If you have a small kitchen, like I do, then you understand the psychological and emotional conditions that come with it: counter space envy, cabinet rage, chronic drawer frustration (CDF), and Tupperware anxiety. If you live in a rental property, as I do, then your options are pretty limited when it comes to expanding your storage space. There are some benefits to a small kitchen, one of which is that everything is within immediate reach. I appreciate my small space more than I used to, but when I saw Classy Clutter’s refrigerator-adjacent canned food storage, I was intrigued.
I don’t exactly possess a Nick Offerman-like command of carpentry skills, but this project seemed pretty straightforward. There is a six inch gap between our refrigerator and the wall, which is enough space to hold a lot of canned food and container lids. So I bit the bullet. I did my own measuring, Lowe’s cut the lumber for me, and my husband helped me build it. Unfortunately, once the frame was built it was obviously not sturdy enough to fulfill its purpose in my kitchen. The whole thing listed to the side, and it fit too loosely in the space between the fridge and the wall. When it was pulled out from its space, it couldn’t even stand independently.
Dejected, I returned to the original blog post to see where I’d gone wrong. I knew that some of the problems came from my measuring. I’d followed the instructions so closely that I used the 1″x4″s the blog recommended, even when my space was six inches wide. But that couldn’t be the only thing that went wrong. I re-read the entire post and began scanning the comments. The first time around I’d read a few comments but didn’t see the need to read them all.
After scrolling through pages of comments I found a few other people were having the same problem. The blogger responded with this comment, dated January 17th, 2013:
This is NOT a free standing cabinet. It absolutely will tip over if you do not have it wedged between the wall and the refrigerator. I’m not sure that putting heavier items at the bottom would work but you could certainly try. I have mine wedged in between the wall and fridge and I just slide it in and out when I need something. I have not had any problems with it toppling over as I am careful to support it when I slide it out to get an item.
I have spread the casters out to help with stability but DO NOT expect it to stand on it’s own. It is much to tall, thin and heavy for that. I have had no problems with it in our kitchen but it must fit properly in between to supports (a wall, etc) to prevent any toppling over.
Mallory @ Classy Clutter
A few comments down, a reader had voiced some concerns. This post was dated November 4th 2012:
Update. I wish I would have carefully read through all the comments before my husband constructed this. We bought 1×4′s from Lowe’s which, much to my chagrin, are not actually 1″x4″. My husband and I spent a lot of time arguing today over why YOU could fit spaghetti jars on your shelves with 7/16″ dowel rods, but we could not. The reason is the size of the boards.I love this design, but I would recommend that you make note in the tutorial that not all 1×4′s are created equal. I know you probably didn’t know that when making your pantry, but it would save the rest of us trying to replicate your awesome design a LOT of trouble.
This is how I learned the valuable lesson that when working from a blog it’s probably a good idea to the read the comments before spending a lot of money and time on the project. I also resolved that if a reader ever finds an error or oversight in one of my blog posts, I should go back and edit it, for the benefit of future readers. Finally, I decided to measure again, go back to Lowes for 1″x6″ boards, and try it again. And I decided to post my own tutorial on the blog in case some other person suffering from an under-sized kitchen decides to try this project for themselves.
Essentially, this pantry project illustrated one of the principal ideas I want this blog to explore, which is the unreliable nature of internet content. A lot of bloggers are out there writing and posting untested recipes, with gorgeous SLR photographs, but you won’t get good results when you try it at home because the recipe has holes in it large enough to drive a truck through. But if I try it and tell you what problems I found, how to fix them, and which recipes worked like a charm, it could save you the time and money otherwise wasted on a failed attempt.
How It Turned Out
It’s definitely not perfect, but it works. Some of my dowels are a bit crooked, but they’re absolutely functional. The painter’s putty I used to cover the screws was kind of a mess. And, as I mentioned above, the roll out could stand to be a little smoother. Overall, I’m really excited to have more storage space.
What to Know Before Getting Started
- First of all, when you go to Lowes, Home Depot, or your local lumber retailer, you should know that the pre-cut boards do not precisely match the dimensions with which they are labeled. When the boards are cut from fresh wood, they are cut to one inch by four inches, or one inch by six inches, but as the fresh wood dries, they shrink. So your 1×4 is really .75×3.75, and your 1×6 is really .75×5.75. Maybe you already knew this, but for all you novices out there, I got your back!
- If you have young children in the house, you should look into fitting the pantry with some sort of stop. Because if your six year old pulls it out from its space between the fridge and the wall, it most likely will fall over.
- Someone more clever than me might like to look into installing a track system instead of the casters. My biggest complaint is that the pantry doesn’t keep a straight line when I’m sliding it in and out, and the bottom drags on the baseboards.
- If you have a proper work space with a work bench and clamps, and you have experience building things, you could probably handle this project alone. But for me, it was a two person project. We built this in our garage using our hands and an electric drill. So recruit some help.
Click the image for a PDF version.
Start by measuring your space. Be sure to allow room for your freezer and refrigerator doors to open freely. Also make sure there will be enough room on both sides for the pantry to slide in and out without scraping.
Since each space is different, I’m not going to bother giving you the dimensions of my pantry. I’m going to give you the formula I used to determine the dimensions. I just did a very basic structure. If you have the confidence and know-how, I encourage you to make your own adjustments and enhancements.
Now for the key to the diagram:
A - These are the front and back pieces of your pantry. I used shelving board, 1″x6″. These should measure the height of your space x the width of your space, minus 1/4″ from the height to leave room for the casters.
(Total of 2)
B - These are the top, bottom, and shelves of your pantry. They are made of the same board type as your front and back pieces, so in my case they were 1″x6″. When determining their dimensions, you want to take into account that they’ll be fit between the front and back pieces, so subtract the thickness of each end piece from the depth of the space. In other words, they should measure the depth of your space minus 1 1/2 inches.
(Total of 3 plus the number of shelves you want.)
C – Dowels. I used 1/2″ dowels for a sturdier effect. If you are working with a more narrow width, you may want to go for a 1/4″ dowel. These should measure the depth of your space plus 3/4″. The extra 3/4″ is to give the dowels something to fill in the holes you’re going to drill for them.
(Total of… You need one for each shelf. Unless you decide to make the pantry open from both sides, in which case you’ll need two per shelf.)
D - This is the back panel of your pantry. I used 1/4″ plywood, or luan. It should measure the height of your space x the depth of your space, subtract a quarter inch from the height to allow room for the casters. (If you decide to make your pantry open from both sides, you can omit this piece.)
E - 2″ casters. Make sure to get the rigid kind, not the swivel kind. You want your pantry to roll in a straight line.
(Total of 4)
- Electric drill
- drill bit the same size as the dowels you’re using
- Wood screws
- Nails (and a hammer if you don’t have one.)
- Paint (or stain, optional)
- Painter’s putty or paintable caulk
- One block of medium grit sandpaper
- Wood glue (optional)
- Drawer or cabinet pull
If you don’t have the necessary equipment to cut your own boards, your local Lowes or Home Depot will do it for pretty cheap.
- Measure and mark the places on the “A” boards where you want the shelves to go. You can do as many shelves as you want. I did two six inch shelves at the top, for spices, two ten inch, and two 12 inch shelves for larger items. From the bottom of the pantry, measure up 1 3/4″ and draw a line. The casters will be hidden here behind the front and back pieces. Now make marks for two bottom “B” pieces, one on top of the other. This gives you room to screw in the casters. You’ll also want to mark which piece is the front and which is the back, and which side the back panel will attach to.
- Mark the spots where you plan to drill the dowel holes. For my six inch shelves I placed the dowels two inches above the shelf, and for the taller shelves I put the dowel four inches above the shelf.
- Use the sand paper to smooth off the cut ends of the boards.
- Use your drill bit to drill the dowel holes. Measure 3/8″ from the end of the bit and mark it with tape. This can help keep you from drilling too deep. (Once we began to assemble the pantry we discovered the dowel holes were not deep enough and had to drill them a little deeper. I think it’s better to start out too shallow and adjust it as needed.)
- Screw the shelves into place on the front “A” piece, being careful not to split the wood.
- Put the dowels in place and top with the second “A” piece. Make sure they fit snugly but are not bowing.
- Screw the second “A” piece in place, making sure as you go that each shelf is square.
- Once the frame is complete, screw the casters into the bottom.
- Lie the frame face down and put the “D” piece in place. Line it up so it is flush with each side. Then use nails to attack it to the frame.
- Cover the screws with painter’s putty or paintable caulk and leave it to dry for the recommended amount of time.
- Paint it, stain it, or leave it bare, whatever is your preference. Some people have chosen to paint a nice pattern on the inside of the pantry but I didn’t bother.
- Attach the drawer pull to the front, at whatever height is comfortable for you.
- Classy Clutter, my inspiration. Also, definitely the most Pinterest-worthy pull out pantry.
- On the Banks of Squaw Creek has a really cute open version.
- Ron Hazelton’s version is way over my head.
- Learning To Be Me’s version is very sleek, and their fridge is so clean and shiny.
- Amazon has a miniature version for under $30
- Amazon also has a 10″ version that didn’t get great reviews.
As always, thanks for reading!