5 of the Most Common Pantry Mistakes You're Probably Making — And How to Rectify Them

The pantry is the workhorse of the kitchen, but when not organized properly, it can be a space that doesn't serve you well. These are the mistakes to look out for

A kitchen with a pull out pantry
(Image credit: ANNA STATHAKI)

The pantry plays a major role in maintaining order and cleanliness in the kitchen. But more often than not, in busy households, this space falls short of its potential with improper planning and organizing. Mess takes hold of this space, items get placed haphazardly and the room or cabinet becomes hard to maintain.

If this sounds familiar to you, then you're probably making some of the most common pantry mistakes. Take a look at these pointed out by experts and get ready to take stock of the situation!

1. Improper shelf size

A brick pantry with open shelves

(Image credit: Future)

To ensure the panty is well-designed to store all items easily, it's important to measure out the pantry shelving. Bring out the smallest to the largest items you'd like to keep here and make sure the shelves have enough width and height to accommodate them.

'Most people do not account for the sizing of items they plan to store in their pantry,' says Jane Lockhart, founder of Jane Lockhart Design. 'People will often guess the size rather than measuring, which can result in shelves that are not high or deep enough. In addition, it’s important to remember to plan for the future — for instance, would you ever store larger appliances, or pots and pans, in your pantry? If so, make sure to measure these items to ensure you have the space needed.'

'Try to carefully plan out what is being stored, and then purchase the correct type of shelving, bins, and racks to accommodate these items,' says Julia Mack, founder of Julia Mack Design. 'By taking the time to create an organized system, all items, both large and small, will have a designated place that is neat, clean, and easily accessible.'

2. Inadequate lighting

A red color pantry

(Image credit: ideas-Stephen Karlisch. Studio credit Maestri Studio)

'Most people under light the pantry and assume they will be able to read labels with one ceiling light only,' says Jane. 'Not adding light under pantry shelves, or specifically in corners, can make this space ineffective as you can’t see well enough to find those missing jars of delicious items.'

To properly light the walk in pantry or cabinet, ensure you add LED strips under the shelves and on the door. If there's enough space, consider hanging a pendant light too, that will add a glow to the overall area.

3. Underutilized cabinet doors

A kitchen with a pull out pantry with storage on the door

(Image credit: ANNA STATHAKI)

'One common mistake that people make when organizing their pantry is not utilizing the inside of the cabinet doors,' says Julia. 'By attaching a series of narrow metal racks, you can place smaller items and make them easily accessible. Be certain to hang these securely so you can close the door with easily.'

A good way to ensure all items are well-spaced out is by choosing a bi-folding pantry door. This gives you more usable access to the contents of the cupboards without blocking other cabinets.

4. Non-adjustable shelves

A butler's pantry

(Image credit: James Merrell)

Some months you may have a 20-pound bag of rice in your pantry, and other times just small jars, tins, and tubs. For different requirements, it's best to have pantry storage that is flexible and can be moved around as per your needs.

'Making shelves adjustable can be a huge benefit in future planning, as this allows you to adjust the space in your pantry as needed,' says Jane. 'You don’t need every shelf to be adjustable, but having even a few will help you navigate this storage space in the future.'

5. Bland design

A green walk in pantry

(Image credit: deVOL)

And finally, while the pantry may be a utilitarian space, don't forget to give it a design touch. Think of interesting pantry colors — perhaps shades that complement the kitchen — and give it the love it deserves.

'The pantry is a great opportunity to have a little more fun and implement bolder colors that might not work in an open, light-filled kitchen space,' says interior designer Mindy O'Connor, founder of Melinda Kelson O’Connor Architecture & Interiors. 'Most decisions regarding the depth and range of color in a kitchen or pantry should be made in consideration with the light, the scale and design intent of the room, and the millwork.'

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Design Editor

Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is the Design Editor at Livingetc. She is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.