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How many of you move into small apartments with the glorious walk-in pantries of the magazine of our dreams? Can we have a show of hands? No one…???

In this apartment with no built-in pantry I have tried a few different ideas which I will display below. I’ll walk you through the new-and-improved open kitchen pantry.

Motivating factors behind the Kitchen Inspiration:

A. Functional over beauty:

It must work. It must work well. I want to run in, make a sandwich, and run out and make my bus in time without moving 5 appliances along the way.

B. Visually appealing:

After functional, the next goal closely behind or almost in tandem is that the kitchen must be aesthetically appealing. If I have to spend a ton of time in there, it better be fun and look good!

C. Affordable:

Well I guess this is closely connected with the above – if I can’t afford it I can’t buy it. This is what has stopped me from several purchases at IKEA, The Container Store, and Bed Bath and Beyond. I know, IKEA is affordable. But installing their systems is not cheap for someone not so handy, and without a car in NYC obtaining their materials is a hindrance as well. We will stick with the most affordable and easy to obtain options that work within the other parameters set here.

D. Not permanent – (renting):

This element is kind of a bummer. One goal of this blog is to help show how it doesn’t have to be! To always live in a temporary state of mind of renting doesn’t have to mean one lives out of boxes. You can have a very lived-in atmosphere without major structural changes to your kitchen.

What didn’t work…:( 🙁 (

A. Food in Cabinets

This didn’t work for a multitude of reasons. Using cabinets as food pantry storage took away their function to hold dishes and kitchenware. Also higher cabinets were not easily accessible, and overall I didn’t like the look of food in the cabinets.

B. Sterilite Drawers as Pantry storage

What we used initially were three large clear stacked Sterilite drawers. Advantages: the clear drawers showed the contents inside, making it easy to grab and go. Also these drawers are inexpensive and available almost everywhere (Target, Walmart, Amazon, etc).

What I have is similar to:


(I just didn’t put the wheel/casters on)

Disadvantages: The drawers were deep and big, and became huge areas to dig through to find what I needed. They also became very heavy and hard to pull out with heavier items such as canned food, etc. Since they were 3 drawers and low to the ground, I either had to bend down to get food (uncomfortable) or I put the drawer unit on top of my counter (more on that later) which used up valuable “counter space.”

Overall, I’m happy these 3 drawers are not the pantry system in my apartment anymore. 

It turns out this style of drawers is better suited for lighter-weight items such as clothing or small toys.

C. Wire Shelving with Sterilite Combination

I went out and bought a 5 shelf unit from amazon, similar to:


The unit works great. The setup with the shelving and the sterilite still wasn’t a perfect match for my needs, the main complaint was due to space in this apartment. To use both of these in the kitchen meant that the 5 shelf wire shelving unit stuck out into the living room space. It wasn’t terrible, but again gave the apartment a temporary look versus a fluid people-live-here look I was going for. It also had all the issues of the Sterilite drawers mentioned above, since they were used together but by using it in tandem with the wire shelving at least I had increased storage capacity to also put dish towels, ziploc bags, etc.

What is working:

Da da da da da!

Wire Shelving Unit Open Pantry
Affordable. Practical. Can be aesthetically pleasing as I will show below.

It started with rotating the five-shelf unit so that it doesn’t project out into the living room perpendicularly, it now runs horizontally along the wall. This also means that the pantry contents are open and visible to someone in the first 10 seconds of entering the apartment – can you say *pressure*?

So I have an open 5 shelf unit, no other pantry space, and it has to be functional and pretty.


I like the big cloth bins because they store a lot. They also hide things however and need more maintenance to say in order. I want to use these on the bottom two shelves for things that I can identify by looking at the top and I don’t need to dig for, like hand towels and table cloths. For the top shelves I want clear containers so that I can see the contents and not have to dig.

They sell nice options at The Container Store, IKEA, Bed Bath & Beyond. However I purchased mine at..

Plastic bins – Family Dollar!
Fabric bins – Amazing Savings!

Stuff I used is linked here:

5 shelf wire shelving unit: https://amzn.to/2DXCNvN

3 drawer Sterilite unit: https://amzn.to/2OBinwB



Above – Pantry “Before” video!
Above & Below – pantry “Before.”

Right – Sterilite drawers, now repurposed for a better use – toy storage!

Below L& R – Pantry top & bottom “after.”
Pantry “after” video!