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The area under your stairs is likely underutilized. Sure, it may serve as a place to store your favorite items, but you could make that space so much more – you could create a pantry under your stairs! Here’s a guide on how to do it.
To make a pantry under the stairs, you’ll need to install shelving, a light, and pantry doors. First, calculate the potential space under the stairs and then decide how you’d like to use it. Plan the layout, install the doors, shelving, and light, and then finish it off with a fresh coat of paint.
Creating a pantry under the stairs is a perfect home-makeover project. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and you can safely do it on your own. Let’s take a look at everything involved with building a pantry under your stairway.
Assess the Space
The first stage to building a pantry under your stairs is to assess the space. Take into account what the area currently looks like.
- Do you already have shelving in there that you can keep, or will you have to fully redo the area?
- Do you have anything in that space that you can’t move or replace?
If so, take note of these things, as you will have to design around them.
Decide the best way to access the space, too. If there is no door installed already, you’ll have to determine the best type of door for daily access. A classic hinged door can have a very cottagey feeling, but a bi-fold closet door might be more space-saving. If you want to keep things simple, a floral curtain is easy to install and gives a cozy touch to the kitchen.
Measure the Space
Take measurements of the entire space. Make special note of the area’s depth as this will determine what size of shelving you can install. When determining the height of the shelves, you should consider what will be stored on them.
You’ll need to decide the height of shelving you’ll want as well. The following are some of the standard measurements for shelves in a pantry; however, feel free to alter them to your preferences and accessories.
The area below the bottom-most shelf is one of the most useful places in your pantry. The bottom shelf is usually around 20 to 24 inches (50.8 to 61 cm) above the floor. This gives you space to store bins of bulk items like flour, sugar, dog food, or any large cooking appliances.
The bottom shelf usually stores tall items like cereal boxes and dry mixes. A taller lower shelf allows you to view what is on it without bending down. This shelf should be about 18″ (45.7 cm) to allow ease of access and view.
Above the bottom, the shelf should be another larger shelf that is also easy to view. Here, you can keep jars of baking goods, large condiments, and more. 15″ (38.1 cm) is usually the perfect height for this shelf.
The middle shelves are obviously the most frequently accessed shelves, and the items you keep here should be the ones you use every day. To determine this, you can go through your daily routine for a few days, and every time you use something in your kitchen, place that thing in a box.
At the end of the few days, take all of the items out of the box, and measure the tallest ones’ height. This will be your measurement for your middle shelves; they are usually between 6-8.5″ (15.2-22 cm), though this will vary depending on your most-frequently-used items.
The highest shelf is usually not as deep as the other shelves, making it easier to see and reach. This shelf’s height will be only limited by the ceiling above it, but the depth of the shelf should be 4-5 inches (10.2-12.7 cm) less than the shelves below it.
Don’t forget: Because you’re building a pantry under the stairs, you will need to cut the shelving in descending measurements so that they fit flush against the diagonal wall.
Once you have all of your measurements, you can start installing the hardware of the pantry. Lighting is not commonly installed under the stairs unless it was already used as a closet, so you’ll have to install some type of lighting in most cases. You can run electricity through the wall, but if you don’t have the skills to do so, you can install other types of lighting.
Battery-powered lighting can be just as efficient in brightening up your pantry under the stairs. The Moston Rechargeable Closet Light is easy to mount, using a strip of sticky tape that has iron particles on one side to create a magnetic surface for the light to hold onto. Simply stick the tape on the ceiling of your closet, and the light will mount onto it.
This light is rechargeable and motion censored, so you don’t have to fumble for a light switch every time you reach into your pantry. The light will also automatically turn off after 20 seconds without motion, so you won’t waste power in your pantry.
Paint Walls and Shelves
If you are going to give your pantry a fresh coat of paint, now is the time to do so. Fill and sand down any holes in the walls, and paint your new shelving too, if you wish to do so. It’s much easier to paint both the walls and the shelves before they are installed.
Once you’ve decided on the shelving width, height, and length that you’ll be needing, you can cut and install your shelving. Plywood shelving is the cheapest option if you want custom-cut surfaces in your pantry, but for those who are less construction-inclined, shelving products work just as well.
Floating shelves like the LuckIn Sturdy Shelf Brackets are stylish yet simple to install. Just be sure to measure out all of the shelf heights before you drill into your freshly painted walls.
Install the Door
Now that the closet’s bones are all in place, you can mount and install the door. The unique thing about a pantry under the stairs is that the ceiling is slanted. Also, depending on the wall you access the pantry from, the top of the door may need to be slanted as well.
There are a few creative door options that you can use in this unique space, like a sliding barn door, which can run along the side of the staircase, or forgo the door altogether and keep access to the pantry completely open.
Of course, staying organized is key to having a beautiful and useful pantry. Use baskets to keep spices together on shelves and make it easy to clean if any comes loose from their containers. Wheeled bins on the floor allow easy access to the bottom-most items in the pantry, and you can easily move things around as your needs change.
Here are some tips for keeping your pantry in top shape:
- Buy in bulk.
- Use clear containers.
- Label your containers.
- Determine what each shelf is for.
- Store like items on the same shelves.
- Check your pantry before shopping, so you don’t buy doubles.
Installing a pantry under your stairs is an excellent home project that helps you maximize your space. There are a few key things to remember when you take on this project:
- You will need lighting in the space.
- Measure your shelves before you install them.
- You may need to create a custom angled-door.
- A small-space pantry needs to be organized.
- HowStuffWorks: How do motion-sensing lights and burglar alarms work?
- HGTV: How to Install a Light Fixture
- Kitchn: This Is What Makes a Pantry Perfect, According to a Pro Closet Builder
- Home Depot: How to Cut Drywall
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Giovanni Valle is an architect, designer, internet entrepreneur, and the managing editor of various digital publications including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place. He is the founder of BuilderSpace LLC.