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  • Writer's pictureHeather Holcombe

DREAM SPACES: Designing a Dream Walk-in Pantry

Hills of Rosemont, Durham, NC
A large walk-in pantry; Builder: Rufty Homes

As a Triangle-area interior designer, I've seen some fundamental changes to walk-in pantry design - and how we use them - over the last decade or so. Pantries have become more functional, prominent, and attractive spaces. They've also become an extension of the kitchen, especially in the luxury home category, where buyers expect a large, walk-in pantry. Whether you're redesigning or building, you can have a dream pantry. Here's everything you need to know about designing a walk-in pantry.

Designing a Pantry:

If you want to love your pantry, you'll want to wade into the weeds of your lifestyle. A good interior designer can walk you through designing a personalized pantry space. You will need to carefully consider how you use your current space and how you would like to use a new pantry. For example, will the pantry be used as an extension of your kitchen? That can influence the design and whether you add items like small appliances or a wine fridge. The more detailed you are, the better the new pantry will work for you and your family.

  1. Evaluate your storage needs: If possible, determine your storage needs before deciding a pantry size or, at a minimum, before designing the shelving and storage. Start by looking at your current pantry or shelves:

    1. What would you change about it?

    2. How much food storage do you need?

    3. What sorts of items do you plan on storing in your new pantry?

    4. Would you like to store other items in the pantry, such as small appliances, dishes, extra pots, pans, cleaning supplies, etc.?

    5. How about a fridge and/or a wine cooler in there?

    6. Do you buy and store bulk goods? (Hello Costco lovers!)

    7. How much (and what kind of) food do you typically keep on hand?

  2. Measure: Once you determine what you will store in the pantry, consider average measurements (height and depth) of everyday items like cans and cereal boxes to help with storage design.

    1. I recommend actually measuring some of the items you currently have on hand in your pantry. Include any unusually sized items like slow cookers, roasters, trays, breadmakers, etc.

  3. Shelving: Do you cook a lot and need easy access to certain food items?

    1. Open shelves make it easy to quickly access items.

    2. I think the most practical pantries have a mix of open shelving and cabinets with doors.

    3. Cabinet doors help hide clutter or hide things like candy from children. (Parents of teenagers sometimes like to have a locked cabinet to store the liquor.)

  4. Countertops: As an extension of the kitchen, consider adding a countertop. Rather than building floor-to-ceiling shelves, a countertop will allow you to use small appliances or do other tasks.

  5. Electrical: Place electrical outlets where you can easily plug in any small appliances you'll be using in the pantry.

  6. Lighting: A pantry doesn't have to be strictly utilitarian. Select beautiful and practical lighting for the pantry. Consider installing:

    1. Motion-activated overhead lights

    2. Undershelf lighting like LED light strips

    3. Task lighting over a pantry countertop

  7. Accessories: Pantry accessories can make items easier to store, find, and reach. Install elements like soft-close drawers, lazy susans, tray and cookie sheet dividers, and deeper shelves for large items.

  8. Match the Kitchen: If your pantry is an extension of your kitchen or visible from other rooms, I suggest coordinating it with your kitchen cabinets. If it isn't visible from other rooms, you don't have to coordinate with the kitchen cabinetry and, instead, select less expensive cabinets and finishes.

  9. Boards: I like bulletin, chalk, or whiteboards in pantries, especially if it's near your mudroom or back door. Boards make a great spot to write or pin messages, lists, or reminders.

Combining the Butler's Pantry & Food Pantry

Unless your home is like Downtown Abbey - and comes with a Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes - you might consider combining the food pantry with the butler's pantry, a popular option when custom building. The butler's pantry is customarily dedicated to storing dishes, plates, glasses, etc., while food pantries store, well, food items. When possible, you might consider combining them into one sizeable, functional space. It's very convenient to have everything in one place rather than spread out in several areas.


If you want to make the most use of a walk-in pantry, take the time to carefully customize it. You should consider it an essential part of your home life - and an upgrade worth careful bespoke design. With some advance planning, you can create a highly functional pantry you can benefit from for years! If you have any questions, feel free to reach out.


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