Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Creating a Pantry (when your rental doesn’t have one!)

One of the most challenging aspects of being a renter is living with less-than-ideal features or layouts and not being able modify or fix them in any way! In the 5 homes I’ve lived in over the past decade, each one has had features I’ve loved and features I’ve loathed. But no matter how frustrating a certain situation seems, I take on a personal challenge to get creative, think outside the box, and make each aspect of the home work perfectly for our little family! In our current house, our tiny cave-of-a-kitchen has an abundance of upper and lower cabinets but no pantry to store food. At first, I didn’t think this was a big deal; but after just a few weeks, I realized I couldn’t easily see (or reach!) into the backs of the upper cabinets, causing a lot of frustration on grocery days and at meal times. It didn’t take me long to realize I had to get creative and come up with an alternative food storage solution that worked for this house!


My first thought was to outfit a wall in our kitchen as open shelving to hold food, but there isn’t a single stretch of wall available. Right off of our little kitchen, however, is the laundry room. And while it’s no walk in pantry, even with the washing machine, dryer, folding counter and wash sink, there was still plenty of space to install some shelves and create the pantry we so desperately needed.

If we were going to be in this house longer, we might have installed some wall-mounted shelves or created some sort of faux built-in shelving system. However, we didn’t want to invest a ton of money or time in this project, as anything we did had to eventually be un-done at move out. A simple wire rack from the home improvement store turned out to be the perfect size and the perfect price tag. Plus, when we move, this shelf can easily be repurposed in a variety of different ways around the house. To keep things from looking too industrial and to add a dose of charm, I gathered some simple supplies from around the house for a few DIY storage solutions. Patterned shelf liner, plain white contact paper, blue vinyl, spray primer, spray paint and some craft glue all helped turn this shelf from a basic rack to an organized and uber-functional pantry!

The first thing I did was add some vinyl decals (designed and cut using an e-cutter) and patterned liner to two white buckets to hold clean and dirty wash rags, dish towels and dusters. These buckets fit right on the bottom shelf, and honestly, having dedicated clean/dirty spots for these hardworking textiles has been a game changer in my kitchen!

On the next two shelves, I fashioned some solid shelf liners out of contact paper and sheets of thick corrugated cardboard. While the wire racks are sturdy, some smaller and thinner items were pretty unstable on the rack. The quick little addition of cardboard sheets made these shelves better equipped for stacking and storing all sorts of food items!

I started with large sheets of corrugated cardboard from the craft store (foam core could work too!) Before cutting, I measured the dimensions of the wire shelf from just inside the wire edge. Using a clear ruler, a pencil and a sharp X-acto knife, I cut out a rectangle in the measured dimensions. To accommodate the round vertical supports of the shelf, I used a spool of thread as a template to cut out notches in each corner of the rectangle.

I covered the cardboard rectangle in white contact paper (for protection and aesthetics!) and then added a simple blue edge by cutting 1.25” strips of vinyl and wrapping them around the perimeter and to the underside of the cardboard. Once popped back into place, these sheets sit nicely within the wire shelves, so no additional securing is necessary.

With my shelves ready to go, I loaded up the lower shelf with our canned goods and snack items. I decided to finally invest in some nice storage containers for our grains and baking supplies, and these are stored right at eye level on the next shelf up. So that I can wash and change out the containers as necessary, I use washable/writable labels on the front of each container to identify the contents within. If you don’t want to invest in labels, you can also use a dry erase marker to write directly on the containers themselves!

One of my favorite all-time kitchen storage solutions is to use a lazy susan for oils and vinegars and other tall jars. This old one from my parents’ basement was given a coat of spray primer and paint to hide imperfections and coordinate it with the rest of the pantry.

The top two shelves are somewhat hard for me to reach, so instead of small items I have to shift through or keep tidy, I store baskets here for easy take-down and put-up access! The smaller white totes hold baking and coffee supplies…

…and the larger blue baskets hold paper products, extra trash bags, and disposable food-storage containers. Catch-all bins are ideal for these things that need to be accessible but can get messy when stored on shelves. These blue totes were originally brown, flowered and on clearance from a home décor store. A coat of spray paint and new patterned lining tie them into the rest of the space!

While a free-standing pantry in the laundry room is not my definition of an “ideal” pantry, I have to say that this setup has been one of the best projects we’ve tackled in this house from the lifestyle improvement perspective! Walking in and out of the laundry room is easy and convenient; in fact, it would be no different if we actually had a walk-in pantry. The wire shelf, while at first glance is pretty primitive, has become a super spacious and effective way to store our food. With the help of some simple DIY projects and functional storage solutions, it’s fun to look at and a breeze to maintain!

How about you? Do you have a lackluster kitchen or no pantry in your rental? Maybe it’s not a lack of pantry but some other badly needed storage space? Just look around – there might be a tiny nook of space that you, too, could carve out to be just what you need. Examine your house with a really critical eye. Consider sections of open walls in laundry rooms, storage closets or hallways. Look hard at your existing cabinets and shelving: taking out shelves can make cabinets bigger, while adding shelves to too-large cabinets can double your usable space. No matter how crazy the idea, give it a try. Even if the solution isn’t ideal, remember, you’re just renting – it likely won’t be forever!



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About :

Hi, I'm Megan...wife to a U.S. Marine and mom to a high-energy baby boy! We are a military family, moving into our 5th home in 8 years! I started this blog as a way to chronicle the various "homes I have made" over the years, as well as to be a resource for ideas, tips, and tricks for making any temporary space a cute, cozy and comfortable home! I hope you'll stay a minute, take a look around, introduce yourself, and hopefully...find something you like! Have a great day!

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  1. John Donovan says:

    The lazy susan is an excellent idea! It makes it easier to keep everything organized and tidy, without making it a hassle to reach your smaller jars or risk knocking things over. When you live in a small apartment sometimes you have to get creative!

    • susan/ not lazy just crazy says:

      I love the idea of the lazy susan, I have one in my fridge! It has made my fridge stay better organized! Love the color ideas for organizing shelves!

  2. Heather Bressette says:

    I just wanted to say great ideas you have…. I’m very impressed. Would luv tio see more of your ideas.

  3. You’ve inspired me to make my bakers rack more functional. I basically needed it to hold my microwave as there is very little counter space. However, now I realize that the rest of it is not functional….holds recipe books and décor items. I’m going to set it up like yours….wish I had purchased the wire rack you did…I’d have more vertical space. Maybe I’ll put 2 shelves up I already have. Thanks!

  4. That’s fabulous. At first I thought the wire shelves were a “duh” idea – as in, been there, done that – but your use of the cardboard covered in contact paper and the storage put a definite oomph factor in the whole room. Very, very nicely done.

    We will be downsizing to an apartment next year and I will be looking for this size laundry room – that is pretty sweet for an apartment. We have had one like that before [when I used shelves as a pantry] but in the ensuing years the two rentals we had didn’t have the room. That’s a must if there isn’t a pantry.

  5. HaileyHoffman says:

    I was astounded at how clever your pantry ideas are. I was just curious on where you got your bins, canisters, and the other stuff that made the pantry so organized? Also, how much would you say it cost for all the supplies TOTAL. Not including the rack…cuz I already know how much they cost and where to get them. I wish you did this for a living. I’d love some help to get my MESS of a make-shift pantry organized and attractive. (what I’ve got is made out of a dysfunctional bookshelf)it’s ugly. YOURS IS BEAUTIFUL. Thanks for the ideas

  6. HardestyMom01 says:

    Loving it! You did an awesome job! Lots of ideas from this one.

  7. Your solution is great. I recently converted storage space under the stairs in my apartment to a walk-in pantry that shares space with luggage and other items that are temperature sensitive and can not be stored in the garage.
    It’s all organized and now I need to do all of the cute labeling.

  8. Mellie Smith says:

    I used the same large wire rack in my rental kitchen. I had very little counter space, so I adjusted my shelves up and down so that the center shelf was counter-height. I bought a piece of melamine (on sale) to make that shelf both rigid and easy to clean, and put my large mixer and my Cuisinart there (with a power strip zip-tied to the frame within easy reach). The shelf directly below my new “counter” was shallow…just deep enough to hold my most-used baking dishes. The rest of the rack was filled with baskets and metal containers full of food…easy to pull out, but not a hot-mess. It worked like a charm and it is actually my preferred kitchen set up, now.

  9. Brilliant idea!

  10. Wow! These are great and easy ideas for shelving. Thank you.

  11. Virginia says:

    Just wondering where you got the canisters? I love them!

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