchen neat, organized and ready for entertaining. There are many types of pantry shelving systems on the market, each with its own benefits and space requirements.

  1. The Walk-In Pantry: The walk-in pantry offers many advantages and a lot of space for every type of kitchen storage need. Just like any other walk-in closet, these pantries vary in size and amenities, but all consist of what is mainly an open shelving system behind a closed closet door. A large, well equipped walk-in pantry can eliminate the need for most other kitchen cabinetry, allowing for a more open kitchen space. Due to most kitchen storage being allocated to the walk-in pantry, window area in the kitchen can often be increased as there is no need for upper cabinets above the countertops, further enhancing the open space concept. A typical walk-in pantry will include storage for both food and cookware. A section with vertical tray dividers is essential for cookie sheets, broiler pans, muffin tins and large cutting boards. Many walk-in pantries will include counter space for simple food prep and appliances, further ensuring that the main kitchen remains clutter free and ready for entertaining. Part of every walk-in pantry solution usually includes a section of floor to ceiling shelves. This is the bones of the pantry system and can handle all of your storage needs from larger food containers, to canned items, to small appliances. Small packaged foodstuffs are best organized with pull-out pantry shelves that will keep all items visible and prevent small ingredients from getting lost in the back. The addition of pull-out wire baskets are a good solution for root vegetables, as long as you don't keep your potatoes and onions too close together.
  2. The Reach-In Pantry: Reach-in pantry systems can be just as convenient as the larger, walk-in pantry. They are built into the wall, usually feature open shelving, and are concealed by a door like a standard closet. If a home was not originally built with a separate room to house a pantry, it is often easier to find sufficient real estate for the addition of this type of pantry unit than for a walk-in pantry. A converted coat closet located near the kitchen door can make an excellent pantry area by removing the clothes rod and substituting in a quality pantry shelving system. Custom built-ins are certain to maximize every inch of space, and can be configured for the individual owner's needs. Place the smaller items that you use everyday at eye level. Large heavy appliances like bread machines should go on the bottom, while upper shelves are best allocated to infrequently used items, since you may need a step stool to access them. The same types of built-ins and pantry organizers as seen in the walk-in pantry can generally be used in a reach-in pantry.
    Watch this reach-in pantry remodel from start to finish.
  3. The Pantry Cabinet: The pantry cabinet is similar to the wardrobe closet for clothing in that it is built "outside the closet." It differs from standard kitchen cabinetry in that rather than a 24" base unit with a smaller 12"-13" deep cabinet above, pantry cabinets can be any depth and do not usually include food prep space in the form of a countertop. This type of pantry will have doors to conceal the items stored on its shelves. Systems that are at least 14" deep will feature the same types of pantry organizers as the walk-in and reach-in pantries discussed above — such as vertical tray dividers, pull-out shelves and baskets. Shallower units may be limited to shelves only due to the lack of availability of pull-outs in the narrower depths. The benefit of this style of pantry is that any open wall space can accommodate the addition of this type of unit. It adds a lot of storage to the kitchen while keeping the space neat in appearance due to the cabinet doors.
  4. Open Pantry Shelving Systems: Open pantry systems are the least expensive option. They are also the easiest to incorporate into an existing kitchen and demand the least amount of remodeling. They differ from standard wall unit shelving in that they consist of specially designed pull-out shelves, drawers and built-in organizers to hold both common foodstuffs, beverage bottles and cooking gear. The same pull-out wine racks, spice racks and tray organizers used on the more expensive systems can also be integrated into an open pantry shelving system. Because the items stored in this type of shelving are visible at all times in the Kitchen, open pantry shelving systems will benefit from having the foods stored on them removed from the original manufacturer's packaging and placed into attractive matching canisters or containers. No one really wants to look at a box of cereal or a bag of rice, but a beautiful glass jar that holds the food functions as both a decorative accessory in the room and a storage vessel for the food. Clear containers usually work best so that you can easily see what is inside.
  5. The Wine and Beverage Center Pantry: A complete separate pantry, or even just a few shelves, can be dedicated to wine and beverage storage. Special bottle holders and pull-out wine racks can be incorprated into any type of pantry system, ensuring the bottles are convenient to access and labels remain visible. Pantry wine centers typically store all the bottles in a horizontal postion to ensure the corks don't dry out. In addition to the pull-outs and racks, there are two types of wine cubes commonly incorporated into the wine center pantry. Wine cubbies will hold each each bottle in an individual cube designed to also block light from spoiling the wine, while x-shaped wine storage cubes allow many bottles to be stacked horizontally without rolling away or breaking. Wine pantries are best built out of direct sunlight in an area where temperatures range between 45° F and 65° F. Temperatures above 70° F will age a wine more quickly than is desirable, but as long as you intend to drink the wine relatively soon, it shouldn't pose too much of a problem. All of these solutions assume that you intend to drink your wine within a few years of purchase. If you are purchasing wines with the intent of aging them to maturity yourself, you need some type of professional grade storage facility — for most people this will be a cooling unit, as temperature, light and humidity control are important and most homes in the Chicago area do not have a space that will meet these requirements. A standalone cooling unit specifically designed for wine can be built into the wine and beverage center pantry, allowing those special bottles time to mature to perfection.

All pantry systems should be floor based construction due to the weight of the items stored on the shelves. Even pull-out racks need the support of a shelving system that is supported by the ground. Although modern floating shelves and cabinetry is attractive, it is not recommended for any type of quality pantry system.

Closet Works is Chicagolands' largest and most experienced provider of custom storage solutions. Since 1987, we have been helping homeowners by creating custom closets, pantries, office/guest rooms, wall units and more to help create a better, less stressful lifestyle. Great ideas to "Organize Your Life" and examples of our pantries and other custom organization systems can be found throughout our website. For more information on Closet Works call toll-free at 800-4-CLOSET (800-425-6738).

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typical reach-in pantry with pull-out shelves and racks for bottles
The Walk-In Pantry: This small walk-in pantry includes countertop space for food prep in addition to a complete pantry shelving system to handle all of this family's food storage needs. Pull-out shelves and wire baskets handle all of the small and awkwardly sized items. Floor to ceiling shelves take care of the rest of the storage.
See Project >

typical reach-in pantry with pull-out shelves and racks for bottles
The Reach-In Pantry: This traditional reach-in pantry design converted an under utilized utility closet off the kitchen into storage for food and kitchen gadgets in a hallway off the main kitchen. Now the homeowner has organized storage room for all of her cooking supplies.
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wardrobe style pantry cabinetry
The Pantry Cabinet: This wardrobe style pantry cabinetry installed in a breakfast nook provides shelving for all of the homes' food storage needs. It is a great solution to this open floor plan kitchen where there wasn't much upper cabinetry. The new pantry truly becomes the hub of the kitchen for food prep. The two walls surrounding the breakfast nook received custom pantry cabinetry, complete with space for an expresso machine, toaster and closed cabinets for foodstuffs.
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open pantry shelving system
Open Pantry Shelving System: This pantry shelving system designed for a kitchen corner includes all the all the pantry organization of the larger walk-in, reach-in, and cabinetry pantry systems. Pull-out wire baskets were included for root vegetables, along with pull-out bottle racks and shelves to organize the smaller or oddly shaped items. Note the use of canisters for rice and dried beans along with the numerous baskets that keep the food, which is essentially on display, functional, yet neat looking.
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open pantry shelving system
The Wine Center Pantry: This wine closet is essentially a walk-in pantry dedicated exclusively to wine storage. Individual cubbies were used as the main storage along with six X-shaped wine cubes. All keep the bottles in the preferred horizontal position. Located in a naturally cool, dry basement, this storage system holds 482 bottles of wine.
See Project >

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