Kitchen Remodeling - Designing The Perfect Kitchen Pantry

Kitchen Pantry Design Tuscaloosa AL

Home Remodeling - Kitchen Pantry Design Tips

A recent study by the National Association of Home Builders found that the feature most wanted by new home buyers is a kitchen pantry. If your home was built before 1945, you probably have a pantry of some sort. Before the era of microwave meals, a well-stocked pantry was a must-have. Today, pantries are being designed in period style, more than a nostalgic nod to the ever-practical pantries of the past.

A pantry should be large enough to hold at least a weeks worth of groceries and close enough to allow easy access. It doesn't necessarily have to be in the kitchen, but it should be in an adjacent area. A pantry with good visibility and accessibility is one in which everything is viewable at a glance, easily reached and removed without moving anything else out of the way.

The Iron Rules of Storage

To create a great kitchen pantry follow the three Iron Rules of Storage. They are:

  • Items should be stored where they are first used. - A kitchen pantry should be located close to where the items in the pantry will be used.
  • Size storage to the things being stored. - If storage is sized to the things being stored, it is easier to implement Rule 3, and little space is wasted. Shelves should be adjustable, just deep enough to store one row of items, and high enough so that the items just fit.
  • Store items in a single layer with no item hidden behind or beneath another. - The goal of pantry design is "at a glance visibility". It should not be necessary to move something out of the way in order to see what's behind or beneath it.

Kitchen Pantry Design: Walk-In or Walk Through?

A walk-in pantry is usually a small room, essentially a closet for storing food, separate from but adjacent to the kitchen. For many homeowners, a walk-in is their dream kitchen pantry. Walk-ins are great for storing large quantities of food, but because it's usually remotely located, it can be inconvenient to use for daily food storage.

The walk-through kitchen pantry is different. Where the main purpose of a walk-in is storage, the primary purpose of a walk-through pantry is usually getting from one place to another. It's first a hall-way, and only secondarily for storage. In designing a walk-through pantry, its primary purpose of providing access cannot be compromised. Typical is a pantry/mudroom that you pass through on your way from the kitchen to the garage or back door. Groceries can be unloaded just as soon as you wipe your feet, which is very handy. But it's important that the main function of a mudroom be preserved. Any pantry storage that encroaches should be moved somewhere else.

Space and Shelving

The minimum walkway width should be 36". You'll understand why the first time you carry in a bunch of groceries. In a walk-through pantry, 36" is also the minimum, 42" is better and 48" is best. A 48" aisle allows two people to pass each other without someone turning sideways.

The maximum depth of stationary storage shelves is 16" no matter where they're located... 14" is better. Depths as narrow as 10" will work for general storage and 6" for cans and bottles. Shelving above eye level should be stepped back. The shelf just above eye level should be no deeper than 14" and the one above that just 12", and so on. This allows you to easily see what's on upper shelves. 

Shelving can be solid or open wire grid. Solid shelving eliminates the risk of small items falling down between the grids but reduces visibility. Coated or stainless wire shelving does not work, however, for small items, like spice containers, that can fall through. Another drawback is that wire shelving often looks out of place in a period kitchen.


Many kitchen designs locate a tall pantry and refrigerator at opposite ends of the room. From a purely aesthetic standpoint, this is a good design because the height and bulk of these two features balance each other. But, from a practical standpoint, it's better to place the refrigerator closer to the pantry so it's more efficient for meal preparation.

As important as the design, convenience, functionality, and efficiency of a pantry may be, its location in the kitchen is key. A well-designed pantry put in the wrong place impairs flow. Ideally, a pantry should be placed within a few steps of the area where food is prepared. The general rules are not more than 48", although this is somewhat flexible.

If you design your pantry according to these guidelines, it will work well for you. Speak with your kitchen designer or design-build firm when planning your kitchen remodeling. They can advise you on the possibilities available to you based on your home's design and layout.


About Toulmin Kitchen & Bath Design - We're West Alabama's award-winning, premier kitchen and bath showroom. We're experts who are known for a design-build process that makes the construction process stress-free. Contact us to schedule an appointment for a design consultation.