Getting organized in a small kitchen can be a challenge, but a well-designed pantry provides storage solutions that can make your tiny kitchen more functional. A pantry allows you to remove bulky items and little-used appliances from your countertops and cabinets, freeing up space for meal prep. With some clever planning and DIY projects, you can create a pantry that maximizes every inch of available space.

Where to Put a Pantry in a Small Kitchen

Finding a spot for a pantry in a small kitchen requires some creativity. Here are some potential locations to consider:

Convert a Closet or Cupboard

Look for an existing closet or cupboard space adjacent to the kitchen that you can convert into a pantry. Coat closets near the kitchen are ideal candidates. Remove the hanging rod and shelf to open up the interior space. Add organizers and shelves designed specifically for kitchen storage.

Under the Stairs

Tuck a pantry under a staircase landing near the kitchen. This dead space is perfect for a custom built-in pantry. Make sure to measure carefully to maximize the usable space. Lighting is important when putting a pantry in a dark stairwell area.

Alcove or Wall Nook

Scan for any small nooks or crannies along the kitchen walls that can accommodate floor-to-ceiling shelving or cabinetry. Even a 12-15 inch deep space can work for a narrow pantry.

End of Cabinet Run

Take advantage of the area at the end of a row of cabinets by adding a floor-to-ceiling pantry cabinet. Use filler strips and scribe molding for a seamless fit.

Pantry Storage Ideas for Small Kitchens

Well-organized storage is key for maximizing every inch of a small kitchen pantry. Here are some clever solutions:


  • Install floor-to-ceiling shelving spaced at 15-18 inches apart. This allows you to stack items vertically and double your storage capacity.
  • Adjustable shelves give flexibility. Lower shelves should be deep enough for large boxes and bags. Upper shelves can be shallower for smaller items.
  • Construct DIY shelving using stock cabinets and boards cut to fit your space. Add trim for a built-in look.


  • Drawers provide enclosed storage for items like baking sheets, pots and pans, and plastic containers. Full extension drawers give full access.
  • Stack small, shallow drawers to store spices, packets, and other small goods. Label drawers for easy organization.


  • Decorative baskets are great for holding fruits, vegetables, and bulk foods. Woven baskets allow air circulation to prevent mold.
  • Plastic bins work well for organizing supplies like baking ingredients, canned goods, and snacks.

Vertical Storage

  • Install a vertical spice rack inside the door for easy access to spices while cooking.
  • Use wall-mounted racks or tension rods for vertical storage of baking sheets, cutting boards, and shallow bins.
  • Mount a paper towel holder and grocery list clipboard inside the door for convenience.

Lazy Susans

  • Lazy susans maximize corner storage in a round pantry. Great for canned goods and condiments.
  • Multi-layer lazy susan units double your storage capacity. Some have a rotating and fixed side.

Pantry Door Ideas for Small Kitchens

The pantry door design can help maximize functionality in a small kitchen. Consider these creative options:

Accordion-Style Doors

Accordion-style doors fold into an accordion shape, eliminating the swing space required for standard doors. The compressed folds allow them to nest out of the way along the wall.

Sliding Barn Doors

A sliding barn door mounted on a hardware track is a classic choice that won’t impede traffic flow. For pantries wider than 3 feet, use two sliding doors that meet in the middle.

Hidden Latch Doors

Pantry doors with hidden magnetic latches offer a seamless, integrated look. No visible hardware maximizes storage space up to the very edges inside the pantry.

Pocket Doors

Pocket doors slide directly into the wall cavity, disappearing from sight while fully opened. When closed, the pantry entrance is concealed for a streamlined look.

Cafe-Style Doors

Bi-folding cafe-style doors have an accordion hinge in the middle. The two door panels fold in, overlapping each other and tucking away out of the workspace.

Butcher Block Doors

For quick access, replace solid pantry doors with butcher block panels. Hang them on sturdy piano hinges to swing them open easily.

Small Pantry Organization Tips

Keep your small pantry tidy and efficient with these organizing tips:

  • Clearly label shelves, baskets, and containers so items go back in the right spot.
  • Store food in airtight, clear containers to protect freshness and easily see contents.
  • Use risers or extra shelves to create a second layer for more vertical storage.
  • Designate one shelf for daily cooking essentials to minimize hunting time.
  • Place heavy jars and cans on lower shelves for stability; lighter items up high.
  • Store appliances you rarely use to open up counter and cabinet space.
  • Organize ingredients by type such as baking goods, pastas, canned foods, etc.
  • Keep cleaning supplies together in a separate area away from food.
  • Maximize vertical space with hanging racks, magnet bars, and wall-mounted dispensers.
  • Add battery-operated LED motion lights so items are visible when you open the door.

DIY Built-In Pantry Ideas

Building a custom pantry lets you fit it precisely into your small kitchen’s unique storage challenges. Follow these steps for a built-in pantry project:

Plan the Layout

  • Measure the available space and sketch ideas to scale so everything fits.
  • Map out traffic flow so the pantry door won’t cause a bottleneck.
  • Allow for trim, molding and hardware when calculating interior dimensions.

Construct the Framework

  • Build a sturdy frame from 2×4 lumber secured into studs or blocking.
  • Use moisture-resistant plywood or MDF for the interior walls. The back can be drywall.
  • Run electrical wiring if adding lighting fixtures or outlets inside the pantry.

Add Storage Elements

  • Cut and install shelving per your plan, sealing edges to prevent splintering.
  • Build drawers or cubbies to customize storage options.
  • Paint or finish the interior before adding organizational elements.

Install Doors and Trim

  • Pre-hung doors ensure proper fit but you can also build a custom frame.
  • Install crown molding, baseboard, and trimwork for a built-in look.
  • Add your choice of door from cafe doors to pocket doors.

With good planning and creative storage solutions, even the smallest kitchen can support an organized pantry that makes cooking more efficient and enjoyable.

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Small Kitchen Pantries

It’s easy to make planning mistakes when trying to add pantry storage into a tiny kitchen space. Avoid these common pitfalls:

Poor Lighting

Dark pantries hidden in a stairwell or windowless nook are prone to becoming cluttered junk drawers if lighting is overlooked. Install sufficient overhead lighting and include battery-powered motion lights inside deep spaces.

Insufficient Ventilation

Pantries with inadequate ventilation promote mold growth on stored food. If there are no vents, use open shelving instead of enclosed cabinets, and store only shelf-stable items.

Undersized Doors

Doors too narrow to admit larger items will frustrate attempts to haul groceries and appliances in and out. Standard 24-36 inch wide doors are best for easy maneuvering.

Overcrowding Shelves

Cramming shelves full of items makes retrieval annoying and can cause things to tumble. Allow some breathing room between stored goods. Use risers to create a second layer.

Forgetting Labels

When there’s no visible system, pantries devolve into chaos. Use labels so everything has a designated spot to be returned to after use.

Inadequate Lighting Inside

If a light fixture inside the pantry itself was overlooked, contents get lost in the black hole behind the door. Install a battery powered motion light.

Wasted Space

Failing to maximize vertical storage with stackable shelving and hanging racks squanders precious real estate. Go all the way up to the ceiling.

With attention to lighting, ventilation, and vertical storage, even the tiniest kitchen can have an organized and functional pantry. Avoid overcrowding, use labels religiously, and install a light inside.

Space-Saving Hacks for Small Kitchen Pantries

Small kitchen pantries must use every possible inch efficiently. Get creative with these space-saving hacks:

  • Install narrow pull-out vertical shelves on the back of the door for spice storage.
  • Mount a tension rod horizontally across the back to hang cleaning supplies and bulk packages out of the way.
  • Use wall-mounted paper towel holders and grocery list clipboards to get them off the counter.
  • Attach sturdy shelves or racks directly to the walls, allowing floor space underneath for larger items.
  • Incorporate extra hidden storage with pull-out drawers installed under a bottom shelf.
  • Maximize vertical real estate by running shelves and cabinets all the way up to the ceiling.
  • Use hanging shoe organizers on the inside of the door to corral small jars and packages.
  • Install multi-tiered lazy susans in corner spaces to double storage capacity.
  • Stack baskets vertically with riser shelves to create layers of storage on a single shelf.
  • Use door-mounted racks or over-the-door storage bins for additional vertical storage.

With a bit of DIY ingenuity, you can gain functionality in even the most petite pantry. Use every square inch available to pack it with storage possibilities.

Ideas for Converting a Closet into a Pantry

An unused closet adjacent to the kitchen is ripe for conversion into a handy pantry. Make the most of the narrow space with these ideas:

  • Rip out the hanging rod and shelf to open the interior space. Patch holes and paint.
  • Run power for an outlet and overhead light. Battery-powered motion lights supplement.
  • Install sturdy adjustable shelving from floor to ceiling, spaced 15-18 inches apart.
  • Add drawer stacks for enclosed storage of utensils, containers, and baking pans.
  • Use over-the-door racks, hanging shoe organizers, and tension rods for additional vertical storage.
  • Maximize corner space with multi-layer lazy susans designed for pantries.
  • Convert the door into a functional element with storage racks, a magnetic grocery list board, etc.
  • Install an accordion-fold door if the standard door swings into valuable kitchen space.
  • Increase ventilation by replacing solid doors with cafe-style bi-folding doors or butcher block panels.

With tailored storage additions like pull-out shelves, drawer stacks, and corner lazy susans, a converted closet can become the ideal pantry for a tiny kitchen.

Planning a Pantry for Small, Narrow Spaces

An awkward gap or narrow nook off the kitchen can be transformed into a surprisingly functional pantry with smart planning:

  • Look for unused spaces like the area under a stair landing or at the end of a cabinet run.
  • Measure carefully and create a layout plan to scale to ensure everything fits.
  • Prioritize vertical storage with tall, narrow shelving units and floor-to-ceiling cabinets.
  • Use adjustable shelves to maximize usable height for large and small items.
  • Incorporate drawer stacks and pull-out vertical shelves rather than deep base cabinets.
  • Install full extension pull-out shelves if space allows for easy access to back items.
  • Opt for accordion, sliding barn, or pocket style doors to save swing space.
  • Add motion-sensor lighting and battery powered lights since natural light will be limited.
  • Make use of the door interior and walls with mounted racks, bins, and shelves.
  • Label everything clearly so items can be returned to assigned spots in the narrow space.

With smart vertical storage and space-saving door styles, even the most awkward, narrow spaces can serve as a surprisingly functional pantry.

Creative Small Kitchen Pantry Shelving Ideas

Shelving is the workhorse of any pantry allowing vertical storage from floor to ceiling. Make the most of your shelf space:

  • Use adjustable shelves to accommodate boxes and bins on lower shelves and smaller jars upstairs.
  • DIY sturdy, built-in shelving units fitted precisely for the available space.
  • Incorporate specialty pull-out vertical shelves on doors along with traditional wall shelves.
  • Install solid shelving for canned goods and baskets; open wire racks for quick grab items.
  • Angle shelves slightly for better visibility and ergonomics.
  • Opt for enclosed, full-extension pull out shelves for storage behind doors.
  • Vary shelf depth – deeper for large storage bins, shallower upstairs for small spices.
  • Add risers to create a second layer of vertical storage on each shelf.
  • Use decorative brackets for an attractive look with open shelving.

Maximize every inch of shelf space available with adjustable, pull-out, and specialty shelves designed for your storage needs.

Building Out a Pantry in a Kitchen Wall Nook

An unused space along the kitchen wall is a perfect spot for a built-in pantry:

  • Measure carefully to determine the interior dimensions for your pantry layout.
  • Frame the interior walls with moisture resistant plywood or MDF to match existing cabinets.
  • Drywall the exterior to match kitchen walls; finish trims for seamless built-in look.
  • Install wiring for outlets, switches and lighting during framing if needed.
  • Add floor-to-ceiling shelving, drawers, and other storage elements you’ve planned.
  • Include pull-out vertical storage on doors along with interior racks.
  • Install your door style of choice such as pocket, bi-folding, or standard.
  • Finish with baseboard, trim, and crown molding to integrate it into the kitchen design.
  • Caulk and touch up paint for a seamless look. Add motion lighting.
  • Organize using baskets, bins, and clear canisters to maximize storage.

With some carpentry skills and planning, wasted space morphs into a custom pantry adding function and valuable storage.

Easy DIY Spice Rack Ideas for Small Pantries

Spices take up prime real estate in small pantries. DIY vertical racks keep them organized but out of the way.

Mounted Wall Racks

  • Stagger mounted wall racks provide compact storage for glass spice jars.
  • Opt for custom-cut wood strips or purchase ready-made metal racks.
  • Arrange jars alphabetically for easy identification.

Door Racks

  • Install vertical in-door racks to keep spices handy while cooking.
  • Purchase over-the-door racks or DIY with wood strips or perforated hardboard.
  • Alternate large and small jars for a secure fit. Group by spice type.

Wall-Mounted Shelves

  • Small floating wall shelves or ledges provide space for spices.
  • Paint the shelves and edges to match existing kitchen cabinets.
  • Arrange small spice tins and jars in rows alphabetically for quick ID.

Get your spice collection out of precious pantry space but still easily accessible with these crafty DIY racks.

Clever Ideas for Storing Kitchen Appliances

Bulky appliances hog counter space in tiny kitchens. Tuck them away in your pantry with these storage tricks:

  • Dedicate a lower pantry shelf to small appliances, using risers to create a second layer.
  • Install wall-mounted brackets or ledges to hold stand mixers, blenders, etc.
  • Use wall hooks rated for the weight to hang hand mixers, toaster ovens, etc. up high.
  • Store large appliances like stand mixers inside lower cabinets secured with tension rods.
  • Designate a full-height pantry cabinet pull-out for housing the microwave when not in use.
  • Keep coffee maker components together in a small bin or caddy for quick access.
  • Corral cords with clips or ties to prevent them from tangling inside cabinets.
  • Use pop-up outlet strips or relocatable power taps inside cabinets for plugging in safely.

Get unused appliances off the counters but still readily accessible in your pantry storage zone. Keep cords organized and minimize footprint.

Pantry Storage Solutions for Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables need ample air circulation. Store them in ventilated containers:

  • Use wire mesh pull-out baskets to allow air to flow around produce.
  • Separate fruits and veggies into perforated plastic bins or crates to prevent ethylene gas buildup.
  • Designate open wire shelving just for produce rather than enclosed cabinets.
  • Line shelves with breathable linen towels then pile produce on top loosely.
  • Store onions, garlic, and shallots in mesh bags suspended from hooks.
  • Hang bananas from banana hooks to prevent bruising. Ripen fruit on countertop.
  • Keep potatoes and sweet potatoes in cool, dark drawers or bins to prevent sprouting.

Give fruits and veggies room to breathe with open-air shelving and containers. Separate ethylene-producing items to prevent premature spoiling.

Ideas for Pantry Doors to Maximize Small Kitchen Space

Standard hinged doors waste precious space in a tiny kitchen. Get creative with these space-saving pantry door options:

Accordion-Fold Doors

Doors fold like an accordion, compressing into a small footprint along the wall. Easy DIY installation.

Sliding Barn Doors

Barn doors mount on an overhead hardware track and glide side-to-side without taking up floor space.

Cafe-Style Doors

Bi-folding doors have hinges