The Custom Pantry


31 Aug The Custom Pantry

Look past my freshly harvested garlic and the stone fruit hogging the counter. See all those boxes lurking in the background? They were expropriating my dining table under the pretence of helping me organize the pantry. Or The Prototype, as I now call it.

From last year’s renovation and until last month, we shoved tinned goods and baking supplies onto a lopsided IKEA storage shelf in the dining area and a big steel rack in the living room. Like most temporary solutions, they were ugly, marginally serviceable and far more permanent than anyone imagined. In July, the pantry was scheduled to arrive, I cleared the shelves into boxes and the waiting began. Then July slid into August and August charged headlong towards September. Finally, last week The Prototype arrived and the three-day installation began.

Why’d it take a year? A combination of things. A wedding, major knee surgery that turned the living room into a hospital zone, Murphy and me. Yes, me. I innocently uttered the curse-inducing phrase, “How hard can it be?” I thought a pantry was just a big box with drawers and doors. And I was wrong.

So, for the curious, here’s how it went down.

Merely getting The Prototype to our house was an issue. As you can see, it filled every square inch of  the carpenter’s van.

The Prototype, which came in three main pieces, is so tall, it nearly didn’t make it under our pergola en route to the kitchen. Please be sure to admire the totally unrelated bag of yard waste. It took me a long time to fill that thing.

Then there were the shelves, which needed sliders attached on site for easier transport. There are drawers on the patio table, as well, but you get the idea.

Inside things weren’t any easier. The cold air return with its lovely antique grate had to go. You can see the venting solution in front of it.

So the cast iron front was detached and the vent redirected. And the baseboards cut and removed. All before The Prototype even made it in the door.

Because I wanted narrow sliding shelves for tinned goods (to maximize the space beside the appliance shelves), a thin support wall had to be installed. It was too thin to take the screws that come with the sliders, so the screws had to be cut down. This is how you cut down a screw — or several dozen, in this case.

After two days of installation, I have shelves set at heights specific to my needs. On the far left is my appliance shelving — one shelf per item. Then comes the narrow pull-out shelves for tinned goods and bottles. Beside this are pull-out drawers for other items. Best part? These drawers pull out ALL the way, so items at the back have full clearance. No more juggling tins and bottles to get the one you want. Out of the frame, on the far right, is cupboard space for my vacuum cleaner and adjustable shelves for non-food storage, like travel mugs and vitamins.

The doors got installed later in the week. Why? Well when your doors are almost 80 inches high and narrow, they bow if you make them out of 3/4″ wood. So, you have to remake them out of 7/8″ wood. And this takes time. And patience.

The final result? This…

Now, to all those smart alecs who asked me what colour we’re painting the pantry, I assure you, after what the carpenter went through to find good pine, I will never, ever paint them. Besides, the wood won’t look anemic for long. Like me, it just needs a bit of time in the sun.

My proof? Below you can see the crown moulding, which was as white as the pantry when it was installed last summer. It’s had a year to darken. The door frame (on the  bottom right) has had 148 years. They’re not that different in tone. By next summer the pantry will look like it has been here all along —

So, now that the drama is over, the saw dust cleared away and the vacuum returned to its new home (in The Prototype) I can get on with blogging again. Anyone for strawberries?




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  • NS Foster
    Posted at 18:26h, 01 September Reply

    This is tre-men-dously cool, lady. As someone who’s looking for their first house, I’m even more jealous. No kitchen I see will ever live up to my mind’s eye now!!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 21:27h, 01 September Reply

      Thanks, but to be fair, we did have to undergo a four-month renovation, then wait a year for the pantry. While I absolutely love my kitchen now, it wasn’t a pretty process.

      Good luck with the house hunting! I’m sure you’ll find a home you love.

  • Cheryl Arkison
    Posted at 10:15h, 03 September Reply

    That’s exciting! But I’m having a hard time getting past all that garlic!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:13h, 03 September Reply

      Because you love garlic or feel overwhelmed by it?

      All the garlic came from my garden. It’s impossible to get local garlic here in the winter and most of the time it’s that awful stuff from China. Not THIS year. I planted a lot in my rose beds and this is only half of it!

  • Heather Anderson
    Posted at 15:19h, 03 September Reply

    Charmian – I love the pantry! I saw it in many pieces while under construction and wasn’t sure how it would turn out. One shelf per appliance is fabulous – I wish I had room for that.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 16:17h, 03 September Reply

      I love the pantry too. Frank put a lot of time, effort and thought into sourcing the materials, design and construction. I must say, one shelf per appliance was my idea :-)

      Ironically, we don’t really have a lot of room in the house — just that one big, otherwise useless wall. We’ve made the most of our limited kitchen/dinging space and I’m amazed at what a difference its made to the whole house! I know I’ve created a monster with this pantry. All my MacIntosh relatives want one now. Poor Frank. He’ll never get any peace.

  • coco
    Posted at 18:20h, 05 September Reply

    wonderful idea to have such pantry. I have been thinking about
    making little panrty for myself.
    thanks for sharing you idea.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:42h, 06 September Reply

      This pantry has made a huge difference in our whole house (which is very small). I now have a place for everything! Good luck with making your own pantry. I admire anyone with woodworking skills. I shudder to think of the lopsided mess I would make of the job!

  • Kathe
    Posted at 16:49h, 21 May Reply

    So glad to admire the “after,” Charmian, having seen the “before” last summer. I know you will enjoy this so much, I guess you’ll stay in that lovely house forever now…

    One of these days I’ll come and admire it in person.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:01h, 21 May Reply

      I was never planning on leaving! Too much work has gone into the house and gardens. Plus, I like the neighbours. :-)

      You’re welcome to visit anytime and see the “after” for yourself.

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