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All You Need to Know When Designing a Walk-In Pantry for Your Kitchen Remodel

The nexus of your home is arguably the kitchen, where your family gathers to eat, entertain, and connect. All that time spent in the kitchen means it needs to be functional, beautiful, and clean. As kitchen designs become increasingly open and integrated, having an accessible, gorgeous, and convenient side space for food preparation and storage could be a dream come true. So why not make it so? Partner with a design-build expert to create the perfect walk-in pantry!

Partner with Experts

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Every successful renovation project uses a proven process from start to finish. Make sure you’re working with a design-build team that helps you create a vision of your ideal pantry: they should set priorities and expectations early, then take full responsibility for ensuring that everything is done right. That means everyone involved is responsible for the quality and totally invested in exceeding your expectations to ensure your pantry is completed on time and on budget.

Cooking, baking, planning, shopping, and entertaining becomes a breeze with your new pantry — but only if you take the first and most important step of working with your design-build team to consider your specific needs and identify your available space. Your ideal walk-in pantry should become a natural extension of your kitchen, with just the right size and layout, making it easy for you to instantly see everything you have, accessing it quickly and effortlessly.

Visualize & Plan

Let’s begin with the “Why?” so we can get the “How?” exactly right. Do you need a walk-in pantry to provide extra space for storage? Will you be storing just food, or household staples, too, such as cleaning and pet supplies? Do you plan on also using the pantry for food prep? Will you need countertop space, room for appliances? Answers to these questions help define the overall size and influence the pantry design and layout for optimal functionality and look.

Are you building a new home or remodeling your existing home? If you’re remodeling, the new space needs to be taken from somewhere, such as a nearby living room, hall closet, or part of your existing kitchen. Or perhaps you are planning an addition and the pantry will be accommodated into the new space. Either way, structural changes will be required, so you must work with your design team to ensure the integrity of the new space.

Size Matters

After you’ve identified your needs and factored-in the available space, you’re ready to define the best layout. Distance between shelving should be at least 12” to accommodate most dry goods and supplies. Verify with your designer that all of your shelving will be adjustable to your specific needs. If you’re including countertops for prep and additional storage, then give at least 18” for headroom. Including appliances such as a refrigerator or microwave will require more demands in terms of space and electrical circuitry. Adding a prep sink is a luxury feature you will enjoy for years to come, just ensure you allow enough working space right and left of the sink just as you would in your kitchen.

Shelf Talker

After you’ve worked out the size and layout of your walk-in pantry, the next step is shelving. Don’t take these for granted, since they are the backbone of a functional, beautiful, and safe pantry. They, therefore, need to be strong enough to hold your heaviest items and seamlessly match your design. Shelving should be ¾” thick with runs no longer than 36 inches wide without additional support. Where countertops are not present, floor to ceiling built-in shelves will be a must; and, of course, these shelves should also be adjustable to accommodate various supplies.

One common shelving mistake is making them deep to maximize storage, but the exact opposite is recommended since narrower shelves are much more accessible. Scaling shelf depth depending on height is also a good idea: the higher the shelf the shallower it should be to ensure you have a clear line of sight. Designers recommend 16” deep shelves at your feet, 14” at eye level, narrowing to 10” above.

Highs & Lows

Getting your shelf height right is also very important to ensure everything fits. Scaling these from the top to the bottom adds convenience: place the larger and taller (usually heavier) items at your feet below, and leave the smaller (and usually lighter) items at eye level and above. Storage bins of various sizes help keep things organized on shelves: whether metal, plastic, wood, or glass, make sure they fit your needs and also the design style you’re trying to create.

Shelves also come in various forms, including open, pull-out, and closed cabinets. These styles give you tremendous functional and creative flexibility, so explore all your options. Open shelves offer immediate visibility and access, while pull-outs are wonderful for displaying cookware collections and holding appliances. Closed cabinets are ideal for things that you’d like to hide, such as cleaning supplies and other items you want out of a child’s reach.

Form & Function

After you’ve designed the layout and chosen the shelving, countertops, and other fixtures, you’ll need to work with your team to choose the materials. In terms of style, you’ll definitely want your new walk-in pantry to become an extension of your main kitchen, and therefore have finishes that match or complement them. That said, options abound that are creative yet stay in budget.
Since most walk-in pantries aren’t fully open by design, you don’t always need to use the same kitchen design materials, such as expensive stone or custom cabinetry. Instead, you can use laminates of various colors and butcher block is an amazingly economical choice for pantry countertops. By blending great taste with economy, you can create a gorgeous, functional, and sturdy walk-in pantry for your family.

Decor & Lighting

Paint, wallpaper, and tile can turn an otherwise humdrum walk-in pantry into a gorgeous extension to your kitchen. Shaking things up by painting the walls and ceiling alluring colors in various combinations is exciting and transforms a “pantry” into a fun and functional experience. Wallpaper and ceramic tile can add character and blend with your home’s style. Work with your design team and let the creative juices flow!

As any interior design expert will tell you, lighting can make or break a good design. Work with your team to choose the fixtures that look the best, fit the style, and provide vibrant illumination, enabling you to instantly find what you’re looking for. If your walk-in pantry is large enough and has specialized areas, adding dimmable task lighting will add dimension to your walk-in pantry experience.
LED lighting is a newer, flexible, and economical option. Motion sensor LEDs will automatically turn on when you open your walk-in pantry door; strip LEDs are perfect for shelving units and other areas where you want focused lighting. On the other side of the tech extreme is natural lighting, afforded by an outside window or skylight above. Either way, make sure your new walk-in pantry is well illuminated and comfortable.

Small and Large Appliances

Extra space for storage is good but making your new walk-in pantry a seamless extension of your whole kitchen is great. If space and budget allow, the best way to do that is by embedding appliances, such as a refrigerator, microwave or even a 2nd dishwasher. Pantries are also the perfect place for small appliances like toasters, mixers, and coffee makers. Thinking this all through ahead of time will help to ensure correct outlet placement.

Getting Organized

Experts agree that dividing up your walk-in pantry into specialized areas is the way to go. Assign zones based on your storage needs for things like canned goods, snacks, dry goods or cleaning supplies. Appliances should also be strategically placed for use and convenience. A walk-in pantry can truly be life-changing – making your prep, cleanup, and storage so much easier. You will be so happy you took the time to think it all through beforehand!

Ready to Roll!

Excited by having your very own walk-in pantry? Let the design-build experts at Mainstreet help turn your dream into a reality! We take tremendous pride in listening to your needs and providing the high-level of personal care and meticulous attention to detail that has earned us the #1 choice for discerning homeowners in Southeast Oakland County. Take a look at our Kitchen Gallery, join us for a Kitchen and Bath Seminar, sign up for our newsletter, and contact us directly.

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