Transforming Tiny Spaces: a Closet to Pantry Makeover

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Do you have a tiny closet that might work better as a small pantry? Join the club! If you’re looking for small pantry makeover and organization ideas, this post is for you. Here’s how I converted a hallway closet we weren’t really using into a useful and organized pantry for our family! Follow along and find some inspiration as I transform our compact closet into a pretty (and productive) pantry!

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

What If I Don’t Have an Extra Closet?

Now, before we even begin, you might be saying, “But, Christina – I don’t even HAVE a closet to convert!” This is especially common in older homes with smaller rooms and different functionality than more modern builds. So, what do you do when you don’t have a pantry space? Create one yourself, of course! When we renovated our camper, I fashioned myself a delicious little coffee bar out of an old entertainment unit. Check out that magical transformation here.

This concept doesn’t just work in a camper! Here’s a short list of some other ingenious ways you can manufacture storage space:

  • Re-purpose a bookcase
  • Install shelving if you’ve got spare wall space
  • Customize a nook (or carve one out between wall studs)
  • Get a narrow, rolling cabinet to store your small and skinny items (next to the fridge is usually a great spot!)
  • Dedicate a nearby coat closet

That last one is where I come in. We had a small coat closet that was underutilized for years, and this project was a long time coming! I finally decided to convert this small closet we weren’t using into a functional second kitchen pantry. Doesn’t it feel good to check things off your DIY to-do list?

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

The before photo is absolutely embarrassing, but here’s how this closet looked. It fell a *little* short of glamorous. This small closet is near the back entry of our home. I wasn’t using it as a coat closet because I installed a hook wall nearby, which offered us more space and worked much better for our family. Essentially, the closet has functioned as an oversized junk drawer – a place to throw all of my construction odds and ends like baseboard scraps, paint and stain, cords and paint rollers. It “only” took me 7(!) years, but I finally cleaned up this hallway closet. I put the items where they belong (in my work studio) and gave this tiny space a much-needed makeover.

Watch the video below to see how I turned this useless closet into a small, organized pantry:

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How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

Transforming a regular closet into a pantry is a practical and space-efficient way to create additional storage for your kitchen supplies.

Steps needed to convert a closet into a pantry

  1. Empty the closet: Remove all items from the closet.
  2. Clean and paint: Clean and, if needed, repaint the interior.
  3. Shelving: Install adjustable shelves for customization.
  4. Install organizers: Add pantry organizers like pull-out baskets and sliding drawers.
  5. Door organizers: Utilize the inside of the door for hooks or small shelves.
  6. Label and categorize: Categorize items and use labels for easy identification.
  7. Lighting: Consider adding LED strip lights for better visibility.
  8. Ventilation: Ensure proper ventilation to prevent moisture buildup.
  9. Adjust the door: Remove or replace the door for better functionality. In my case, all I needed to do was install a doorknob.
  10. Stock the pantry: Organize items by grouping and frequency of use.

Add Shelving to the Closet

To begin this small pantry makeover, I removed the old closet rod and filled the holes with spackle. I then cut some melamine shelving to size and cropped some trim pieces to act as shelf brackets. (Tip: don’t be afraid to use your leftovers! If you’ve got extra trim and wood scraps from another DIY project, give them a new life in your new pantry!) Be sure that you’ve measured the width and depth of your closet and test the space between your shelves with the items you’ll store there. You’ll want to leave room for extra tall cereal boxes or paper goods.

I made sure to use a stud finder and fasten my shelves right to the wall studs to add stability to the trim. If this is unavailable to you, drywall anchors are also an option. I used a brad nailer to secure the trim pieces to the interior of the closet and placed the new shelves on top. As a special touch, I then installed some contact paper with a barn board pattern on the back wall of the closet to add a little fun and texture with minimal additional cost. You could use your favourite patterned removable wallpaper or even paint the back wall a bold colour if that’s your personal preference!

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

Next, I painted the door and surrounding trim. I didn’t get fancy with the painting – no primer or painter’s tape here! I used the same colour as the rest of the trim in my house and even neglected caulking the shelf gaps since nobody would ever see them. Of course, I still wanted a mostly finished look, so I was sure to paint the raw ends of the new trim brackets.

Install a Door Rack for Additional Storage

Once the paint was dry, I installed this ClosetMaid Door Rack to the inside of the pantry door. Since the shelves inside the pantry are relatively shallow, I thought this extra storage would be great for our canned goods. These can be easily customized to store your essentials; in my case, they also freed up tons of space for our kitchen appliances (and provided some motivation to purge unused items).

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

Use bins and baskets to keep like items together

To organize and store snacks, pasta and bulk goods, I purchased these handy cube bins from Amazon (I chose beige, but they come in many colours!) that fit perfectly on the shelves. There are no restrictions in your new small pantry – bins and baskets of every shape and material are welcome! You might even have some lying around already, waiting to be put to use again. Here’s their chance!

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

I added some tags to the bins to help everyone in our family know where everything goes. Print these pantry organization tags for FREE by clicking right here! This is a great idea, especially if you’ve chosen opaque bins. You’ll want to avoid pulling each bin out every time to remind yourself of its contents, and these tags are the perfect solution.

How to turn a tiny, useless closet into a useful, organized small pantry.

All done! I’m so happy with how this makeover turned out! This closet is so much more useful as a pantry. But, if needed, we can easily convert it back to a closet for clothing or cleaning storage in the future.

Now tell me: Would you convert a small closet to a pantry like I did?

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