Small Pantry Makeover DIY (with Before + After)

DIY, July 19, 2023

How many times a day do you frequent your kitchen pantry? Too many? Same. This pantry makeover DIY has been an absolute game changer for our family.

Not only was our pantry closet a total eye sore, but it also wasn’t a great use of space. Our small appliances were crammed on the floor alongside our canned drinks and grocery bags.

Don’t even get me started on those wire shelves! It was a jumbled mess and I had been dreaming about this project for long time.

small pantry organization

This small pantry makeover consisted of about eight different DIYs! Use the table of contents to navigate to the step-by-step tutorials that you’re interested in!!

You can also skip to “Pantry Sources” if you’re looking for a link to something in particular!

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means, if you purchase something from a link I provided, I will receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to youThank you so much for the support!

Before + After of Our Pantry Makeover DIY

small pantry makeover before photo with wire shelves
small pantry organization ideas
a small closet pantry makeover before photo
a DIY pantry makeover with shiplap, corbels, peg rack, and curtains

Small Pantry Organization

Just because you don’t have a walk-in pantry, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice aesthetic. Ours feels like a mini butler’s pantry now and it makes me so happy!

Pantry Makeover Inspiration

Organization can be tough. There were many moments I wished I had a professional organizer to help me. But luckily there’s plenty of pantry transformations to explore on Pinterest!

Here’s my pantry closet Pinterest board!

A lot of my inspiration came from Laine and Layne’s corner pantry and James May Homes pantry.

What is the best way to organize a small pantry?

When you’re working with limited space, it’s important to figure out what storage systems would work best for your own small pantry makeover.

Take inventory of your current pantry items. Write a list of items you’d like to store in your pantry. Maybe you need a spot for your paper products or garbage bags?!

small pantry design ideas

We knew we needed extra space to store our small appliances so the lower shelves were carefully planned to fit those!

In the end, I did rearrange things just a bit until I found the pantry system that worked best!

small pantry shelving ideas

Small pantry organization tip: Use cafe curtains to cover up any open shelving that might be an eye sore!

small pantry design

The top shelf, which you can barely see in the photo below, stores our least used appliances since they’re the hardest to get to! (I keep a small foldable step stool in the lower cabinets)

We have easy access to our food storage and dry goods which are all in these large baskets and bamboo lid jars on the 1st and 2nd upper shelves! The white crock stores our granola bars.

small pantry remodel

The side walls have peg rails which I thought was such a great idea for more storage space! We hang our onions, potatoes, and garlic in these cute little mesh bags.

pantry makeover wire shelving

A broom hands from the other side for now! The peg hooks are a great place to hang aprons, herbs, little baskets, mugs… the options are endless!

small pantry closet

The lazy Susan has coffee beans, sugar and nuts within easy reach! How pretty are these crystal jars?!

pantry makeover ideas

My cookbooks look beautiful displayed on the pantry countertop. Especially at night with the soft glow of these awesome rechargeable motion sensored lights!

small pantry closet shelving

Lastly, I made this easy DIY pantry door spice rack! Click here for the full tutorial!

small pantry makeover ideas

DIY Vertical Shiplap

Our first project in our new home was installing horizontal shiplap in our living room.

After about 6 months, I was nervous to admit that I wasn’t loving it and it just wasn’t my style. I lived with it for 1.5 years before taking it down and doing this recessed wainscoting accent wall which I am absolutely in love with.

Repurposing the shiplap for this small pantry makeover was the perfect solution. When you install shiplap vertically, it can make a space appear taller!!

pantry makeover DIY

Get your measurements!

Your ceiling height will play a big role in the plan for your design/materials when installing vertical shiplap.

Our ceilings are 9ft height and we can only fit 8ft boards in our car, so we had to get a little creative! (Not to mention we were working with leftover shiplap scraps so most were already cut!)

vertical shiplap 3ft up the wall where the seam will be covered by a countertop

Tip: If your shiplap boards aren’t long enough for your ceiling height, see if there’s a way you can hide the seam.

For us, we hid seams with the countertop and the shaker peg rail!

pantry makeover small

How do you secure vertical shiplap to the wall?

The best way to secure your vertical shiplap to the wall is by installing furring strips horizontally into the studs before installing the vertical shiplap. The shiplap boards will then be nailed into the furring strips!

We actually didn’t use this method only because we didn’t want to sacrifice any space. To secure vertical shiplap without studs or furring strips, you can shoot two nails in (near each other) at different angles.

using a brad nailer at an angle for installing vertical shiplap
brad nailing vertical shiplap with no studs

Tip: Nailing the shiplap in on the lip helps reduce the number of nail holes you need to fill!

Tips for installing vertical shiplap

Use a laser level or level as you go!

Make sure your shiplap boards are pushed in all the way down the length of the board or you’ll end up with uneven gaps.

how to install vertical shiplap

Paint the edges as you install the shiplap! This is SO much easier than trying to get in the gaps after it’s up, trust me!

painting the edges of shiplap before installing the next piece
painting the edges of a shiplap board

Use trim where the shiplap meets the ceiling for a cleaner look! This was just some scrap wood I had, but you can use whatever you like!

Crown moulding would be beautiful of course, but for such a small pantry, you can’t even see the ceiling!

where shiplap meets the ceiling
A wood trim piece to cover where shiplap meets the ceiling

As always, don’t forget the finish work! It’s helpful to try to nail your boards in the same general areas so you can fill them much faster and you’re less likely to miss some!

using spackle in shiplap nail holes
caulking the corners of vertical shiplap

DIY Thin Floating Shelves

Let’s have a moment of silence for old shelves. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take wood shelves over old wire shelving any day!

a closet pantry with wire shelves

What a difference some new shelves can make!

small pantry remodel

Click here for the blog post tutorial on these DIY thin floating shelves!

making pilot holes on the corner of a shelf bracket
thin floating shelf brackets diy
diy thin floating shelves
1.5" floating shelves layers held by clamps

Small Pantry Shelving

This was our first time making open shelving like this! We learned a lot and definitely made some mistakes worth sharing!

small pantry cabinet

Tips for DIY plywood cabinets

Truly, making a cabinet box wasn’t too difficult! It just involves a lot of pocket holes, wood glue, and screws!

You can use any type of kreg jig pocket hole tool- this option would work great! Also, be sure to use a square to make sure everything is… well, square! 🙂

using a kreg gig for pocket holes in 1/2" plywood
making shelving with 1/2" plywood
attaching two plywood pieces perpendicular
screwing two pieces of wood together with pocket holes

We used 1/2″ plywood with 1″ pocket screws for these but if I were to do this again, I would definitely use 3/4″ plywood.

It’s just easier to make pocket holes in 3/4 inch plywood. With 1/2 inch plywood, there were certain areas where the screws would poke through the other side of the wood just the tiniest bit.

What NOT to do

Don’t buy cheap plywood. We were trying to save some extra money and went with a lower grade option. It wasn’t long before we were back to the store for better plywood!

You can see in this photo below the difference between the plywood on the left (better quality) and the piece I was trying to add to the right side but it was too warped.

There’s a visible difference in quality. You don’t need to get the best available plywood, but just make sure it’s smooth and straight.

pantry makeover storage

Our silliest mistake was assembling the entire cabinet box outside, not realizing there was no way we could actually fit this in our tiny pantry…

small pantry cabinet

We went from feeling proud and excited to embarrassed and frustrated. This is definitely a mistake we won’t be making twice!

It hurt our hearts, but we had to disassemble more than half of the cabinet before we could fit it. I can now confirm that gorilla wood glue is very strong. We had to use a rubber mallet to separate the pieces.

small pantry cabinet diy

But, it was just a minor set back and we had it reassembled in the pantry in no time!!

pantry makeover on a budget

Notice we left a little space below for a toe kick area. It was just the 2×4 base that we screwed into our flooring before then screwing the cabinet into those!

Lastly, I caulked, added trim to cover the plywood edges, primed and painted!

small pantry shelving ideas

I know I breezed over this section, so if you have any questions you can always leave a comment and I’m happy to help!

Also, this blog post on how to build a simple cabinet box was really helpful 🙂

DIY Plywood Countertop

Something about a countertop in a pantry… it’s just makes for such a cozy feel! The counter space makes for a great opportunity to have a little coffee bar, a drink station, or even set up your toaster!

DIY Butcher Block Countertop

Ours is storing cook books, a lazy Susan with regularly used items, and my favorite (very real looking) faux tulips! Oh, did I mention our cats love it too?!

You’re not going to believe how easy it was to make this DIY countertop from plywood!

How to make a DIY plywood countertop

Make a cardboard template

First I used a piece of cardboard to make a template! The walls weren’t even in our pantry, so it wasn’t a perfect rectangle shape!

pantry makeover with cabinets
Cut countertop to size

Using my cardboard template as a guide, I then cut two pieces of plywood using my table saw! You could also use a circular saw!

Tip: When cutting plywood against the grain, use painters tape where your cut will be to prevent splitting!!

small pantry organization
Glue plywood pieces together

The bottom piece was just scrap plywood we had laying around. The *chef’s kiss* is the top piece which I made from red oak plywood! (You can order it here from Home Depot) It has a beautiful grain and takes stain really nicely!!

I just used a bunch of wood glue and clamped them together!

plywood countertop diy

To finish the plywood edge I used this red oak edge banding.

Edge banding makes plywood look like a solid piece of wood and it’s so simple to apply! You just use and iron to activate the adhesive!

plywood countertop diy

This handy tool makes trimming the excess edge banding so easy! If you don’t have it, you can carefully use a utility knife.

After this, I sanded down the whole countertop and especially where the edge banding meets the top and bottom. This is where the magic happens! You’ll never know it was plywood!

plywood countertop diy
The staining process

Before staining, make sure your countertop is dust free and don’t forget to use a pre-stain conditioner!

For both my DIY spice rack and this countertop, I used layered Minwax stain colors for a custom look. First, I did a layer of Espresso stain. After letting that dry, I did a second layer of English Chestnut stain to add more warmth!

plywood countertop diy Minwax chestnut

The satin polyurethane I used also plays a key role in the overall professional look of this DIY countertop. I applied 3 coats but you could do even more depending on how much traffic yours will get!

Lots of wood glue and a few weights is all you’ll need to secure this bad boy! I had some tiny gaps around the edges but felt that caulking would make those more noticeable. I just left them! It’s very hard to tell!

plywood countertop diy

Can you even believe this countertop is plywood? I personally never would have guessed. I’m so impressed by how it turned out!!

DIY Pantry Door Spice Rack

This has to be one my favorite details in our small pantry makeover! I mean, talk about utilizing space!

By storing your spices on the back of your pantry door, you can free up a whole lot of space in your kitchen cabinets!

Click here for the pantry door spice rack tutorial!

diy spice rack

Take a close look those gallery rails. Do you notice anything? Like the fact that they’re made with chess pawns?!

What?!? I know. You have to see my blog post so you can learn how to make these budget brass gallery rails!

drilling a hole in wooden chess pawn for DIY brass rails
using a brad nailer to assemble a DIY spice rack
using Minwax espresso on a DIY wood spice rack
DIY brass gallery rails being spray painted with Krylon gold leaf

DIY Cafe Curtains

Long story short, these can barely be considered “curtains” lol if you’re looking for a real tutorial, here’s two that I recommend:

The issue was that I was trying to save a little money so I skimped when ordering the fabric.

There wasn’t enough length to even make a slot for the curtain rod. I know I technically didn’t need one since I was using curtain rings, but still… it’s a more finished look that way.

Ironing fabric before making DIY cafe curtains
cutting along the fold of fabric
clipping a double folded hem in place
edge stitching a hem for curtains

Essentially, I just did a double hem around all the edges of the fabric. My finished measurements for each panel were 40″ x 32.5″.

pantry makeover on a budget

To make them appear more like curtains, I just space the rings out evenly, defined the folds and clamped them into place. I gave a mist of water and let them sit overnignt!

This is also known as training your curtains! See how nice they look after?!

diy cafe curtains

DIY Corbels

I followed my friend Erin’s tutorial for these DIY corbels out of MDF!

It was perfect because I already had scrap MDF on hand so this was a way to add more character to our small pantry at no additional cost!!

Do you see how they showcase the countertop area?! Gahhh!

diy corbels pantry makeover diy
Have you seen these faux tulips? They’re so realistic!!

Simple Tutorial

The first step is to use a bowl and a ruler to trace the shape. Cut with a jigsaw, sand, and prime!

tracing a bowl to make DIY corbels
using a jigsaw to cut corbels

To install them I just used a nail gun going into the floating shelf and a screw going into the wall.

The screw hole and seams were filled with wood filler! You can also see this in action in my pantry highlight on Instagram.

clamping two DIY corbels together
sanding two corbels together
spraying mdf corbels with zinsser shellac primer
Clamping an MDF corbel to floating shelf

DIY Shaker Peg Rail

Shaker peg rails are so simple to make! It was my first time trying it out but this was the Youtube video I followed!

DIY Shaker Peg Rail Pantry makeover diy

In addition to providing more function to our pantry, this peg rail also served the purpose of hiding a shiplap seam!! It’s extended right off from the second shelf.

Here’s the link to the shaker pegs I used!

applying wood glue to the back of shaker peg rail
measuring the placement for pegs on a board
using a spade bit to make holes for shaker pegs
applying wood glue to shaker pegs

Pantry Sources

DIY Thin Floating Shelves Pantry
tiny pantry makeover

Certainly I hope I’ve proved that a small space absolutely has the ability to turn into a functional pantry! Let me know what you think!!


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