So, if you follow me on Pinterest (for those missing out, find me here), you saw me obliterate the site with pantry picture after pantry picture. Our pantry needed a serious storage overhaul. Yes, cue the “first world problem” joke now.
Here’s what we were working with.
Not too bad so far, but let’s open the door.
Yikes, look at all those groceries. Hmm how to reach them? Easy solution- just wheel the thing out as it was intended.
Hm, no dice. Still stuck in the same spot. Ugh. The pantry solution they built didn’t live up to its intended purposes, unfortunately. The weight of all the groceries made the whole thing ineffective. The thing was supposed to pull out much like the below picture.
There was just too much weight for the tiny wheels to do their job. We were running into two main problems:
1) We weren’t making effective use of all the space. Look at all that potential storage!
2) Groceries were getting lost in the back which is the reason we found a box of crackers that expired a year before we eventually found them. Mm, tasty.
So, the dreaming began. I found these magnificent pantry solutions on Pinterest.
Ah, yes, the solution would be individual pull-out shelves. It was perfect! That way we wouldn’t need to worry about pulling the whole pantry out thus running into the same weight problems.
I had visions of Container Store-level storage solutions dancing in my head.
I found these bamboo pull-out drawer options at Container Store but the maximum width was 20″ and we needed something 22″ wide. And they were $69 each, meaning for five shelves we were looking at $345. Not an ideal price for something that we’d have to figure out how to fit anyways.
We found another solution at Lowe’s in which we could order shelves that fit to our exact specifications through a vendor called Slide-A-Shelf.
We were getting closer to a solution but the price was still a little disheartening. We were now looking at $425. As Chris added this up in his head, I could tell he was convincing himself that he could replicate this for MUCH less expensive.
And we were off! New pantry here we come!
The one thing I didn’t consider was the fact that we’d be living out of storage bins for meals.
Scrounging around plastic bins to find sugar, Paprika, and mac and cheese wasn’t exactly a thrill ride for someone OCD about organization. Needless to say, the pressure was on to wrap this one up quickly. Well, quickly turned out to be closer to four weeks rather than Chris’ original projection of it being just a “weekend project.” My daily chants of “are we done yet, are we done yet?” probably didn’t help too much either. Thank God one of us has patience (hint- it’s not me).
There were a few items we found in this house that had us scratching our heads- the gun rack/mini bar combo, the wood paneling, the freaky faucet in the guest bathroom- and the pantry was no exception, albeit a little more subtly. It was on wheels and presumably built with the intention that the entire contraption would roll out, but anything more than a bag of chips would weigh it down too much to roll… so getting to the pasta was a bit like spelunking. It was fairly well-made and was easy to hide (they had the decency to include a built in door… how thoughtful) so it took a back seat to a lot of other projects. Watching Julie struggle to reach the Pop-Tarts, though, I knew a solution would have to be found eventually.
Enter Pinterest, the bane of my existence.
Apparently while I sleep at night, Julie scours that stupid website for inspiration on ways to keep us busy on weekends. She stumbled upon pull-out pantry shelves, and it was all downhill from there. She went from dropping hints to flat-out pestering me to “fix” the pantry, and even put it on her Christmas list (seriously). I knew that I wasn’t going to get away with keeping the old pantry around much longer.
As with all of our projects, we looked into professional solutions first (just because I can do these things doesn’t mean I want to do these things). Conservatively, we were looking at approximately $400 for a standard solution that we would have to modify to fit, or over $500 for a custom fit solution… I’d rather keep tunneling to the basil. We then went to the store in search of a way to do this ourselves, and found some drawer slides in the home storage aisle that would bring the total closer to $200 (or $33 each), which was a bit easier to swallow, but still not tasty enough for our budget… no, we needed eBay- $48 shipped. 10-12 business days later and we were on our way to a new pantry (we purchase the 6 drawer slides for $5.99 each here).
First things first- out with the old. Once we took all the food out (the dining room table was now our makeshift pantry), it actually rolled. Sort of.
I wheeled it out the back door and stored in on the patio for a week. Fortunately bulk trash day was just around the corner, so I hacked it up with a sawzall and left it in a pile by the curb, never to be seen again.
Next, we decided to paint the walls inside the pantry. It had never been painted, and parts of it had never even been finished, and were still bare drywall. We decided to paint it the same color as the kitchen cabinets, but quite frankly you can’t even tell. Whatever.
Now the fun part- build five pull-out shelves. The means five shelves, mounting boards for five shelves, brackets for five shelves, fitting five shelves, sanding five shelves, painting five shelves… you get the idea. This was probably the most tedious project I’ve done in a long time.
I began by building the mounts for the brackets. These are critical in terms of support, but it’s not essential that they be pretty, or even exact, for that matter, so I cut 20 pieces of wood (10 2x3s and 10 1x2s). I used 2x3s because I had some left over from another project, and 1x2s because they’re not much bigger then the slides. Anyway, I mounted the 2x3s to the wall and wasn’t sure whether or not I anchored them to the beam, so I ran screws diagonally into the door frame to ensure they were mounted securely. The 2x3s didn’t add enough width in order to accommodate a shelf narrow enough to fit through the doorway when pulled out, so I had to mount 1x2s onto the 2x3s.
The most difficult part of this process (apart from the tediousness) was making sure everything was level. In order for the shelves to slide out properly, everything has to be even and level, not only in reference to itself but also in reference to its opposing piece. Doing it right for all five shelves was at least an entire day’s work!
Once the mounts were up, I could install the sliders- sort of. I actually had to pull the sliders apart and mount one half to the brackets, the other half to the shelves. This was probably the most frustrating part of the entire project. I realized early on that the pantry itself was not square and in fact narrowed as you went toward the back wall. Fortunately the slides had mounting tabs that allowed for gradual adjustments, so I was able to shim them out until both side were equidistant across the entire depth of the pantry.
If you’re still with me after the last two paragraphs, you’ve made your high school geometry teacher proud.
If you’re not with him, don’t sweat it. I was lost on day one.
Anyway, we were finally getting to the meat and potatoes of the project- the shelves. Shelves are generally pretty straightforward, but this was a unique situation in that every shelf had it’s own unique width, and it had to be exact. When drawers are built for furniture, cabinets, etc., they’re built in a factory which ensures computer-aided precision measurements every time… I just had a tape measure. I measured the distance between the slides but had to subtract the width of the 1x4s I was using for the sides, and that was the width of the base. I had to make five unique measurements and precision cuts for the shelf bases, and once I had those pieces I had to make four sides for each one. I used 1x4s for the sides and back and 1x2s for the front so that the contents of each shelf would be easier to see, and to act as a handle. Finally, I nailed the inner slide piece to each side of the shelf. After almost going deaf from driving 125 nails into these things, I had some functional shelves.
The last order of business was to sand and paint everything. I used high-quality wood which has pretty sharp edges, so we rounded them off and painted everything with an oil-based enamel so that it wouldn’t rub off from all the abuse they will undoubtedly suffer through.
I got the shelves installed but wasn’t satisfied with the amount of effort they needed to be pulled in and out. I insisted on ball-bearing sliders, but we definitely ended up with a lower end product. I doused the bearings and slider contact points with white lithium grease, and the difference was night and day (just don’t tell Julie I used automotive-grade lubricants in her kitchen)!
After getting everything installed I noticed what was possibly the greatest oversight in the history of the house: there was several feet of space above the shelves that had never been utilized properly, so I quickly cut two permanent shelves out of scrap wood to allow for storage of some of the items we don’t use very often. I mounted up the door I cut to size, mounted a spice rack to the door, and we were finally able to get our non-perishables out of plastic boxes.
If you think this post was long, well… so was the project. Believe it or not, this took longer than both our bathrooms combined. With more than a week’s worth of cumulative work days, this was perhaps the most labor-intensive project to date. As tedious as it was at times, it was definitely worth it. It required plenty of problem solving, precision, and craftsmanship to be something I’m truly proud of. Best of all, though, is that Julie is absolutely ecstatic and loves the new pantry, which made it all worth it… because that’s one less thing she can bug me about now.
There’s just something about a new door that makes me so happy.
Look at all those crisp, white shelves just waiting to be stuffed with groceries!
Chris’ brilliant upper, fixed shelves for storing non-everyday items, aka Julie needs a stool to reach.
You know we had to do a staggered shot to show up those catalog, inspiration photos. Oh la la.
And here are the shelves at their max length. Look at all that storage!
It didn’t take us long to cram the shelves full again.
Everything is so easy to reach now. It’s been a HUGE difference in grocery grabbing morale around here.
And here’s a full shot (although it doesn’t even show the upper, fixed cabinet). Man, we crammed a lot of shelves in there.
Ah, there are those upper shelves. Guess we won’t be needing you anytime soon, mister red solo cup.
And now for that spice rack. Did this fool you into thinking I’m an expert chef? (Pst, I’m the furthest thing from that. Chris pretty much does all the cooking).
Did you notice those oh-so-cute labeled glass jars peeking out in some of the pictures? We’ll be posting about those soon so stay tuned!