Stylish storage spaces evolve in modern houses

“The pantry was a forgotten room, but it’s not forgotten any longer,” said architect Mark Fosner, co-owner of the Atlanta architectural design-build firm Moon Brothers Architects. “When people want to cook more, they’re going to want to store more, especially if you’re getting into more gourmet food, or cooking Indian food and have to have room for all those spices.”

Interior designer Jo Rabaut of Rabaut Design Associates said, “I think pantries are definitely trending now. The people we design for now want one somehow, some way.”

A pantry space to house a diverse array of items is more critical these days for several reasons: Many of us have become voracious consumers of bulk items from Costco and Sam’s Club, exotic spices, unusual ingredients, and more varied foods, plus we have even begun to embrace the retro art of canning and pickling.

Factor in the increase in small appliances and gadgetry that requires extra storage, and it may be time to consider how to bring the pantry of the past into the 21st century.

“I think it’s becoming more of an extension of the kitchen from a design aesthetic, not an old broom closet that I happened to throw some stuff in,” said Rabaut, who has created unique pantries, adapting to different space constraints in Buckhead, Garden Hills and Sandy Springs. “I think it’s much more purposeful in the way it’s designed.”

“I liken it to in the olden days, when people didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to laundry rooms, and so they were the gloomiest rooms in the house. You could care less about the floor or the lighting,” Rabaut said. “I guess my advice would be treat it like a space you would want to be in, think about what you want the walls to feel like and the floor, and especially the lighting.”

“They are a little better looking,” Fosner affirmed. “A lot of that has to do with proximity to the main public areas. If it’s a little old-fashioned room off the kitchen that only the cook is going in, then maybe it’s a little more efficient. But you find with these open floor plans where all the rooms connect more, pantries are dressing up.”

In designing a pantry for homeowners Brooke and Brad Kendall and their two small children in their Garden Hills home, Rabaut created a space that would look as beautiful with the doors open as with the doors closed.

Brooke keeps dry good items such as pasta, legumes, couscous, granola bars, cookies and quinoa in her pantry and generally decants them into glass apothecary jars. “I wanted it to look clean and organized and to make food prep more efficient,” said Brooke, who added, “it’s not a place that you have to close the door when you have friends coming over.”

The Kendalls also decided to put their ice maker in the pantry “just because they have a tendency to be making noise all day,” Brooke said. Having food organized and visible is also helpful when Brooke is planning the family’s meals. “When you go in the kitchen and try to figure out what to make for dinner, sometimes having everything where you can see it is kind of inspiring. It gives you more ideas and ways to make food more creative.”

Utility is still important. Experts advise plotting out your pantry according to how your family lives. If you are a big entertainer, you might want to plan for wine shelves or even a wine refrigerator in the pantry, Fosner said. If space is at a premium, as it was in a Buckhead bungalow Rabaut worked on, she suggested incorporating a multipurpose butler’s pantry and storage console within the kitchen itself. That way, essential items are kept within reach, but with a dedicated space of their own.

“In a limited kitchen situation, the pantry is an excellent space, if available, to house those low-priority appliances rather than take highly valuable cabinets and counter area in the main prep space,” Fosner said.

Think about what you want to store: Will it be everyday items such as spices, or platters that you use only once a year during the holidays?

Above all, experts recommend, make the space count. “Address the pantry like it’s a room in the house,” Fosner said, rather than just an afterthought.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.