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Wasted Space to DREAM Pantry!

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

In 2019 I bought a really big house on ten acres in Northern Virginia, (NOVA), in a tiny town called Hume. I did so without any input from my husband or kids, and we set off for the mid-Atlantic.

I'm a native of California - where we live outdoors much of the year, and don't need large homes - so to me this house was colossal. This house was so big that we had some weird, wasted spaces, like the one in this before photo. It was elevated by two steps, and had what we referred to as the "pizza oven" which was really just a tiny gas fireplace that was literally never used during our occupancy. We called this area a stage at times, at others it was referred to as that "stupid little corner by the kitchen that has absolutely no purpose whatsoever."

Someone did bless the space with a skylight; the only skylight in the house, and that was its only redeeming quality. ...until we started to plan the remodel of the kitchen that is on the other side of the wall to the left of the before photo.

We have remodeled enough kitchens to know that we have to plan well. We have too large of a family to have no stove for an extended period, or the fridge in a walkway. This particular kitchen had been a Kosher kitchen, so it was incredibly easy to remodel!! There were two of almost everything. Two sinks, two dishwashers, etc., and on opposite ends of the large room.

One of my most genius ideas ever was to enclose this area and turn it into an enormous pantry. It that C-word virus time, after all, and we had nothing better to do, lumber was still cheap, and traffic was light.

We always begin with a floor plan. It's a luxury to have the software that I do, but if you are not constantly remodeling like we are, you can use a pencil sketch to accomplish the same goal. If you can draw straight lines, you can do this. If you can't, use a ruler.

I use both Magic Plan on my iPad and Chief Architect on my MacBook Pro. These were pre-Chief Architect, I believe. Honestly, before I approach my husband with any idea, I do the leg work. I measure, place a million walls, corners, windows, outlets, cabinets, etc., and make a couple of options I can live with. THEN, and ONLY THEN, do I approach my husband. He is not a 3-d thinker. He is a pilot. He sees instruments and 2-d maps. I am the creative, he is the money and muscle supporting me.

If I tell him about an idea I have without a backup visual for him, we end the "conversation" loudly, and at least one of us is wondering why we don't have divorce lawyers on speed dial. We cannot negotiate a remodel without pictures. It only took me 16 years to figure that out. Now that we've been married for 19 years, and together for almost 20, I shake my head in wonder that we lasted 16 years prior to Magic Plan and Chief!

Above is one of the floorpans we mulled over and decided against. We went with a similar concept, though. Below is the one we decided upon. The island I built was much larger, but was free-standing, so the kitchen is not married to the island. :) These images give you an idea of the flow, and where we put the pantry in relation to the kitchen prep areas.

The ONE thing I need in any home is a logical flow and useful spaces!! If I buy a home lacking these two things, I will fix it before I sell.

I had already built the cabinets / bench below. I remember it like yesterday... I sent a photo to my friend in Arizona, and when he called later that day I mentioned I had been driving the tractor that morning, etc.

He said something like, "you build AND drive a tractor? You're badass." He died suddenly, but not totally unexpectedly, a few days later. Every time I drove the tractor after that I thought about him, and how he had been such a good friend to our family when we needed to know that Joshua would be taken care of in an emergency. Everyone needs a friend who thinks they are badass!! ...but all of that is a story for another day.

If I stain and polyurethane lumber for shelves, I like to do so before I hang them. Especially in this case, when some of the shelves were 8' from the ground, this was imperative. There was no way, as clumsy as I am, I was going to go up and down a ladder to polyurethane and sand shelves. My life insurance agent thanked me. And yes, I did stain and poly the shelves where I made peanut butter sandwiches! We like to live on the edge... we're rebels.

We ripped the 3/4" birch plywood into 12" strips, cut them to length, and stained them. I used three coats of quick dry poly to seal them. I sanded lightly between coats, and they were as smooth as a baby's bum to the touch. We used 1x2" lumber to trim the edges and make the shelves appear more substantial. We joined the corners with dowels to ensure that they would provide proper support to the items stored.

Next, we added 2x3 framing lumber as cleats and painted them the same color as the wall to make them disappear.

We bought shelf brackets from Lowe's, and yes, we made ugly blocks for them, but they do disappear once the project is completed. I promise!

As I said earlier, we did use dowels to join the corners of each shelf. The dowels helped to line the corners up, and also helped with much needed stability.

We also framed the new walls that day. We didn't want to add drywall till the shelves were complete, so we would have more room to move. The more room to move, the less, "you're in my way" happens.

It truly IS the little things that make my heart happy, like adding the ends to the shelves. See how it helps make those blocks behind the shelf brackets disappear? You no longer notice them, right? Once we add food, you'll literally NEVER see them.

We loaded that pantry long before we had those walls finished. I had it stocked to the rafters with food and paper products. Living in rural Virginia during Covid was such a blessing!! Our eggs were fresh from the hen, we had lots of food, a well for water, and plenty of remodel projects to keep us busy! It was a dream!

We had our favorite drywall guys over to tape, texture, and paint. Then I built the door. Yes... I BUILT the door... because it was not a standard size. I blame my husband, he blames me, we wondered about that speed dial thing again... and so it goes.

The pantry mid-kitchen remodel. The island wasn't finished yet as you can see.

The knob is one that my husband and I picked up in Argentina 🇦🇷. I love, love, LOVE Argentina!! ❤️ Like, whole heartedly, 💜 kind of love 💕. Eventually, I put the toaster oven inside the "pizza oven" and it really was a pizza oven sometimes!

If you have any questions or comments please leave them below and I will do my best to answer them! Thanks for taking the time to walk down memory lane with me. This was such a great project, and I miss that pantry!!


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