10 Genius Ideas for Building a Pantry

Updated: Nov. 24, 2023

Pantries are practical and attractive additions to any home. They allow you to save money by stockpiling non-perishables and they create a visual center of your food stocks. But what to do if your home doesn't have a dedicated pantry storage space?

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eclectic-kitchen building a pantry

Coat Closet Conversion

Any bi-fold or sliding door closet can be converted to a pantry with the addition of custom shelves. Some shelving can be slipped straight into the closet and loaded with goods, or you can create your own internal organizer.

Hall closets are perfect for this kind of small pantry replacement, as they’re often located close to the kitchen. And if you’re concerned about storage, a series of decorative hooks can provide an inexpensive alternative for your coats. And of course, if you don’t have a spare wardrobe, you always have the option to build your own closet.

Photo: Courtesy of YesterTec

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bookshelf pantry

Book Shelf Basics

When building a pantry, why start from scratch? This clever DIY pantry shelving idea starts with a bookcase as a base, then adds trim, cabinet doors, and some decorative character to make a fully functional, space-saving pantry. And best of all, it fits anywhere you can place a standard bookcase!

If you’re using cabinet doors that don’t match the case’s lines or finish, err on the side of making the difference clear, rather than a near-miss. Notice how different the cabinet doors are from the bookcase in the photo. By using a contrasting color it makes it clear that the difference is a choice, rather than a mistake. Go with a strongly contrasting color for the doors, or consider converting the doors to glass to make them stand out. Find some more bookcase projects and tips for building a bookcase pantry like this.

Photo: Courtesy of SuzeDesign

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under stairs pantry

Under the Stairs

The underside of a stairwell is often considered “dead space,” making it a favorite spot to create additional storage when working on home organization. Whether you opt for simple open shelves or the more elaborate custom doors (as shown here) building a pantry tucked beneath a stairway makes the most of this unused space and expands your food storage options. This concept gives you the option of a small, hidden pantry that can go away whenever you need it.

Photo: Courtesy of The Kitchn

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Custom Shelving in a Nook

This pantry has high-end looks with a DIY concept. It’s based around a built-in bookcase with half-glass doors that allow for more attractive food items to be displayed, while clunkier objects are kept hidden away. The DIYer who created this pantry shelving project made use of a natural stepback in the house’s layout to create pantry shelving flush to the wall. This same technique can be used on any similar stepback in your home, or even along the full length of a short wall. That makes this a versatile and wholly customizable option for building pantry shelving that’s perfect for your needs.

Photo: Courtesy of Run to Radiance

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Converted Cabinet in Kitchen

Converted Cabinet in Kitchen

If you don’t have room for pantry shelving in an area adjacent to your kitchen, why not find a way to tuck it into the kitchen itself? Building a pantry in its own cabinet creates dedicated storage space right in the kitchen without sacrificing the look of your existing cabinets. Retrofit your cabinet with slide-out drawers or work a pre-built pantry cabinet box into the layout of a kitchen remodel.

For more great tips on how to create a virtual pantry within your home’s existing storage, see this Family Handyman article, “No-Pantry Solutions on a Budget.”

Photo: Courtesy of The Spruce

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Hidden Walk-in Pantry

If you don’t have room for a pantry adjacent to the kitchen, what about behind the kitchen? Using a hidden doorway to access a pantry turns the room on the other side of a kitchen wall into a walk-in pantry, and adds an element of whimsy and wonder to your home.

The scope of this pantry shelving project may seem daunting, but it’s actually not that complex, especially if there are no mechanical runs in the wall where you’d like the doorway. If you’re considering building a pantry, this is definitely a high-concept, high-impact way to do it!

Photo: Courtesy of At Home In Arkansas

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slider hidden pantry sliding nook

Sliding Nook Space

If an entire hidden room is too much to tackle, how about a hidden pantry nook? Perfect for frequently used essentials or a cleverly hidden spice rack, this sliding door opens up to reveal a small pantry space.

Building a small pantry like the one pictured, with full wall tile, is clearly much more easily done during a full renovation but a retrofit is also possible, especially if you choose to highlight the nook as a feature, rather than hide it, as shown.

Photo: Courtesy of de Giulio Kitchen Design

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hallway-pantry corridor

Corridor Pantry

Turn a hallway into a long pantry with shelving and a bit of style. The viability of this pantry shelving project depends on the original width of your hallway, and the layout of the doors leading to rooms. If your hallway is tight, consider narrow-width shelving, or shelves that stagger their width to allow for deeper storage without surrendering too much living space.

Notice that in this photo the lights have been positioned to accommodate the loss of space on one side of the hall. Relocating electrical boxes can mean additional work, but pays off dramatically in presentation.

Photo: Courtesy of Apartment Therapy

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hidden-food-storage-idea pantry curtain

The Secret Behind the Curtain

For a simple project with an attractive end product, consider setting up a pantry shelving system with a custom-hung curtain to create instant pantry space. It is perfect for people with little space like if you live in an apartment. An inexpensive curtain rod and fabric of your choosing can hide storage while serving as an accent feature for whatever part of your home you choose to place it.

Photo: Courtesy of Mom 4 Real

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Trap Door/Secret Cellar

Okay, admittedly this one will blow the doors off the budget, but it’s just so cool! Trapdoor access hearkens back to country living, where cellar pantries in farm homes often served as both pantry and storm shelter. Here’s what you should know before building a storm room.

The storage in this photo is being used as a wine cellar, but the concept works just as well for building a pantry. Access can be hidden, with the trap door blending in with the flooring, or it can stand out like the tempered glass shown here.

Photo: Courtesy of Signature Cellars