Before & After: Open Pantry

This week Before & After is for an open kitchen pantry. The convenience of having an open pantry is easy to access, but it also means seeing the clutter if it’s not organized. Especially if you enjoy cooking, it can be frustrating to not be able to find the ingredients you need. My client is a busy working wife who recently changed to a plant-based gluten-free diet. After a long day at work, it would be nice to come home and quickly put together a healthy meal.

Before: Open Pantry


In the before image, the shelves are packed to the edge. Other than seeing the various bottles of olive oil, there’s no clear division of what goes on each shelf. Part of the problem also is that some of the rice and pasta made their way to a separate wall cabinet because the pantry was full.  And by spreading out items from the same category, you end up not knowing exactly how many you have. And most likely you’ll buy more before you actually run out.

Before: A separate wall cabinet that holds more rice and pasta


As with any organizing project, start by visualizing how you’d like to use the space. In this case, we want to create a pantry where the homeowner can easily see what are on the shelves, be inspired by the ingredients to cook a nice meal and take out what she needs without having to rearrange anything in the way.

Next, take everything out and sorted them by category: sauces, rice, pasta, soups, canned food etc. Anything expired or no longer fit my client’s diet was removed. Anything that belongs with the snacks or beverage category was moved to the appropriate cabinet.

After: Open Pantry


This built-in pantry has an inner shelf within for shorter items. This is a nice feature, but also creates a problem for what can go underneath or in front of them. Sometimes storage takes a few tries to get the right combination. Our focus is on ease of use, so use your instinct and personal habit to determine the best pantry storage solution. Here you see a wide selection of oils and kinds of vinegar. A plastic shoebox-sized container was used so you can pull it out to reach the shorter bottles in the back. Even though bottles in the front are taller, it works because they are also the most used. Applying the KonMari method of “rise to the right”, which visually lifts up your mood, the bottles are also placed shortest on the left and tallest to the right.

The cookbooks are sorted by the type of cuisine, then lined up from the tallest to the shortest within each group. If you prefer, labeling or creating dividers can make it easier to find the book you need.

After: Open Pantry Close Up


Pantry organization is most successful with clear divisions. This doesn’t mean everything has to be in matching containers or containers at all. Here, the jars of coconut oil fit right in between the 2 plastic containers. The mustard and olive tapenade are placed on a lid used as a tray. The variation works well according to the size of the bottles and the numbers of bottles you have. I also like to leave at least half an inch of space in between the bottles and jars so you can see what’s behind, and have room for your fingers to grab what you need.

The seasonings on the back upper shelf are lined up by grouping the different brands. Unless you bought a whole set of seasoning at once, it’s very common to have bottles or bags from different brands. It is best to keep matching bottles together to create visual uniformity. Your eyes will flow easier across to find the flavor you need quickly.

After: Open Pantry Closet Up 2


On another shelf, the rice and pasta are divided using the mesh wire baskets originally on these shelves. These baskets also include the rice and noodles from the other wall cabinet so now they are all in one place. Again, instead of putting the basket next to each other, we created another space to placed other types of grains in between.

If you bake, you can place your frequently used baking ingredients such as baking powder and vanilla extract in one container like we’ve done here on the bottom left. When you are ready to bake, you only have to take out one box with everything you need. And clean up is easy too!

The finished pantry looks full but not stuffed, just like how we should feel after we eat! I hope you’ve enjoyed this before and after. Does your pantry inspire you to cook?

2 thoughts on “Before & After: Open Pantry

  1. Joan says:

    Dear Ann,
    This reorganization has had a huge positive impact on our daily lives! We can find pantry items so much faster, so cooking time is not only quicker but more JOYful!
    Thank you thank you!!
    You rock!

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