Ingenious Pantry Lighting

Introduction: Ingenious Pantry Lighting

I have two corner pantries in my kitchen that I recently remodeled and added a bunch of shelves. I have always had a bit of trouble seeing in the nooks and crannies, but now with all of the new shelving it is even darker and harder to see. I can add a light fixture to the ceiling, but that will only light the top few shelves and won’t get into the bottom or the back and other types of lighting can get really expensive and be difficult to install. I thought about it for a while and decided to use LED light strips to illuminate the shelves from the front so that I can see each shelf. It turned out to be a relatively simple, and very inexpensive alternative and it makes my pantries much more functional.

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SMD 3285 LED light strip, scissors, connectors (or soldering iron), LED driver, a will and a way

Step 1: LED Light Strip Basics

First of all, let's talk about some LED basics. LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. An LED is essentially a computer chip that lights up when voltage is applied to it. LED lights are in everything today mainly because they are cheap, they last a long time and they take far less power that other types of lighting out there. That also means that they are perfect for adding light to your home.

An LED light strip is a string of LED lights that are all connected in a row. There are a lot different types that come in different sizes, colors, brightness, etc. and it isn’t hard to get lost in all of the options. For my project I wanted something functional and so I didn't focus on all of the variations, but instead focused on something practical that would work for my situation. I chose a very basic kind of light strip; an SMD 3285 with a warm white color. SMD stands for Surface Mounted Diode, which essentially means that the led chips are mounted directly to a strip without wires. That is really what makes LED light strips possible. The 3285 references the size of each diode on the strip (3.5 mm by 2.8 mm) which can impact its brightness. Another thing that can impact the brightness of an LED light strip is how many diodes are on the light strip. The more diodes there are, the brighter it will be. There aren’t as many diodes per foot in my light strips as others may have which means that they are not as bright as they could be, but my light strips are perfect for pantry lighting, under cabinet lighting or really any kind of accent lighting.

Step 2: Connecting LED Light Strips to Power

Before I install the LED light strips, I need to get power to the closet. To do this I pulled power from other outlets in the kitchen. This can sometimes be a problem as you need to be aware of what kind of drain this could place on your circuit, but because my LED lights that require very little power and won't be on all of the time, that will not be an issue for me. In each closet I cut a box for a switch and a box for an outlet (up high near the ceiling) and then pulled the wires through and connected them. I won’t go into detail on that process in this article, but here are a few good instructables by other authors that may be helpful:

Before installing my strips, I also need to connect the strips themselves to the outlets I just wired. To do this, I need an LED driver. An LED driver is a device that regulates the power flowing to your LED lights. Without a driver, your lights may be overloaded quickly or may not work at all. When selecting a driver you will need to calculate how much power you will be using and ensure that your driver can handle it. There are all sorts of ways you can calculate this and expensive equipment you can use, but a general rule of thumb for 3528 lights strips is that they use about .08 watts per diode. Times that by the number of diodes per foot and the number of feet you plan on using and that will tell you what your wattage requirements are. For small spaces like these and with the limited amount of LED strips that I am using, almost any LED driver will do. If you needed to do a bigger job with more lights, you would need an LED driver that is more capable. You can also buy LED light strips with built in drivers, but they tend to be more expensive and less flexible if you want to make changes in the future. Also, be sure to note that not all drivers are capable of dimming and so if that is something that you want for your project it will require a different driver. Again, for my small pantries I am looking for something practical and so I have no need of anything fancy.

Step 3: Connecting the LED Light Strips

LED strips will often come with a plug on one end, but not always and so you may need to connect wires to wires, wires to strips or strips to strips. There are multiple ways to do this, including using a soldering iron (which is the most reliable), but there are also a number of connectors out there that will work which require no soldering. See the pictures for the connectors that I have found to be the most reliable.

Step 4: Cutting LED Light Strips

When cutting the light strip, make sure that you cut them directly in the center of the copper connectors. This will allow you to connect two sides together. If you cut them too far on one side or the other or in the middle of the light strip, the connection will be severed and the lights will not work beyond that point.

Step 5: Installing the LED Light Strips

LED light strips generally come with a sticky back, but I have found this adhesive to be sub-par. Many times while trying to pull of the tape the sticky part will come with it so be careful of that. I know of some people who prefer to use their own two sided tape rather than the sticky tape that is provided.

Now it's time to install them. I add a strip to the ceiling that shines down, but the key to this project and what makes it so ingenious is attaching the LED strips to the inside walls of the closet so that they shine in, but you cannot see them from the outside. I take the strips all the way to the bottom so that I can see everything; even the stuff tucked away on the bottom.

From there I flip the switch and enjoy the fruits of my labor!

Step 6: Check Out My YouTube Video for More Detailed Instructions

I hope this was helpful. For more detailed instructions, check out my YouTube video where I show you this project from start to finish

I am always taking on tons of other project and so if you want to see more from me, you can also subscribe to my YouTube Channel, check out my website or follow me here on


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    2 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Good idea! I always have a hard time seeing the stuff all the way in the back of the cupboard.

    DIY with Dave
    DIY with Dave

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thanks! You can also run LED light strips underneath each shelf in the back, but that take a bit more time and effort and may blind you. :)