Open Kitchen Pantry

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About: I work as a Environmental Health and Safety specialist for Clark Reliance. Most of the guys there don't think I would know how to use a hammer. Sometimes, people are more than what they appear. :)

We live in an old century home, 1856 to be exact. The kitchen used to be a porch at some point and is slanted due to the pitch of the porch for the rain run off. That means that nothing is square, level, or possible to outfit with anything off the shelf because the shelf don't fit.

For 7 years, we had an old book shelf shimmed up with blocks of wood to make a make shift pantry in what at one point was a laundry area. I always wanted to improve it so this past winter, I took the time to do such. The goal was not only to create more shelving space, but also shelves that my wife can reach. I don't want to say she is short, but vertically challenged seems like not the right words either. 4' 8" means things are hard to reach so sliding drawer to reach the back was important.

And anything I don't want her to have (my reese's cups) can go at the back of the top shelf and they are mine all mine hahaha..... I digress.


Also, my wife just said that's what step stools are for. Foiled again.....

Step 1: Remove the Shelves and Cover a Window

In this little cubbie area, there was a small window, single pane, that has never opened. I removed the inside molding and scraped some of the rough drywall flat. I spray painted the inside white, caulked the edges, and added some foam insulation behind it because it was just a constant draft. Someday when someone tears out the pantry to expose the window again, they will at least be treated with a nice smile for their efforts.


Before I could start framing in the new pantry, I needed to remove all existing molding, fix a bunch of holes in the drywall, tear out the ceiling above to find what I could frame to, and remove a dozen or more hooks and nails that were put in over time.

The ceiling was old plaster and lath, so that was fun, but I got it removed and added some framing to make it easier to attach to. With it, old insulation, mouse nests, a rat skull, and some old tar paper scraps/ nails from when they fixed the roof sometime ago. Fun finds I tell you.

Step 2: Framing and Base Painting

Next was to start framing in the shelf. I drew out exactly what I wanted, spacing for the shelves, widths, depth, etc. I had to shim the back up nearly 3 inches from the front corner. We have a horribly un-square floor. Then the wall next to it showed how far out of square it was. I ended up framing it into 3 sections so I could stagger the new molding at the top, and taper it at the base to hide the un-square space. Plywood was added top, bottom and sides, just not the back wall. Only a few small sections were attached there to keep things square. Mostly I used 3/4 plywood. On the right wall, 1/2 ply to give me a solid place to attach hooks for stuff several steps from now.

After finishing the framing, I had to fix the holes and gaps in the drywall. I first hit all gaps with spray foam to fill voids. I then drywall mudded the gaps to fill in the surface and finish to what looked like all drywall. I used a combination of durabond to build up fast and finish mud to make it so the surface could be sanded out. A trick I used is after the mud is dried and sanded smooth, you water down some finishing mud to a thick paint consistency and use a roller to apply another coat. This dries similar to the existing paint build up all around. When you then prime and paint twice you can't see the difference of new paint vs areas that have 15 coats over the years.

Once the drywall was completed, the front was capped with 1/2 inch thick maple strips to hide the plywood framing. A pin nailer and glue was used to keep the surface as clean as possible. Everything was primed and coated in 3 coats of semi gloss white to match my existing wood work.

You will notice I did not frame in the vertical pull out can rack yet.
This is because there is not enough room to attach the slides once it is installed. So to fix that I had to pre install them before I put in the dividing panel. That meant paint, finish, attach glides, and then install. Glad I thought ahead on that one.

Step 3: Building Drawers

I had 30 inches of space to work with for drawer depth. I wanted to use all of it. So my drawers ended up 30x36 inches. The side height depended on the distance from the next drawer. Some are thinner but the drawers that could have higher sides I left high to ensure items would not fall out. The fronts were tapered down so you could see what was in the drawer.

The basic box was made for each drawer with 1/2 plywood. A small grove was cut in the front, back and bottom to accommodate a dividing slat for strength. The sides were also gloved to support the front plate and add some joint strength. These were pin nailed and glued together. Screws were put into the center dividing plate from the bottom. Once assembled, a face plate of 3/4 ply was attached to each drawer. These had chamferred edges for some added style. Holes for the drawer pulls were pre drilled before painting so they would be accurate and square on each drawer above and below.

I used ball bearing drawer slides from Amazon to get full length extension drawers. They were 24" 100 pound per set glides.I bought a box of 10 sets and used 8 and 1/2 of them.

Step 4: Soup Can Rack and a Spice Rack in a Drawer

I wanted a thinner pull out to harbor cans. I made a vertical pull out drawer to hold 4 racks of cans. 3/8th square strips of cherry were inlayed on the edges to make rails for the cans so they wouldn't crash out. Why cherry? Because I had enough of that in 30" length to make them without needing to buy more lumber. Plus it looks nice. The racks are different heights for different cans. I can fit the large 28oz tomato cans as well as the smalls soup cans in there. Even a jar of salsa or pasta sauce.

This drawer has 3 slides on it, two on the sides at the bottom and one on the top to support the weight of a fully loaded rack of all cans.

Spices

I was tired of having all of my spices in the cabinet next to my stove and always having the one i needed buried. They all have the same color cap so you never know which one to grab. To fix that, I made some angled pieces with 3/16th finish walnut plywood scrap I had laying around and some extra pieces of 3/4 plywood for the back edges. I measured my spice containers to get the right size pieces and made several different sizes to accommodate the spices. They just lay in the drawer so I can re-arrange them as my wife sees fit.

Step 5: Installing the Drawers

At this point the divider for the vertical can rack was installed. It had the drawer glides pre installed as once in, I can't reach the back and my drill definitely won't reach. I patched the nail and screw holes, put the face trim board on, and painted it. After drying, it is onto installing drawers.

The glides now needed installed. Lots of measuring, shimming out to perfect widths, shimming more on drawers but all the glides now fit. I may have drilled 30 extra holes to get everything to line up right. Un-square everything makes a fun time trying to get perfectly even and square drawer glides to line up and work.

After the drawers were in, I attached some hooks on the wall to hang up aprons, baby bibs, and mops, brooms, etc.

Step 6: Finished Project

Rule number one, hire cute help. My daughter loved to hang out for short periods of time, like 3 minutes at a shot. Take advantage of all of those moments.


I have had this installed in my kitchen now for about a year. I have made minimal changes to it to this point. I changed out the hooks for different color ones my wife wanted, and I moved some items around to other drawers but that is it. It has been fully functional and great for a year.

I had bought a double track kit to install sliding barn doors over the front but I still need to build those and until then, the box with the track sits for another day.

I hope you enjoyed my project. Sadly I can't find half the construction pictures I thought I had.

Be inspired and create something cool yourself, or if you have a century home with the same issues, feel free to copy whatever you need.

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    8 Discussions

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    Tsu Dho Nimh

    6 weeks ago

    Nice solution. Unless you are in a dusty area, the doors are just one more thing between the cook and the spices.

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    Rituguptascs

    2 months ago on Introduction

    Am I the only one who is afraid to use an open storage concept in the kitchen? I need to have doors on every corner of my storage cabinets just to let all those mess get concealed in neatly. Else, I might overwork myself daily from constantly having to tidy up the place non-stop.

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    KarenP177

    3 months ago

    Encourage your little helper. That's how I got started. In a family with no boys, I was "Dad's helper" for basement and home repair projects. I learned a lot that way. Came in handy when I bought my 1903 "fixer". Just don't give her a can of water and a brush to pretend-pain the house and expect an untended open can of paint to go unnoticed. My dad learned that the hard way!

    1 reply
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    Haunted SpiderKarenP177

    Reply 3 months ago

    haha, I give her white tinted water and she wants the real paint quick. We haven't had the giant paint mess yet but she gets into everything so it is coming and I am oddly ok with that. She needs life skills and my kids will learn them from doing and helping dad for sure.

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    OutofPatience

    3 months ago

    Useful project and nicely done! Your helper in the orange apron is precious!

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    CrystalG3

    3 months ago

    I absolutely love this cabinet! Would be perfect for a mudroom/utility room/craft room and would eliminate the inevitable junk drawer in our kitchens. I know what you mean about out of square stuff. My parents house was a 4-square built by some drunks in the 40s. I have been fortunate. My current & previous house were both built by the same company. EVERYTHING is square and plumb . . . except the porch the current occupants of my current house, added on. LOL

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    Wild-Bill

    3 months ago

    I love the vertical drawer. I did a pantry with a bunch of them mind you mine were only accessible from one side and I installed mine in an already made pantry cabinet.

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    EcoExpatMike

    4 months ago

    The description you want to use for your wife is "concentrated." Mine is 4'11".