Small Pantry Mistakes You Can Make When Adding One to Your Kitchen – And How to Avoid Them

Adding a pantry to your kitchen can be a great way to increase storage and organization. However, there are some common mistakes that can be made when designing and installing a new pantry that should be avoided. Being aware of these potential pitfalls and planning accordingly will ensure your new pantry is optimized for functionality and convenience. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the most common small pantry mistakes and provide tips on how to avoid them.

Choosing the Wrong Location

One of the first decisions when adding a pantry is choosing where to put it. This decision can have implications for how convenient and accessible your pantry ends up being. Here are some location mistakes to avoid:

Placing It Too Far From the Kitchen

For maximum convenience, your pantry should be as close to your main food prep area and appliances as possible. Placing it in a distant corner of the kitchen or in an adjoining room like the garage may minimize its usefulness. Make sure the pantry is centrally located in the kitchen if possible.

Failing to Consider Traffic Flow

Look at the kitchen’s traffic patterns and make sure the pantry is not blocking or interrupting them. Placing it right in front of the refrigerator or stove where you are frequently moving back and forth is a common mistake.

Not Thinking About Appliance Access

Consider the refrigerator, oven and other appliance access when choosing a location. You don’t want your pantry placement to make it difficult to open or reach around.

Corner Dead Space Isn’t Always Best

While corners may seem like unused dead space, inefficient traffic flow or appliances in the way can make a corner pantry frustrating.

Tips for Choosing the Best Location

When deciding where to place your new pantry, follow these tips:

  • Centrally locate between countertops/appliances for ease of use
  • Avoid high traffic areas and paths between appliances
  • Ensure good access to appliances like the refrigerator
  • Consider existing plumbing/electrical constraints
  • Take measurements to visualize different placements

Planning your pantry’s location carefully up front will prevent headaches down the road.

Selecting the Wrong Size

In addition to placement, choosing the right size for your pantry is crucial as well. Here are some common sizing mistakes:

Going Too Small

Underestimating how much storage you need is very common. While you want to be realistic about space limitations, err on the side of giving yourself more room. You can always use shelving to maximize a larger space if needed.

Failing to Account for Growth

Even if a small pantry seems adequate now, your storage needs will likely expand over time. Anticipate acquiring more kitchen tools and appliances down the road when establishing pantry size.

Not Considering Existing Storage Capacity

Take stock of all your existing kitchen storage and how full it is to determine how much additional capacity you really need. Analyze your current storage deficiencies.

Overestimating Usage

On the other hand, overestimating your pantry needs can also waste valuable space. Be honest about how much you will realistically store in your pantry.

Tips for Choosing the Right Size

Getting the proportions right takes some forethought:

  • Take measurements of current storage/appliances
  • Account for 2-3 years of potential growth
  • Don’t sacrifice important space for overlarge pantry
  • Shelving can maximize smaller spaces if needed
  • Consult kitchen designer or architect for help

Being strategic about pantry sizing from the outset will lead to better long term storage.

Failing to Plan Shelving Layout

One of the big advantages of a pantry is having customized storage with shelving designed for your needs. However, many people fail to adequately plan out their shelving, leading to problems down the road.

Not Maximizing Vertical Space

Fill the entire height of the pantry space with shelving to take advantage of all available storage space. Wasted vertical room is wasted opportunity.

No Thought to Ergonomics

Place the most frequently accessed items at convenient, easy-to-reach heights. Use lower shelves for large/heavy items you don’t access often.

Lack of Flexibility

Fixed shelving makes reconfiguring your storage difficult. Opt for adjustable shelving units that allow you to modify arrangements.

Forgetting the Back

Utilize oft-neglected back walls for additional shelving too. You can often double your storage with back wall shelves.

Too Much Wasted Space

Maximize shelf usage by avoiding overly large gaps between shelves and overly deep shelves if not needed.

Tips for Planning Your Layout

To design optimal shelving, follow these guidelines:

  • Use adjustable shelving to enable reconfigurations
  • Install shelves all the way from floor to ceiling
  • Place most used items at eye/mid level
  • Use back walls for more storage
  • Avoid wasted space between/within shelves
  • Incorporate specialty storage like drop zones
  • Consider hiring a kitchen designer

Putting thought into your shelving ahead of time will lead to a much more functional and convenient pantry down the road.

Using the Wrong Materials

The materials you construct the pantry shelves and storage components out of also deserve careful consideration. Certain materials have distinct advantages and disadvantages.

Wire Shelving Problems

While ubiquitous, wire shelving racks are not ideal for pantries for several reasons:

  • They lack solid shelves needed for bulk items
  • Items can slip through wire slots
  • Dirt/dust collects on wires and horizontal bars
  • Wire frame obstructs visibility

Hazards of Wood Shelving

Wood shelving seems attractive but has some significant drawbacks, such as:

  • Vulnerability to moisture/spills
  • Can warp, crack and bend over time
  • Not easily adjustable/removable
  • Visually obstructs contents

Issues With Other Materials

Besides wire and wood, other material options like metal, plastic, or glass have their own considerations for noise, adjustability, visibility, durability, etc.

Tips for Choosing Shelf Materials

Consider shelving materials that are:

  • Solid—no slipping items or dust-catching wires
  • Moisture-proof
  • Visually open for content visibility
  • Adjustable and removable
  • Durable and corrosion-resistant
  • Noise-minimizing—no rattling or clanging

The right shelving materials for your needs will emerge after careful consideration of options like heavy-duty plastics. Don’t make a decision based on impulse or attraction to a material aesthetic alone.

Ignoring Interior Storage Solutions

While shelves are the foundation of pantry storage, you shouldn’t overlook interior storage solutions that maximize space usage.

No Lazy Susans

Install lazy susans, turntables to provide easy access to items pushed toward the back of shelves. You don’t want things getting buried.

Missing Bins/Baskets

Use plastic, cloth or wire bins of various sizes to corral and organize items on shelves. This also improves visibility.

No Vertical Stacking

Take advantage of vertical space between shelves with risers, vertical holders for things like baking sheets.

Unused Doors/Walls

Use pantry door backs or empty wall space for extra storage with racks, hooks, cabinets etc.

Tips for Integrating Interior Storage

  • Install lazy susans for corner shelf access
  • Use clear plastic bins for easy item visibility
  • Attach a paper towel holder and hooks inside the door
  • Use shelf risers or vertical holders between shelves
  • Hang a pot rack or utensil hooks on interior walls

Creative interior storage solutions will prevent wasted space and keep your pantry organized.

Forgetting Important Components

When envisioning your new pantry, there are some important components that are easily overlooked or forgotten. Be sure to consider:


Proper lighting is essential for seeing what’s in your pantry. Install an overhead light and consider under-cabinet lighting.


Adding a vent fan helps keep the air circulating and prevents mold/moisture buildup from condensation.

Door Style

Swing out or sliding doors can impact accessibility and space efficiency. Bi-fold doors are also an option.


Durable, waterproof flooring is key for inevitable spills and leaks. Tile or vinyl floors are good options.


Include useful extras like toe-kick drawers, valet rods, electrical outlets and charging stations.

Tips to Include Key Components

  • Install under-cabinet and overhead lighting
  • Add a vent fan if possible
  • Choose a space-saving door style
  • Use waterproof, non-slip flooring
  • Include accessories like drawers/valet rods
  • Incorporate electrical outlets

Careful planning and inclusion of key components from the outset will maximize your pantry’s functionality.

Failing to Accommodate Size Constraints

Some pantries inevitably end up being unusually shaped spaces due to kitchen constraints. Here are some common mistakes people make in these situations:

Not Adjusting Shelves

Irregular dimensions mean you likely can’t use conventional square shelves. Be prepared to have shelves custom-cut.

Cramming Standard Storage

Standard storage solutions won’t always fit. You’ll need customized, space-saving options.

Ignoring Dead Space

Take advantage of every nook and cranny. Dead spaces can become storage with creativity.

Overlooking Multi-Purpose Furniture

Consider mutli-purpose storage furniture like wheeled carts, pull-out cabinets etc.

Tips for Unusual Spaces

  • Have shelves custom cut for perfect fit
  • Use narrow shelving units to maximize room
  • Install specialized storage fittings
  • Get creative with irregular nooks
  • Opt for multi-purpose mobile storage

With inventive storage solutions, you can make even the most awkward space highly functional.

Choosing Impractical Decor

While you may be tempted to make your new pantry a beautiful showpiece, form should not come entirely at the expense of function. Avoid these common decorative mistakes:

Cluttered/Unstable Shelving

Avoid overly decorative shelving and accessories that take up usable space. Shelves must be clean and stable.

Large To No Doors

While open pantries are visually appealing, doors help conceal messes and contain spills. Minimize open shelving.

Fancy vs Functional

Pass on fancy features like glass doors or ornate hardware that provide little practical value.

Dark Colors

Stick with light, neutral colors for shelving and walls to keep the interior bright. Dark colors create gloominess.

Tips for Practical Decor

Maintain function over form by:

  • Prioritizing clean, spacious shelving
  • Using doors/closed storage to hide messes
  • Saying no to fancy but impractical accessories
  • Choosing light wall/shelf colors for brightness
  • Minimizing decorative knick-knacks and clutter

The right balance of aesthetic appeal and practicality will lead to an enviable pantry.

Insufficient Lighting

Proper lighting is one of the most important aspects of a functional pantry that is too often overlooked. Don’t make these lighting mistakes:

No Natural Light

If possible, have the pantry illuminated with natural light from a window or skylight. This creates brightness and visibility.

Only Overhead Lighting

While an overhead light is basic, also include lighting options like under-cabinet lights for reduced shadows.

Dim Bulbs

Choose bulbs with brightness adequate for your space size. 100 watt equivalent LED bulbs are ideal for most pantries.

No Task Lighting

Install flexible task lighting inside the pantry to illuminate specific shelves or work areas. Gooseneck lamps work well.

Ignoring Light Locations

Place lights strategically to illuminate key areas like particular shelves, corners, or the interior back.

Tips for Sufficient Lighting

Follow these tips for a well-lit pantry:

  • Install a window or skylight if possible
  • Include both overhead and under-cabinet lighting
  • Use bright 100W equivalent LED bulbs
  • Add flexible gooseneck task lighting
  • Locate lights strategically to avoid shadows
  • Ensure lighting is accessible via switches/remotes

Proper lighting is essential for functionality and aesthetic appeal in your new pantry.

Choosing the Wrong Door Style

While it may seem like a simple decision, the style of door you select for your pantry can significantly impact accessibility, convenience and space efficiency. Avoid these mistakes:

Swing-Out with Limited Space

Swing-out doors require clearance space that may not be available. They can collide with existing walls and appliances.

Large Barn Doors in Small Spaces

Though trendy, barn slider doors are bulky and may not work in tight pantry spaces.

Two Doors in Narrow Openings

Double doors can needlessly restrict narrow openings. A single door saves space.

Out-Swinging Against Traffic Flow

Think about doorway traffic flow patterns to choose door swing direction. Out-swinging can create collisions.

Tips for Choosing Door Style

  • Assess space limitations for door clearance
  • Consider bi-fold or pocket doors for narrow spaces
  • Avoid double doors in small openings
  • Pick in-swinging door if it faces high traffic area
  • Sliders work well for wide, unobstructed pantries

Selecting the right hinged or sliding door style for your specific layout prevents headaches.

Limited Electrical Access

While not something most people consider initially, having access to electricity inside your pantry opens up functionality. Avoid limited access by forgetting:


Install outlets, both general purpose and USB charging ports, for appliance usage and device charging in the pantry.

Appliance Planning

Consider small specialty appliances like coffee makers and toasters you may want to store and use in the pantry.

Task Lighting

Flexible task lighting like gooseneck lamps often relies on accessible outlets inside the space.

Safety Codes

Use proper materials, circuitry and safety precautions when adding electrical components.

Tips for Integrating Electricity

  • Install general purpose outlets at sensible heights
  • Include USB charging ports
  • Ensure adequate power supply for lighting/appliances
  • Follow all electrical safety codes
  • Consider outlets inside cabinets/shelving
  • Hire a qualified electrician if needed

Electrical access enables greater functionality from your pantry.

Forgetting Drawers and Hidden Storage

While shelves may be the most prominent component, don’t forget about augmenting your pantry with hidden storage solutions.

Neglecting Drawers

Drawers integrated into the cabinetry provide enclosed storage for utensils, small appliances and other items.

Missing Pull-Out Cabinet Storage

Pull-out drawers and shelves make items in back of cabinets accessible. They maximize usage of available space.

No Use of Dead Space

Take advantage of voids like the area under the lowest shelf for extra storage containers.

Not Using Door Backs

Use the interior of doors to mount racks, magnetic strips and other space-saving storage options.

Tips for Incorporating Hidden Storage

  • Install drawers of varying sizes
  • Add pull-out shelves and rotating cabinets
  • Use lazy susans in corner voids
  • Mount racks, pegs and containers on door backs
  • Store items in dead space under shelves

Strategic use of drawers and other hidden storage equals more room for all your goods.

Choosing the Wrong Flooring

Your pantry flooring needs to be durable and waterproof. Some common flooring mistakes include:

Using Absorbent Materials

Wood floors or carpeting will soak up leaks and spills, leading to damage and mold growth.

Slippery Surfaces

Tile or stone can become slippery when wet. Opt for textures/finishes that add traction.

Difficult Cleaning

Flooring like rough concrete or porous tile harbors dirt, stains and grime in crevices.

Avoiding Mats/Rugs

Use washable gel mats or rugs in high traffic zones to improve comfort and safety.

Neglecting Moisture Barriers

In slab floors, installing a moisture barrier beneath finished flooring prevents leakage.

Tips for selecting Flooring

  • Use waterproof vinyl, linoleum or sealed concrete
  • Choose textured finishes for traction
  • Clean and sanitize tile grout regularly
  • Use mats/rugs to enhance comfort and safety
  • Install a moisture barrier in slab floors

Durable, waterproof flooring improves sanitation and preserves your pantry.

Insufficient Ventilation

Proper ventilation is crucial for controlling humidity, odors and preventing mold growth in your pantry. Don’t make these ventilation mistakes:

No Vents/Fans

Include a ceiling or wall-mounted exhaust fan to actively circulate air and ventilate.

Blocked Vents

Don’t block vents with shelving or items. Keep ducts and vents clear and unobstructed.

Poor Airflow

Avoid enclosed pantry designs that limit natural airflow. Louvered doors can help.

No Passive Ventilation

Consider installing vents along the top of walls or doors to enable passive ventilation.

Ignoring Humidity

Use a hygrometer to monitor humidity levels and reduce if excessive moisture develops.

Tips for Adequate Ventilation

  • Install a quality exhaust fan with good CFM rating
  • Keep all vents, ducts and louvers clear
  • Use louvered doors and wall/ceiling vents
  • Monitor humidity levels
  • Maintain temperature climate control
  • Hire an HVAC professional if major issues

Proper ventilation keeps your pantry contents fresh for longer. Monitor and maintain regularly.

Condensation and Moisture Issues

Excessive humidity leading to condensation and moisture is a common problem in