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What To Do When You Don’t Have a Pantry

Smart storage, a pull-out cutting board, integrated outlets for small appliances and deep drawers more than make up for the lack of a walk-in pantry in this Roswell home.

Many homeowners dream of a spacious walk-in pantry. But often the reality is that they do not have the space for one. That was the case for Roswell couple Tracy and Alan Shealy. When they hired our Atlanta design-build firm, Innovative Design + Build, to fully renovate their kitchen, they lacked the space for a built-in pantry. But early on in the design phase, we were able to offer them an efficient, space-saving, multi-functional and beautiful solution — a generous pantry cabinet.

“We had a closet pantry before, not a walk-in. It was just a closet with wire shelves — there was no lighting so it was dark and it was hard to find things,” says homeowner Tracy Shealy. Our team listened to what their needs were and our in-house interior designer Molly Trost came up with the idea of the pantry cabinet. We then collaborated with cabinetmaker Tim Lett to create a pantry cabinet that packed in loads of function, would help make the kitchen special and serve the couple and their three young children as a family-friendly element.

pantry cabinets

Functional elements of the cabinet include:

  • Shelves and drawers for food storage as well as cubbies for wine storage, placed at the very top out of the kids’ reach.
  • Integrated outlets inside allow it to serve as an appliance garage. This saves the countertops from the unsightly clutter of small appliances and their cords.
  • An integrated pull-out butcher block cutting board makes meal prep easy and also serves as a buffet when they host parties.
  • The cabinet also serves as a convenient baking station. The mixer, ingredients, tools and prep surface are all contained within it.

“On the shelves, I store coffee, tea, flour, sugar, canned items, pasta and cereal. The top two drawers are for kitchen tools and Ziplock bags, foil and plastic wrap. The large middle drawers are filled with crackers, chips, bread, popcorn and Gatorade. We have three children, so it works out well for them to just look in those two drawers when they are hungry for a snack,” Tracy says. “The bottom two drawers house bulky kitchen tools that I don’t use as often. These include crock pots, a waffle iron, an electric skillet and the immersion blender.”

Seen here on the right, the pantry cabinet is conveniently located near the range and sink. 

Pantry location

Zoning the kitchen for the busy family was important. Placement of elements like the fridge, sink, range and this cabinet had to be thoughtful, so that multiple people could work or serve themselves without getting in one another’s way. The pantry cabinet is close enough to the work triangle to make it easy to grab and prep ingredients. But it’s far enough away from the range and sink to allow everyone else in the family to use it without getting in the cook’s way. The proximity to the dining room is convenient. And the placement ensures that the guests do not get into a busy hostess or host’s way when they are prepping food or doing clean-up duty.

Breakfast Function

In the morning, it serves as breakfast central. “We keep our everyday appliances on the main shelf — coffeemaker, toaster, mixer and food processor. It is so nice to have that equipment easily accessible. I absolutely love having the coffeemaker in there because that is something we use every morning, but it doesn’t take up counter space,” Tracy says.

Meal Prep Function

During meal prep, one person can chop at the cutting board while the other works on the meal at the range or sink. “In our kitchen, a lot of the active prep and cooking goes on between our sink and our range. But if more than one person is prepping or mixing, we usually use the pull-out. I love the flexibility of using the pull-out only when needed and having the ability to put it away because our kitchen isn’t big,” Tracy says.

Baking Station

The cabinet also serves as a handy baking station. “I used to store my KitchenAid mixer in a low cabinet. I would have to lift it up to my counter every time I wanted to use it. Now, I just pull it forward,” Tracy says. “I usually use the pull-out butcher block counter when I’m baking. My measuring cups and spoons and spatulas live in the drawer just below the pull-out. My flour, sugar and other baking ingredients live on the second shelf of the pantry.”

Party Buffet

And when they throw parties, the couple use the pull-out shelf as a buffet. “All my pantry items are on display if we do that, which can be a little weird, but it works for our casual get- togethers. We’ve had several crock pots plugged into the back of the pantry and lined up on the pull-out,” the homeowner says.

Pantry Cabinet Style

Aesthetically, the pantry cabinet adds a big splash of beautiful blue to the mostly-white kitchen. “That was all Molly, the designer. The awesome thing about working with her was that she really listened to me and came up with things that I absolutely love, but could have never come up with on my own. I wanted the kitchen to feel like it could have been around 100 years ago, and that kind of navy-ish color fits right into a classic feel for me,” Tracy says. This kind of built-in advice is one of the benefits of working with a design-build firm, where the service is seamless between the design process and construction.

Design Details

Several design elements allow the pantry cabinet to stand out and shine as a special piece. The change in color and hardware finishes draw the eye. While the white cabinetry in the kitchen has antique brass hardware, the pantry cabinet has bronze hardware. Not only does mixing metals help make the pantry cabinet special, it also lends a more classic, custom and trend-proof look to the kitchen overall. Often using the same metal finish throughout a space can cause it to look dated within a few years. Mixing it up means you won’t be caught up in trends.

Also, allowing the cabinet to stick out a few inches beyond counter-depth and putting it on feet gave it a freestanding furniture look. The dimensions of the cabinet are four-feet- ten- inches wide by 2-feet-four-inches deep.

In spite of these differences, the kitchen is still cohesive because we used the same beaded Shaker-style cabinet door and drawer profiles we used in the rest of the room. And we matched the molding at the top of the pantry cabinets to that of the rest of the cabinets for a seamless look.

Bonus: The Shealys opted for some other custom built-in storage solutions around the room, including this easy-to-rotate Lazy Susan that makes the most of an upper corner cabinet.

The family loves their new kitchen, particularly this high-functioning and beautiful pantry cabinet. Everyone is so enamored with it that we even named it — Big Blue. And we are proud to announce the project won the National Chrysalis Award in the 2019 Best Kitchen Remodel – Under $75,000 category as well as a  Best of Houzz Award for Atlanta Kitchens.

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