10 pantry shelving ideas and how to organize them

These pantry shelving ideas work for small or large walk-in spaces to help you max out on valuable storage and stay organized.

A kitchen with pantry shelves lined with glass jars
(Image credit: Valeriy_G / Getty)

These pantry shelving ideas will make your kitchen life so much easier. Trust us when we say that there's more to organizing pantry shelves than meets the eye. From convenient pull-out designs to clever corner shelving, there's a lot to think about when kitting out a new pantry. 

Choosing the best shelving system is a big part of learning how to organize a pantry properly. Thoughtfully designed, correctly spaced out shelves make a huge difference to how much you'll enjoy using this space – and how quickly you'll be able to locate the ingredients you need. 

Top tips for organizing pantry shelves

When you are designing and organizing pantry shelves, there's quite a lot to think about, In the first instance, Graeme Smith, Head of Retail and Commercial Design at Life Kitchens, recommends preparing 'for every eventuality.' This means 'thinking outside the box' and beyond the simplest shelving construction. Consider 'removable cutlery drawers - so that you have the option of additional drawer space should the occasion arise', and 'why not incorporate wine racks and plate racks to your pantry or larder, ensuring that space is maximized and that you can store unusually shaped items?'

Smith's top tip, though, is to incorporate stepped shelving – it works like a dream inside deeper pantry shelves, and 'not only increases space but also allows you to see what you have in the cupboard with ease. Make sure you are using non-slip bases on each shelf, and if you’re using a corner unit then any shelf must have a smooth glide to prevent spillages.'

Making the correct choices in terms of what goes where is also essential to keep your kitchen pantry ideas looking polished and use of the space streamlined. Val Stones, baking expert at stairlift and home lift company Stannah recommends putting 'frequently used ingredients (like rice and pasta) on a shelf at eye level, herbs and spices above this, then heavier tinned items on the bottom shelves.' Then, use the top, most difficult-to-reach shelf for 'accessories that are seasonal, ingredients that are only used every so often, or special occasion items like jam labels.'

Blessed with a walk-in pantry? Stones' top walk-in pantry shelving ideas include organizing everything 'into labeled plastic boxes that are well within reach. The lighter items, such as bun cases, cake tin cases, sprinkles, and spare aprons are placed on the top shelves. On the middle shelves, I put flours, sugars, and dried fruits/goods. On the bottom shelves, I place preserves, oils, syrups, and my huge collection of cookery books. All the weight is on the bottom shelves which keeps them stable.'

The good news? You can easily replicate this inside your pantry, especially if you have some pantry organizers to hand. Whether your pantry is an odd shape, it's too small or there are fewer shelves in there than you'd like, an organizer can help tackle this problem and assist when it comes to storing even more pantry staples.

1. Vary the spaces between shelves for neat organization

A light blue pantry with natural wood shelving

(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

This is one of the essential pantry storage ideas that will make everything else easier. Cooking ingredients come in a wide variety of packaging of different sizes and heights, and your pantry shelving should reflect that. Rather than positioning the shelves at an equal distance, leave more space between the lower shelf and the upper shelves. The bottom shelf can then be used for larger, heavier items, perhaps even your food processor, whereas the upper, more narrowly spaced shelves can house condiments and other jars.

2. Line the back of your shelves with wallpaper

A smart dark grey pantry with wallpapered interior

(Image credit: Turek Interiors)

It's not just the quality and design of the shelving itself that matters. Think about what's behind your shelves when you open your pantry. If your pantry is unpainted and you want a more elegant, bespoke look, wallpapering is an easy and versatile shelving idea to set off your decor. 

This gorgeous wallpapered pantry has been created by Turek Interiors.

3. Line long shelves with vintage storage crates 

A walk-in pantry with green accents and soda storage crates

(Image credit: Alison Kandler interior design)

You don't necessarily need fancy storage containers on your pantry shelves. Be inspired by this brilliant walk-in pantry shelving idea by Alison Kandler Interior Design – it uses vintage soda storage crates to add a little rustic character to the pantry. This idea is also very budget-friendly and sustainable. Vintage wooden crates can be bought on Etsy

4. Group similar items together in square shelves

Pantry shelves with various storage container for different items

(Image credit: Martin Vecchio / Neat Method)

Want to organize your pantry shelves so that you never again forget where anything is? Take your cue from this extra-tidy pantry organized by Neat Method. We really like the tiered storage for condiments and spices – the tiered trays allow you to see all the spice jars at once. The round tray with sauces in the center looks great as a centerpiece. 

5. Incorporate wine storage into your pantry shelving

Pantry shelving with integrated wine storage

(Image credit: Michelle Drewes / Neat Method)

Who knew that a pantry shelving idea could also be one of the best kitchen storage ideas for wine lovers? Not everyone has a separate space for wine storage, and the pantry can provide the ideal solution – all you need to do is built x-shaped compartments for a couple of the shelves. Or, if you don't want to DIY it, you can get a wine storage rack on Amazon and just slide it in. 

6. Build shelves into the pantry door for smaller items

A painted pantry with door shelving

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography / Alamy Stock Photo)

A pantry door is an opportunity not to be wasted, especially if you pantry is narrow and you don't have that much room to play with. All those little spice and herb jars can nestle in shallow shelves on the door. Or, to make life even easier, fit a door mount spice rack from Amazon onto the door. 

7. Deep pantry shelves? Add portable shelving storage

Well stocked pantry with a variety of pots and cans

(Image credit: Studio CJ / Getty)

If you have deep pantry shelves that are also well spaced out, you may want to add portable shelving storage units to make them work a little bit harder. This is also easier than building in extra shelves. Ideally, choose a unit that has tray-style shelves, as these will hold your items a bit better.

8. Make the most of a corner pantry with bespoke shelves

A corner pantry with corner shelves, painted in dark colors

 Brandt Design Heritage Furniture – starting from £25,000 +vat

(Image credit: Brandt Design)

Think that a pantry and small kitchen ideas are incompatible? Not necessarily. Unused corners provide excellent opportunities for creating a pantry, and well-built bespoke corner shelving can easily give you as much storage space as a regular pantry. You will want to keep your containers to taller, slimmer designs in order to waste that valuable shelving space, though.

Design-wise, a smaller pantry looks great painted in darker colors, as the bespoke example above. 

9. Install pull-out shelves for easy retrieval

A custom-built pantry with pull-out shelving design in a modern kitchen with double oven

(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

If your pantry is deep and narrow, and you have the budget for custom-built pantry shelving, consider a pull-out design. It'll save you so much time rummaging inside, trying to make out what's at the back of the shelves.  You could also try fitting a sliding cabinet organizer from Amazon inside your pantry – of course, it won't look quite the same, and you'll have to be very precise with measurements for it to work. 

10. Transform your pantry shelves into a coffee bar

A freestanding pantry with a built-in coffee bar

(Image credit: Life Kitchens)

If you're not too short on space and don't actually need your pantry to store all your cooking ingredients, you could transform your pantry into a gorgeous breakfast bar. You will need sturdy, solid shelving to house your coffee machine. We really like the way this example, from Life Kitchens, uses a box shelf to store the coffee machine, with narrow shelves on the sides used for coffee mugs. 

What can I use for shelves in pantry?

Julia Steadman, Commercial Director at Brandt Design, advises that 'the natural choice for a shelf in your pantry would be wood, as this type of material can be custom-fit to any size, as well as offer antibacterial qualities – ideal for an area storing food and drink.'

Of course, if you're on a tight budget, you don't have to use solid wood; you could use plywood or MDF, or even particleboard. However, do bear in mind that, with the exception of MDF, these less expensive shelving materials will take less weight, so don't plan on putting a toaster and heavy jars on top of a thinner shelf. Dor Steadman, solid wood is the clear winner for pantry shelving because it 'can also be painted in the same finish as your kitchen furniture, allowing you to achieve a truly consistent look throughout.' 

How do you shelve a small pantry?

When looking to shelve a small pantry, Steadman recommends getting 'creative and only designing for what you need. For instance, make use of redundant space in your kitchen like an unused corner and transform it into a practical area to store your food cupboard staples.'

Corners are the unsung heroes of smaller kitchens, so you really should consider a corner pantry if your room is tiny. As Steadman points out, 'with the addition of a few strategically placed corner shelves, all designed at convenient heights, you will be able to create a dedicated space for non-perishable items so that your kitchen cupboards can concentrate on maximizing utility in the main work zones.'

Anna is a professional writer with many years of experience. She has a passion for contemporary home decor and gardening. She covers a range of topics, from practical advice to interior and garden design.