Americans love their kitchens — which is a big reason why this room often gets top priority when it comes to remodeling plans.
But the new kitchen amenity that ranks highest among homeowners may surprise you. The feature most in demand today isn’t custom cabinetry, a snazzy backsplash, or upscale appliances: It’s a walk-in pantry.
About 83% of respondents to a recent National Association of Home Builders survey said it is essential or desirable, more so than a side-by-side double sink (81%), table space for eating (78%), a central island (76%) or granite/natural stone countertops (75%).
Why all the love for a glorified grocery closet? It’s simple: People highly value extra space and an organized layout in the kitchen.
“Storage can be a tough commodity to come by, and a kitchen is one of the easiest rooms to fill up. By the time you organize all your utensils, pots, pans and small appliances, homeowners are often left with very limited space to stow actual food items,” said Caleb Dodd, owner of Konza Closets in Manhattan, Kansas.
“When properly designed, a walk-in pantry can nearly double the storage space in a typical kitchen and provide a simple location in which to hold all the items that would otherwise be difficult to keep organized, like cans, boxes, bags, jars and containers.”
Another reason why walk-in pantries fit the bill is our penchant for buying big.
“We often purchase groceries and paper goods in bulk and have more than one set of china, silverware and glassware on hand. A pantry makes all those extras organized and visible, thereby making them more likely to be used,” says Catie Quanrud, owner/designer with West Palm Beach, Florida-based Speak Easy Interiors.
Whether you’re building a new home from scratch or aiming to reinvent your existing kitchen, implementing a walk-in pantry is probably a wise choice — if you have the room.
“Because of how much value extra storage can bring to a home, a walk-in pantry can be a worthy investment that adds to your home’s resale,” says Dodd.
Ideally, a walk-in pantry should have at least a 24-inch-wide doorway and an interior space no smaller than 4 foot by 4 foot, Dodd recommends; a 36-inch doorway and 5 foot by 5 foot interior is more preferred.
“However, where space is limited, walk-ins can be difficult to place. If you’re remodeling, you may have to reclaim a powder room or coat closet adjacent to the kitchen, for example,” Dodd said. “The key is to build the pantry in or close by the kitchen for convenient access.”
Ariel Richardson, owner of ASR Design Studio, headquartered in San Diego, agrees.
“It should be placed near a counter space so you are able to grab what you need and set it down immediately. Additionally the pantry should be positioned in a space with no windows to maximize your storage capabilities,” she said.
Dodd says he often sees walk-in pantries situated at the end of a counter or adjacent to the refrigerator.
Be sure to equip the pantry with handy necessaries, too.
“Try to provide plenty of accessible shelves, drawers for fruits and veggies, a small hand sink for cleaning up, if you have the space, and even a mini office area or charging station for shopping lists, recipes, phones, tablets and other items,” says James Atkins, designer/founder of Studio Atkins in Los Angeles. “Also, ensure that this room has plenty of good artificial or natural light from above.”
Once built, plan on keeping your pantry tidy.
“Your walk-in can turn into a quick mess if you don’t maintain organization and make dedicated places for everything,” Atkins says.
If you lack the square footage to accommodate a walk-in pantry, don’t despair.
“Instead, you can install a full-height deep vertical cabinet that can act as a pantry, furnished with pull-out drawers, spice racks and storage built into the doors,” Richardson says.