Before & After: My Pantry Was Always a Hot Mess — So I Found a Whole New Way to Use It

published May 5, 2022
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You might remember: I’ve written about my awkwardly shaped pantry before. The previous homeowner had it installed on the corner that rounds from the dining room/kitchen to the downstairs powder room. It’s basically just a tall cabinet and, while it does offer lots of storage space, it’s proven pretty impossible to use or organize.

See, the door opens only to reveal a very narrow access point to the shelves, which extend fairly far back and also to the left and the right of the opening. The space was very dark (I added tap lights, which did help a bit). It felt like the pantry was eating my groceries; I could put anything in there and it’d instantly get swallowed up. I couldn’t easily see what I had on hand. There was really no logical way to use shelf risers, bins, or lazy Susans. And no matter how many times I took everything out and started over, the space always became unwieldy soon after. It was annoying, yes, and it was also costing me money. So after buying duplicates of groceries I already had for the millionth time, I decided that it was time for a change.

I decided to take the door off the pantry and turn the space into more of a display case. I figured, it’s much harder to lose a plate than it is to lose a can of chickpeas. Once again, I pulled everything out. And then I painted. (Never under-estimate the power of a fresh coat of white paint!) The shelves had all sorts of stains and marks from pantry ingredients over the years and even the outside of the panty had some signs of wear and tear — plus some visible wood knots, which I don’t love. I painted and then I got to do my absolute favorite thing: Add wallpaper. (As good as paint is, wallpaper is even better.)

With my new display cabinet ready, it was time to move in my dishes, glassware, and statement-worthy cookware. Turns out, I even had space for a few jars of dry ingredients and snacks. Ready to see how it turned out?

I’m biased (you know, because I did it), but I’m pretty obsessed with how it all came out. Turns out, it’s as functional as it is pretty. It’s so easy to just grab a plate or glass.

Standing in this spot, I used to spend all of my time hunting for the paprika. Now, I can just grab a bowl and be on my way. But I know what you’re wondering: What happened to all your groceries?

With my dishes out of my cabinets, I had a whole bunch of newly available space to work with. I know it’s unconventional to use all of your upper cabinets for food instead of dishes (I’m sure a weekend guest will reach into a cabinet for a cup and end up finding pasta sauce), but it’s been a few months now and this system is really working for me. I’ve even finally been able to put a turntable to good use!

My favorite part of this new system is this spice drawer. I put my most-used spices in a drawer. I didn’t have to buy anything special — I just lined them up with the labels facing up. Now, it’s super easy to spot the paprika!

While I realize it’s not likely that you have a similarly wacky-shaped pantry, I do think my big teachable moment here is applicable to every reader: If you have a space that isn’t working for you, change how you use it. I couldn’t stand the thought of hunting for the pretzels one more time. And now I won’t have to.

Have you ever rethought a major space in your kitchen? Tell us in the comments below.