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 ...and thanks for stopping by. I'm Claire Douglas,  DIY and home interiors writer specialising in money-saving and creative home interior projects. I've spent years developing my 'bespoke on a budget' approach to DIY and home interiors and I love sharing all my tips and tricks in tutorials and posts here on my blog, in articles I write for some of the leading titles, in the press, on Instagram, Tiktok and my online course

  • Claire Douglas

How to build a kitchen pantry with free (upcycled) storage

Updated: Apr 17

How to create stylish kitchen pantry storage by upcycling your old glass jars.

How to build a kitchen pantry - open pantry shelving edit

Why build kitchen pantry shelves?

How to build a kitchen pantry might not be near the top over everyone's 'need to know' list but pantry shelves have been an obsession of mine for a while. Just to clarify, I’m talking about the perfectly styled and coordinating kind, with an array of interestingly shaped glass jars, filled with a smorgasbord (love that word!) of unrecognisable grains and seeds, labelled in stylish labels with trendy fonts and secured with artistic, textured ball stoppers. Not a packet of super noodles or a plastic storage basket in sight! 

Are the aforementioned perfect pantry shelves massively practical for family life? Of course not. Do they look fab and make you feel like you have your sh*t together? That’d be a yes! If you fancy some pantry inspiration check out my 15 pantry ideas post (there are so many types included from a freestanding pantry with glass cabinet doors to a built-in storage cabinet and custom cabinets or my post about tea and coffee station ideas.

How much?!

Months before starting this DIY kitchen project, I’d done a lot of research on beautiful glass jars and found them to be expensive in the most part, especially the jaunty angled, cork-ball stoppered kind and I didn’t love the idea of buying more ‘stuff’ when we chuck loads of jars into the recycling every week. So for a few weeks, I washed and kept all our empty glass jars; from food items like instant coffee & pesto to pasta sauce. 

Cut to August, I’d recently had Covid and was still on a husband-imposed DIY project ban so needed a project which wasn’t going to take a lot of effort to complete & DIY pantry shelves were the obvious option. By now I had a cupboard full of empty jars and months before, I’d ordered some rustic / industrial floating kitchen pantry shelves off Amazon which had been kicking about on top of the fridge waiting, you could make the shelves from a piece of scrap wood, some pine boards would be ideal. Let's take a look at the step-by-step instructions.

How to build a kitchen pantry

How to build a kitchen pantry with free (upcycled) storage

For this how to build a kitchen pantry project I decided to create extra storage space with open pantry shelves on our kitchen back wall rather than make the new pantry in one of the kitchen cabinets (especially seeing as I'd been on a spree of removing the upper cabinets in our kitchen!). Because the dry goods and their storage containers would be on display in the kitchen I decided to focus on aesthetics as well as storage and organisation. If you are creating this project in a broom closet or inside of the cabinet in your own home, your kitchen pantry closet need not look so fussy! I thought it was a good idea to paint all the jar lids the same colour in hardwearing, scrubbable emulsion (Setting plaster by F&B, which I had left over from a recent decorating fail (it turned out a peachy pink ceiling wasn’t for me). I also painted some vases and ornaments in the same shade it didn't take much time but tied the whole look together. 

how to build a kitchen pantry

FB Marketplace Carafes & bargain stoppers
FB Marketplace Carafes & bargain stoppers

Sourcing pantry storage containers

Because this project was a money-saving exercise as much as a DIY tutorial, I sourced all the storage for as little cost as possible. I'd had a bit of luck on Facebook Marketplace, where I'd managed to pick up two 2nd hand carafes for a fiver which added some height and interest & I’d found some bargain cork ball stoppers on eBay which fit perfectly in the carafes.

Making the kitchen pantry storage labels

The pantry labels were easy to make in In Design (well they were after a bit of help with the layout from my graphic designer husband - knew he’d come in useful eventually),  but there are loads of free templates you can download from the net (Canva is good apparently) as well as many reasonably priced templates you can purchase and print for yourself on Etsy. 

how to build a kitchen pantry making the labels

I bought sticky backed paper on Amazon - you could definitely go for more durable vinyl stickers if you wanted but as these shelves really are going to be 80% for show, I wasn’t worried about the labels getting battered. 

Installing the kitchen pantry shelves

The next step was installing the shelves. I opted for three shelves (as three is the magic number in interior styling). It's important to decide the height of the shelves depending on what you plan to store on them. The bottom shelf housed the tallest items for balance and the top shelf had the smallest. 

Once I’d measured and made pencil marks where I wanted the shelf brackets ready to drill pilot holes for the fixings (don't forget to use a stud finder to avoid drilling into cables and pipes and to locate the stud in plasterboard walls) - you’ll need wall-specific fixings depending on whether you have solid or stud walls so I’m not going to link what I used, but here’s a helpful guide… 

Finished DIY pantry storage

Styling your custom kitchen pantry shelving

So once the jars were cleaned, the lids painted and the labels made, the final step was filling the jars and sticking the labels on & they were ready for the best part... styling.

The great thing with open shelves is that you always have easy access to your pantry items and can change up the finished look as often as you like and add some seasonal touches (This year’s Halloween edit below featured some cute little pumpkins). Open pantry shelving is a great addition to a kitchen, even if it's only a small pantry like mine. 

Open shelves with pantry jars
Ta-dah - DIY open pantry shelves using upcycled glass jars and home made labels.

The great thing with open shelves is that you can change them up as often as you like and add some seasonal touches (This year’s Halloween edit below featured some cute little pumpkins). Using upcycled storage jars for your kitchen pantry is a smart and eco-friendly choice that combines practicality with sustainability. By repurposing old jars, you not only save money but also contribute to reducing waste and minimizing your environmental footprint. Upcycling promotes the idea of giving new life to items that would otherwise end up in landfills, aligning with the principles of the circular economy.

Embracing this approach not only adds a touch of uniqueness to your kitchen decor but also helps in reducing the demand for new packaging materials, which often come with a hefty price tag. Additionally, upcycled storage jars can be easily personalized, allowing you to express your creativity while making a positive impact on the planet. Choosing upcycled containers for your pantry is a small yet impactful step towards a more sustainable and mindful lifestyle.

open Pantry shelves styled with small pumpkins
Oh hello Halloween edit

Why choose open shelving for your kitchen pantry?

Open pantry shelving offers numerous benefits that go beyond mere storage solutions, contributing to both functionality and aesthetic appeal in your kitchen. One key advantage is the accessibility it provides, making it easier to locate and retrieve items at a glance. With open shelves, you eliminate the need to rummage through deep cabinets, fostering a more organized and efficient kitchen space. The visibility of your pantry items also encourages better inventory management, helping you keep track of expiration dates and minimize food waste. Furthermore, open shelving allows for creative display opportunities, enabling you to showcase your favorite dishes, cookware, or decorative pieces, enhancing the overall visual appeal of your kitchen. Beyond practicality, open pantry shelving can make a room feel more spacious and airy, creating a sense of openness. This style choice encourages a minimalist and decluttered look, promoting a modern and stylish kitchen design while providing functional benefits for everyday use.

Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to keep you up to date with future DIY, decorating, interior styling and upcycling projects, if you would like to receive my (not more than weekly & no spamming I promise) emails then please subscribe (scroll down to the box at the bottom of the page).

Where next?


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