Pantry ideas - from designing walk in spaces to organizing counter top pieces

Store your food in style with these gorgeous ideas for your pantry

Pantry ideas Brent Darby
Photography/Brent Darby
(Image credit: Future)

A pantry is often found right at the top of kitchen wishlists. Done correctly, these spaces become not simply a place to tuck away excess food and utensils, but an Aladdin's cave of beautifully presented produce which provides a calming moment of reprieve from a bustling family kitchen. 

Pantries have become more popular than ever recently, as we embrace more eco-friendly lifestyles. 'Bulk buying, hoarding your jars of preserves, fermented foods and bottled vegetables from the summer garden are all things that become much more achievable with a pantry,' notes deVOL Creative Director, Helen Parker.

Whether you've got a pantry which needs a refresh, or are considering adding one to your list of kitchen ideas, we've got all the info you need to work out what's best for your space, how to get the most out of the pantry and how to make it look the best it possibly can.

How important is a pantry?

Pantry ideas deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

Perhaps the most important question of them all - do you even need a pantry? 

Of course it's entirely personal choice, but a pantry has a lot to offer a kitchen. It is primarily a space to store goods, keeping things in the 'cool, dark' spot foodstuffs so often require. 'it is one of the quintessential parts of a Classic English Kitchen, it is so practical and so easy to manage,' adds Helen Parker, Creative Director of deVOL. 'Everything stored together in one place and everything really easily accessible.'

More than just perishables, pantries can house kitchen appliances and gadgets, freeing up the precious real estate of the countertop. A small pantry built into cabinetry can even work as a breakfast nook, too, perhaps holding the kettle, coffee machine and toaster.

On a more emotional note, cookbooks are often stored inside pantries, including precious handwritten or annotated family versions, as well as heirlooms such as silver teapots or antique wedding china, which are seen as 'too good' for everyday usage. 'Pantries hark back to the days of less is more, as it treasures the household and family objects as pieces of importance, pieces that need to be held onto and stored together in the pantry,' notes Helen.

Whats the difference between a larder and a pantry?

Pantry ideas Paul Massey

Photography/Paul Massey

(Image credit: Future)

The word pantry derives from the French paneterie, or a place to store, bread (pain). So, historically, pantries were the place to store foods such as flour and preserves.

Larders, meanwhile, were cold rooms dedicated to the storage of perishable goods, like fresh vegetables, meat and dairy products.

These days, however, we obviously - and thankfully - have fridges, so there is no need for a larder. So today the words pantry and larder have become interchangeable terms for food storage areas close to or within a kitchen. 

What is the difference between a walk-in pantry and a butler's pantry?

Pantry ideas Butler Armsden

Photography/Eric Rover

(Image credit: Butler Armsden)

There isn't a huge difference is the look of a walk-in and a butler's pantry and, similar to larders, the terms are often used interchangeably.

That said, there is one main difference. While a pantry of any size is meant to be dedicated to food storage, a butler's pantry would contain more practical, prepping elements. Appliances such as coffee machines, mixers and sinks would be associated with a butler's pantry rather than a walk-in pantry.

How much space is needed for a walk-in pantry?

Pantry Ideas Martin Moore

(Image credit: Martin Moore)

If you're building or redoing a kitchen and wish to include a walk-in pantry, make sure you actually have enough space. Too small area will make the space unusable for what it was intended.

'For a walk-in you are really looking to be able to step into a 60cm square to be to turn and reach for items,' advises Alex Saint, Design manager, Kitchen Architecture.

'By the time you put some shelves in this room is going to be around 80 to 90 cm square for a compact but usable space. Make sure the door is considered – it may well need to open out or be a sliding mechanism in order to work with such a tight space.'

Are walk-in pantries a waste of space?

Pantry ideas deVOL

(Image credit: deVOL)

If you comfortably can fit a walk-in pantry it really can be the dream scenario as it will leave you space in your kitchen to keep things clear, clean and uncluttered.

Remember that walk-in pantries don't by any means need to be large - for example, a narrow box room with no natural light can be transformed into an ideal place to store food. 

Similarly, when building or renovating you can utilise the space behind appliances for storage. 'Pantries can also serve a dual purpose as a way of concealing appliances,' says. Tom Howley, Design Director at Tom Howley. 'With a greater shift towards keeping worksurfaces clear of clutter, to give a more minimalist feel and allow for more prep space, the pantry serves as an excellent solution for concealing appliances.'

deVOL Creative Director, Helen Parker also notes that some people desire the uncluttered look that a pantry can build so much that they 'will create their own by sectioning off a small part of their kitchen and incorporating it into the final look of the room with beautiful joinery and metalwork.'

Where should pantry be placed in kitchen?

Pantry ideas Tom Howley

(Image credit: Tom Howley)

'Effective storage is of course the primary function of the pantry, this comes down to not only the internal working of the cabinet but also where to incorporate it into a kitchen design,' says Tom Howley.

'Where possible it’s always useful to keep the pantry adjacent to your fridge, meaning that your food storage is all zoned in one area and it also looks neat.'

How big should a pantry be?

Pantry ideas Kitchen Architecture

Photography/Darren Chung

(Image credit: Kitchen Architecture)

While, as explained above, you really need around 80 to 60cm square for a walk-in to be both comfortable and practical, there's not really a rule as to how large to go. 

The bigger the square footage goes, though, the more you may be turning the space into more of a prep kitchen than a pantry.

How deep should pantry shelving be?

Pantry ideas Roundhouse

(Image credit: Roundhouse)

Pantry shelving, whether in walk-ins, pull-outs or counter tops, is one of the most important pantry considerations, being where you are literally keeping the food.

You do of course want good sized shelving so you can fit in larger bottles and bags, but beware of going too far back. 'Don’t be tempted to go too deep with the shelves, you may think you are getting more storage but in reality things become harder to reach and get lost at the back,' warns Alex Saint of Kitchen Architecture. 'Think about quality of storage – not just quantity.'

'If you are really tight on space, I would suggest going for a 58cm-deep unit,' says Amy Stoddart of Day True. 'This is essentially half a standard size but will still provide space for pan drawers, shelving units and a door rack for storing spices and oils.'

What should I put in my pantry?

Pantry ideas Day True

(Image credit: Day True)

Although as explained, pantries, butler's pantries and larders were all originally different things, these days you can really just have fun with the space and use it for whatever you want. 

One option, ideal for a built-in unit, is to make the space work harder by creating a breakfast nook. 'This hidden prep pantry [pictured] is a great place to gather small appliances that take up counter space, such as coffee machines and toasters,' says Amy Stoddart of Day True. 'Be sure to work out how many sockets you'll need at the design stage.' 

Meanwhile, for Tom Howley a pantry should simply be stocked with wonderful ingredients: 'For me, the most memorable part of the most fabulous kitchens is a  pantry, laden with interesting bottles of infused oils, rustling packets of the finest truffles, artisanal jarred vegetables and special seasonings.'

How do I maximize small pantry space?

Pantry ideas Woodstock

Photography/Nick Yarsley

(Image credit: Woodstock)

If you have a lovely but petite pantry  you might need to make a few adjustments to make the most out of every inch.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to look up - make the most of a high ceiling by running shelves as high as possible. Lower shelves can be- dedicated to ingredients that you use everyday, while the upper levels can be used to store crockery, cookbooks and items used only a few times a year. Right at the top, neatly packed boxed of seasonal decor, crockery and ingredients can be tucked away until they're needed.

What is the best way to organize a pantry?

Pantry ideas Sims Hilditch

Photography/Adam Carter

(Image credit: Sims Hilditch)

' We tend to keep things simple in pantry areas with shelved storage so everything is visible immediately as you walk in,' says Alex Saint, Design manager, Kitchen Architecture.

'Consider putting a shelf at floor level just minimally sat off the floor with small feet. This allows the storage of larger sacks or crates but keeps them off the actual floor assisting with any cleaning or mopping. Sometimes it is also nice to mix some drawer storage into the lower areas to minimise the amount of bending down.'

How do you organize a walk in pantry?

Pantry ideas McCarron

(Image credit: McCarron)

'The key to a handy pantry is to be able to walk in, take a look and quickly grab what you need,' says John Sims-Hilditch of Neptune. 'Consider running shelves up to the ceiling and have plenty of drawers under worksurfaces for easy access to the items you use most.'

A classic configuration includes low-level drawers that can be reached without bending and baskets on tracks to store foods such as potatoes and onions in semi-darkness. Sturdy oak shelving is a good option to hold the weight of jars and tins. 

How can I make my pantry look better?

Pantry ideas Farrow and Ball

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)

There are a number of easy to improve the appearance of your pantry space.

In terms of literal decorating, remember that an enclosed pantry offers the perfect opportunity to be adventurous without overwhelming a scheme. Carry the color up the walls and over the ceiling for a dramatic effect.

Tom Howley also suggests to, 'choose finishes for the external and internal cabinetry that work together to create a contrast, whether subtle or striking. If your cabinetry is deep green or black a la moment, choose a smoky wood finish for the internal shelving for a stylish edge.'

For those finishing touches to complete your look, Kitchen Architecture's Alex Saint recommends, 'oak or another wood for the shelving in a more traditional wrap around pantry scheme or try black steel or aluminium shelving systems for a more contemporary take. Marble on a worktop height counter or shelf gives a beautiful luxurious touch and nods to the traditional storage of cheeses on these cool surfaces.

Does a pantry add value?

Pantry ideas Blakes

Photography/82mm 

(Image credit: Blakes)

Pantries are currently hugely popular, with more and more buyers expecting them in a new home, and this trend sees no sign of slowing down anytime soon. 

Remember that the kitchen is the heart of the home, and it's an area that buyers will fixate on if it's not right, as they expect to spend a lot of their time there, and having the 'dream' boxes, like a pantry, already there, could potentially be enough to tip the balance towards a sale.

However, if you're considering adding in a pantry solely to sell a property, do consult with a buyer's agent first.