This little urban homestead finally has a little urban pantry! And I am so excited to share this project with you. You see, I had this odd-sized closest just steps from my kitchen, but it was just a big empty closet. I knew as soon as I looked at it that it would become my pantry, but it took awhile to make it happen. So let me share with you how, with help from my dad, I built a custom pantry.
The closet in question is under the landing of the stairs, so it’s an odd size and shape. I already have a coat closet and a linen closet in my house, and a shed with a loft for storage outside, so this closet didn’t have much use as it was. It’s five feet tall, a little over five feet long, and three feet deep. And you know what? Wire shelves aren’t really sized to fit well in that. You don’t find them 63″ long, and they seem to usually either 16″ or 20″ deep. I wanted right in between that. The closet was a perfect shape to do some U shaped shelves.
I considered having them done professionally, but it ended up being cost prohibitive. I talked to my dad, and he said he could help me do it for about $30-40 per shelf, which was quite reasonable for three large, sturdy shelves.
So let me tell you something. Dads are pretty awesome. Mine taught me to use both a jigsaw and a skill saw for this project, and did all the leveling and finding studs and such for getting the shelves mounted. Plus he has a truck that he generously used to get the material, because my Buick could not fit a sheet of plywood.
Prepping the Space
The floor was ugly. The walls were beat up.
I pulled off the baseboards and painted the walls and ceiling white. The baseboards got sanded and painted the same color.
Then I bought some peel-and-stick vinyl to the tune of maybe $20, put it in to cover up the ugly old linoleum, and replaced the baseboards.
The result was plain white walls and a gray slate-looking floor. Much better.
Building the Custom Pantry Shelves
We got three sheets of plywood and double checked the pantry measurements. I settled on the long part in back being 18″ deep, and the sides being 16″ deep. We used the skill saw for most of the cutting out, and the jig saw for a couple of more precise cuts.
From there my dad put some straight lengths of wood on the walls to support the plywood shelves. These were just 1″x4″ lengths cut to size which the wall-size edges of the shelves rest on. Dad was a pro at getting them level. We spaced the shelves so the bottom one is 18″ high, and each of the other two 15″ above the one below it. That left 12″ between the top shelf and the ceiling.
Installing the Shelves
With quite a bit of maneuvering, we got the custom pantry shelves into place. If I were to go back and do it again I wouldn’t put all of the shelf rests on the wall before putting the shelves in; I’d have someone hold the shelf above the rests while installing them, starting with the top shelf. But we got them in, so that’s what matters.
We’re in earthquake territory. In fact, we’re due for “the big one.” The Cascadian Subduction Zone, not far off the Washington and Oregon coast, has the potential for a bigger earthquake than the San Andreas Fault is capable of. We could have a tsunami to go with it, too, although my town is high enough that we won’t get hit by even the biggest possible tsunami a quake could cause here. But earthquakes–even smaller ones–being a reality here, I wanted a lip on the shelves to minimize or prevent broken jars in case of a shaker.
The lip is simply a length of craft wood cut to size and nailed along the edges of the plywood with finishing nails. We also used wood glue to make the lip extra sturdy.
Not in the Plans
Once we got the shelves in, we realized the front corner of the U wasn’t sturdy enough. I absolutely didn’t trust it to hold more than a couple of pounds. Since I want to be able to store plenty of home-canned food, that just wasn’t going to work.
So I picked up a couple of 1″x3″ lengths, cut them to 4′ long, and screwed them into the lip and shelf. My husband suggested doing that to the back corners too, so I used a couple of 1″x2″ lengths there. I felt awesome being able to cut those myself; learning a new, practical skill always feels good.
I didn’t want plain wood shelves, so I used primer and then painted the wood the same color I used on the accent wall in my bedroom. Talk about a pain in the neck; I didn’t end up thoroughly painting the bottom of the bottom shelf. The maneuvering to get under the shelves was very uncomfortable.
I got some shelf mats and cut them to length on the shelves, and installed an LED light strip on the ceiling so I can click the light on and see everything in the pantry. The little hallway its in, right off the kitchen, has no light. I love the difference the light makes.
There were some delays partway through the building process, but it was so exciting when it was done. I was able to load up and the shelves and reorganize my kitchen cupboards. I absolutely love the finished project.
What do you think? I hope I inspired you to go build something new in your home!