The Pantry Project – a small space DIY pantry for $270

Until last Saturday, I had food in the following places in my house:

Under my bed
Under my children’s beds
Behind books on the shelves
IN THE BASEMENT (the bulk of it)
In the coat closet
On some scary shelves in the most stupidly designed hallway (The DMZ – we demilitarized it for our children’s safety)

I told you I got inspiration from One night while holding my sleeping baby and looking at the most horrifying example of organization I received inspiration. Call it divine, call it genius, call it “about time”. But after six years of living here, I finally came up with a way to get my food and my kitchen together (don’t judge me by the contents).


But no more. For $270 and a half of a weekend’s work, I have a beautiful pantry that takes up no more space than my junk did.

A long-ish trip to IKEA one Saturday after measuring and researching products and sizes online. The following Friday – cleaning out the scary and stupid hallway between taking care of kids. Friday night – painting that hallway and building shelves. Saturday, installing shelves, adding doors, and moving food. Saturday afternoon – trip to the park and a walk around the neighborhood.

We used the Billy Bookcase because they are cheap, versatile, easy to put together, and they were a perfect fit. They also have the great benefit of being only 11″ deep. This is deep enough for binders, my food processor, cereal boxes, and almost two #10 cans. Our trash can required some modifying, and I don’t have a place yet for my dirty napkins, but everything else is accounted for.

(When looking at the pictures, remember this is the most horribly designed hallway with terrible lighting, but it totally fills this need.)


Before Before Before


After After After

What we used and what it cost:

  • A bare and useless wall, painted white to disappear – Free (or the cost of paint)
  • Billy Shelves from IKEA with doors (sold separately)
    • Two 31 ½” x 78” bookcases= $50/each (2) = $100
    • One 15 5/8” x 78” bookcase = $40
    • Five doors = $25/each X 5 = $125
  • Hooks (if desired) = $4.99/4
  • Drywall anchors (we had some on hand, but maybe a couple bucks at the hardware store)
  • Tools we already had: A cordless drill, tape measure

Total Cost: $270 (+ tax)

IMG_4840 (Medium) IMG_4849 (Medium)IMG_4844 (Medium) IMG_4851 (Medium)

How We Did It:

  1. Make a plan. We measured our work area (84 1/2″ x 85″), and decided we needed two of the wide and one of the narrow bookcases, which made almost a perfect square of 78” x 78”.
  2. Get our stuff – yes, we braved IKEA with three children. On a Saturday. Brutal.
  3. We prepped the area. We had to clean it out, remove the baseboards and cold-air intake, and paint the area white.
  4. We built the shelving according to the instructions, but did not put the backer board on. This allowed us to mount it to the wall, creating a built-in pantry system that feels like it belongs, as well as securing it more firmly to the wall for safety’s sake.
  5. Positioned the bookcases where we wanted them (we had a light switch to work with), and then mounted the bookcases to the wall using the included brackets (two come with each shelving unit plus one per door).
    1. Make sure to use drywall anchors if NOT attaching to a stud.
  6. Attached the doors to the bookcases. We had to keep in mind shelf location relative to the hinges, since the shelves are easier to move than hinges. I trusted Matt’s judgment. (Remember, you will need to load heavy stuff on the bottom – these aren’t designed to hold 10 shelves full of cans of beans.)
  7. Adjusted and loaded our shelves. These shelves are super easy to move, but it got tricky when working in a small area, so I recommend you go either top-down or bottom-up, rather than meeting in the middle like I tried to do.
  8. We added some hooks for my kids’ helmets and bag of onions, taking over the less visible end of the pantry.
  9. Smiled at our awesome, affordable, space efficient new pantry full of all of the things we didn’t remember we’d shoved in the back of the basement.

9 thoughts on “The Pantry Project – a small space DIY pantry for $270

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