A Smart and Simple Way to Increase Kitchen Storage

open pantry

Do you need additional storage in your kitchen, but you don’t have the option of adding more cabinets? You can solve your kitchen storage problem with an Open Pantry. Inexpensive, easy to install – and a ton of space!

Let’s face it, in our modern world we all have specialty pots and pans and glassware and serving pieces, and small appliances that do everything from cooking rice to making quesadillas.

We also tend to purchase groceries in large quantities, which we then must store somewhere.

I’m not saying that any of these things are unnecessary, it’s just that it takes so. much. room. to store it all.

The average American goes to the grocery store once or twice a week and has three times the number of kitchen appliances as they did thirty years ago.

open kitchen shelves in front of navy blue wall

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Kitchen Storage is Important

Many people, especially those who live in older homes or apartments, have kitchens that are so small they don’t even include a pantry.

While I’ve (almost) always had a pantry in my homes, I do recall at one point needing to store my KitchenAid mixer in the basement. As you can imagine, I used it very infrequently, because, well, who wants to lug that thing up and down the stairs all the time? But there was just nowhere to store it in the kitchen, so down it went.

I’ve known friends who have stored canned goods in the laundry room, crock pots in the garage…you name it, someone has done it. Simply because there was too little – or the wrong kind of – kitchen storage.

How do you create kitchen storage where there isn’t enough?

One solution many people turn to is an open pantry.

What Is An Open Pantry?

What is an open pantry? Essentially, it’s a shelving unit, in or near the kitchen, that holds food and cooking supplies. These shelves are most often made of wood or steel.

Some are specifically designed to be used as a pantry, and may come with wine racks, hooks, or drawers. Others are generic shelves than become a pantry simply by virtue of what is stored in them. Most are freestanding, but they can also be attached to the wall.

extra kitchen storage with open pantry

The Pros and Cons of an Open Pantry

The prime benefit of an open pantry is that it creates quite a bit more storage space for a low cost, without requiring any construction on the home. Simply set it up and fill it up.


Undoubtedly the biggest negative is that you can see everything on the shelves, and food packages and cooking supplies are not known for being the most attractive decor.

If you are going to store on open shelves for all the world to see, it is important that you arrange everything to be easy to find and use, and that you display it attractively.

What Should Be Stored in an Open Pantry?

Produce is a good choice for an open pantry. Display fruits and vegetables that don’t require refrigeration in bowls and baskets. You will create a colorful display and also be more likely to eat the items, since you will constantly have them in view.

Add spices, jarred foods, vinegars, and oils to shelves as well.

One excellent method to create a consistent look on the shelves is to remove food items from their original packaging and place them in containers.

Mason jars, for example, make perfect storage for small items such as nuts, rice, seeds, and smaller varieties of pasta. Mason jars are also good for storing coffee, sugar, and flour, and come in several different sizes.

Plow & Hearth

Storage systems with air-tight lids can be more expensive, but they look attractive on open shelving, are often stackable. Clear storage containers are best as it’s easy to see what’s inside.

What foods don’t look good in an open pantry?

If at all possible, do not place large supplies of canned goods, foods in bags or other loose containers on open shelves. Anything in bright colored or poorly made boxes (think kid’s cereals) really is better off behind closed cabinet doors.

Storing Cooking Supplies and Tools

For non-food items, try creating small displays by clustering items that are used together.

This is especially effective if the grouping is placed together on a tray that can be removed from the shelf when the items are needed. A great example of this would be a french press, coffee grinder, and coffee cups.

Cocktail supplies, shakers, and glassware could also be attractively displayed together.


Open shelves are great for hard-to-store items such as stockpots, cutting boards, and cast iron cookware. This is especially true if there are hooks to hang things. These items are large and sometimes heavy, making them cumbersome to store in a cabinet. By keeping them out in the open, you will always find them within easy reach.

open shelf storage

When styling an open pantry, there is more involved than just practicality.

Try to bring some appropriate decor in, whether it’s from a pot of herbs, decorative salt and pepper shakers, or a special bowl or vase.

This prevents your pantry from looking overly sterile and industrial. It will still be completely functional, but much more attractive.

How to Choose the Best Open Pantry for Your Needs

Where can you find shelves that make a good open pantry?

IKEA is a great place to start. The pantry in these pictures is constructed from a custom combination of the IVAR shelving system.

Chances are you can find good, quality shelves almost anywhere, from Target to Bed Bath and Beyond to Lowes or Home Depot.

The Container Store has custom options designed to attach to walls.

cast iron pan hanging on pantry

Because there are many choices available, put some thought into what type of shelves will best suit your needs.

Measure the height, width, and depth of the area you plan to put your pantry.

Take a hard look at what you will be storing. If you’ve got many large appliances such as an Instapot or rice cooker, take their measurements. That way you can be sure they will fit on the shelves you buy.

Evaluate your need for wine racks, under shelf baskets, hooks, and other specific needs.

A little advance research will go a long way in helping you choose the best storage system for your individual needs.

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Final Thoughts on A Smart and Simple Way to Increase Kitchen Storage

In summary, an open shelf pantry is inexpensive, easy to construct, and can hold a large amount of kitchen supplies. You can choose your pantry based on the space you have available. Your pantry will function as both storage and an attractive display element in your kitchen.

Could an open pantry be the storage solution you’ve been looking for?

white kitchen shelves with canisters and plants

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