In my last blog post here, I told the story of how the crumbling, damp basement kitchen was replaced. One of the problems we had with the old kitchen was that the Ikea pull-out larder cupboard no longer worked for us: it was crammed with food, disorganised and lots of the food items were inaccessible as everything was piled up everywhere. The cupboard was very narrow and the back of it was covered in horrible black drips, the result of a long forgotten onion having turned to liquid after a long period of being ignored.
Then one day, during the early days of the kitchen redesign, I had a brainwave: directly behind this particular area of the kitchen lay a corner of the basement hall and a rather useful cupboard. Only it was no longer useful because it had just had junk stored in it for years. If we could knock through to the hall, then we could use part of the hall space and the cupboard to create the walk-in pantry of my dreams!
Luckily, the builder said it could be done and it was duly incorporated into the kitchen plans: you can see in the plan below (in the top right area) that there’s a cupboard with an area of hall walled off, creating an asymmetrical shape. The intention was to line it with shelves top to bottom and store all non-refridgerated foodstuffs there, plus a few other bits and bobs, depending on how much room there was. I spent evenings looking at pantries on Pinterest: they were the stuff of kitchen storage dreams, with beautiful pots and jars in a row, and neatly painted woodwork. I knew I was never going to keep everything in beautiful storage jars but it was surely going to be an improvment on what we had.
Once work started on demolishing the old kitchen though, a small snag appeared. The wall which had been knocked through into the kitchen from the hall was going to be rebuilt in a different position, creating a reasonable-sized walk in pantry. But once the wall was down, the whole basement area was transformed. It felt lighter and more open; in addition, you could see the kitchen area for the first time as you came down the stairs. And more importantly, if you were in the kitchen, you could see who was coming down the stairs rather than having to walk into the lounge and peer upwards. But what of the beautiful pantry space? I thought about it for a few days, measured everything, then thought about it some more and eventually decided we would keep the open plan space and reduce the pantry to the cupboard only. It would be smaller, but the most important part of the storage space would still be there.
While the builders were busy replastering the walls and neatening up the mass of pipework and plumbing which protruded from the shower room into the back of the cupboard, I got busy designing the shelves. There had to be a compromise between ease of access and maximising storage space, so I designed wrap around shelves which allowed you to stand in the pantry itself, and set the height of each shelf according to the intended type of storage. Everything was divided up into categories with the maximum height of items determining the height of the shelves. I decided to store most things in Ikea Variera boxes, with small ones on the side shelves and larger ones at the back. The shelf depths were set with these in mind (see photo below), apart from the central shelf which was full depth in order for a small microwave to be put there (there’s a socket in the cupboard too. The shelf immediately underneath this is the shortest and this is where tins go. For some odd reason this is my favourite shelf: it’s quite hidden away but you can get an amazing amount of tins in there!
Once the carpentry had been done (including fitting a very heavy duty victorian panelled door to the front), there then followed hours and hours of painting. I’m still a bit shocked at how long it took, but the end result was totally worth it.
I then spent a day or two painstakingly transferring all the food from the temporary storage crates into the boxes on the shelves. The boxes are categorised so that things are easy to find: there’s rice/pasta, oils, preserves, flours, cereals, sugars, nuts, biscuits, onions/shallots and so on. Everything is visible and accessible and every so often I check each box and cull food where necessary. There’s also a wooden wheeled crate on the floor for alcohol plus some floor space for bulky items. Everything has a place now and I shudder when I think about all the jars and bottles which were out on display in the old kitchen. I use the term ‘display’ loosely as they just served to wind me up and threaten to rehome them in a binbag.
A final touch was making storage for chopping boards and trays so that they hang on the back of the pantry door: I was originally going to have either hooks or slim storage boxes suspended from a rail on the door, but everything seemed clumsy and in danger of not working properly. Then a brainwave hit me and I simply sewed in half a pair of nice tea towels (these are Abode ones by http://www.magpieline.com), added hanging loops then screwed some cup hooks into the door. Everything fits perfectly and it took only 30 minutes to do.
So that’s the story of the pantry: a neglected hall cupboard full of crap is given a new life as one of the most important storage areas in the house. It’s changed my life so much that I want everyone to have one now. Problem is, most kitchen companies aren’t going to include one in a design as it’s not a kitchen unit. But if you can sacrifice kitchen unit space and build something like this, it’s well worth the effort,.