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How to Keep a Perfect Pantry

Hide, control, and get rid of clutter in your home’s trouble spots—all by design.

A counter in the pantry provides space for light prep work. Photograph courtesy of Homeowner.

Arlington interior designer Nicole Lanteri came to the rescue when a client had bought a house that was big but didn’t have a lot of storage space. It did have a pantry off the kitchen that was the size of a decent walk-in closet, but the cheap shelving and bland walls made it an unloved dumping ground. “She wasn’t actually using the space, because it was sort of boring,” Lanteri says.

Lanteri first painted the walls turquoise. “Trust me, you’ll be much happier,” she remembers telling the owner. “You’ll make the ‘everyday’ look better.” Lanteri then put down Flor carpet tiles so that it wouldn’t be cold in the winter for bare feet, and also so that falling objects wouldn’t shatter. A counter, too, enables the owner to do light prep work without having to move into the kitchen.

In addition to a new shelving and labeling system that made sense, Lanteri asked her client to examine every item that was going to stay, making sure she kept only the supplies and equipment she used regularly. Because the stand mixer is pressed into service frequently, Lanteri put that and other baking supplies on a rolling cart. “You can just roll that whole thing out—you never have to lift it or use up valuable counter space,” she says.

Pantry Tips

  • Every square inch of a kitchen cabinet or pantry closet is valuable. That waffle maker you got for your wedding but never use? Bye-bye. “Be super-realistic about what you want to keep,” designer Nicole Lanteri says.
  • Take stock of cabinet space, and reconfigure the shelves. “Most are adjustable, and most people do not adjust them,” she says. A six-inch-tall coffee cup doesn’t need a shelf with a 12-inch clearance. Lowering the shelf above will make room for more storage.
  • Low on drawer space? Think aesthetically. Why not put flatware in vases on the counter and store food containers in the drawer? “You’d rather see your pretty silverware than your food,” says Lanteri.
  • If food does need to be kept in plain sight, swap out its packaging for attractive containers. “They’re prettier and your food—cereal, pasta—will last longer,” she says. Alternatively, choose nicely packaged food and drink, such as San Pellegrino bottles or canned goods with beautiful labels.
  • When filling your pantry, look up—and look behind the door. “Always go vertical,” Lanteri says, and place hooks on the back of the pantry door: “The over-the-door space is really critical.”

More Home Organization Tips ››

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