Ask Design Mom Week: How to Spruce Up a Closet or Pantry

June 2, 2008

Ask Design Mom Question:
I have just added shelves to some old closets in the kitchen, hoping to make it a pantry. I have done the same with an upstairs closet that will house the upstairs laundry room. Sadly, I used a terrible handyman and the shelves look, well, like my three year old did them. I think I will redo them in the future when the budget allows for something better, but for now I have two questions: 1) any tips on how to spruce up an old-ish pantry? and 2) when it is time to re do it, where do I go to get the inside of a great closet or laundry room designed? Thanks! — Rebecca.

Design Mom Answer:
Great questions, Rebecca! This is a fun place to start the big Ask Design Mom week. I’m going begin with your second question about design services for closet interiors.

I’ve never actually used a service like this, but whenever I see ads for companies like Contemporary Closets or Closets by Design, I’m always tempted to schedule a free consultation. According to their websites, they focus on places like closets, garages, laundry rooms and utility rooms — and they’ll tackle very big or very small jobs. If anyone reading this has used a closet design service and wants to share their experience, please do so — we’re super curious.

As far as sprucing up a pantry goes, since it’s a small space, it’s the perfect opportunity to try out some bold color. Pick a shade that might be overwhelming in large quantities, but will provide a nice surprise whenever you open your cupboard.

You could add the color with a coat of paint, a layer of wallpaper — or even good old contact paper (is contact paper still around?). For a less permanent solution, you could try papering the back of the cupboard with the new adhesive wrapping paper from Hallmark. It’s coated with post-it note stickiness across the whole roll — which would make it easy to reposition and easy to remove.

What about you, readers? How do you make your pantry a happy place?

images from the Container Store

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Becky June 2, 2008 at 12:14 pm

While I haven’t had systems installed in my closets, I have had a consultation with California Closets and just about fell over dead when the estimate for ONE closet was over $5,000! I’ll admit it was a larger walk-in closet, but STILL $5,000–for shelves and drawers???? I had the consultant give me estimates to do all the closets in our bedrooms (a total of 4 closets) and the entire estimate was over $10,000. I can think of a lot of other things I’d like to spend $10,000 on, BUT I’m not above appreciating the ideas (drawings) that came with their estimate. I’m sure I can find ways to install similar symstems in my closets for MUCH less. So, for what it’s worth, I’d have CC come do an estimate, give you their ideas and if it fits in your budget GREAT. . . if not take the ideas and get the stuff to do it yourself from Home Depot or Lowes.

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2 Sarah Jones June 2, 2008 at 12:17 pm

Ikea has some great cheaper alternatives…

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3 jennifer.auroradesign June 2, 2008 at 12:35 pm

We had California Closets redo one closet ten years ago and it was completely worth it. I think our bill was in the range of $500-600. The solution was modest and on target.

We live in a 80+ year old home that has teeny, tiny closets. Our master bedroom is a bump out and features the only two 9 foot wide closets we have–one for my husband and one for me. I simply could not get mine to work. In preparation, we took out the old rod and painted the inside white.

CC came in and interviewed me, looked at my clothes, asked about how I like to organize and hang things and came up with a very simple solution that has worked well for me. I have two long shelves (high up) that I store out of season clothes on (in under-the-bed storage boxes). CC added a two foot wide vertical center column of shoe shelves, laundry basket (small, but used only for dry cleaning) a two level jewelry drawer and a lingerie drawer. On the right is one high pole (for dresses and skirts on tiered hangers). To the left is a waist high shelf (where I keep my favorite knitting books) and two poles.

It is very sturdy and usuable. The shelves are smooth and solid. The white finish looks sharp after ten years… I would say my only disappointment is that the jewelry drawer is looking a big ragged–the lining is starting to pull up. But, it is used every single day. And, if I could remember to bring the glue gun upstairs I could fix it in about 30 seconds!

Our one downstairs closet was done with home supply products (I think from Home Depot) and is a bit on the chintzy side. I’m never comfortable putting anything heavy in it. The wire shelves are ugly and show the mess and you have to aim for the wire holes when hanging things–a real pain!

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4 Emilee June 2, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Another alternative is The Container Store’s elfa shelving. You can go to the store and have an employee design specific for the space you need. I haven’t used this option because all of our closets were custom when we moved in, but I have seen others and they work great.

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5 heather June 2, 2008 at 12:56 pm

I am in love with my over-the-door shoe rack. I use it for all sorts of things in addition to shoes like hanging bags and purses, and it keeps all of my shoes off floor which is where they used to reside. I think I got mine at Target for $10 or $15.

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6 Susanne June 2, 2008 at 1:17 pm

I highly recommend Easy Closets (www.easyclosets.com) for a closet solution. I loved the ability to play with different setups online and it was MUCH cheaper than going with California Closets or even the Elfa system. The quality is great and since you do the hanging yourself, you’ll save a bunch of money. Love them!

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7 Brian, Audrey, and Greta June 2, 2008 at 1:25 pm

If you can afford something like California Closets, go for it- they turn out beautifully! But I think the main thing with a pantry is organization. Even if you have the nice shelving, it will still look like a dump if you don’t have a specific place for everything.

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8 michelle June 2, 2008 at 1:35 pm

I did this last year and used Carrie Bradshaw’s closet in SATC as inspiration. I painted a pretty smokey blue for the walls and installed dark oak shelves from IKEA as shelving.

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9 Bek June 2, 2008 at 2:00 pm

I am the one who asked the question… and we have also had a closet from CC and it was pricy. Not in the budget right now…. but I have seen the stuff at Target..so maybe that is an option.

Every one loves the Elfa–but I don’t love the white wire. It must just be me…

I just got back from Home Depot with paint (I went before you posted) and got the same color blue as in the last picture!! Hurrah.

Also, there is some OK contact paper, but I would love some better options. I ended up using some wrapping paper from IKEA that I got for a steal after last christmas (it is dk brown geomentric stuff) and used clear contact paper over the top of it… I’ll send pictures of the finished product…

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10 Debbie June 2, 2008 at 3:19 pm

has anyone ever done this in a close with slanted ceilings, like in a cape cod style home?

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11 Anonymous June 2, 2008 at 8:04 pm

Shelves in the closet! Happy thought indeed!

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12 Elise June 3, 2008 at 3:21 am

Have to say that we have redone 4 closets (3 bedroom and an office) and a playroom storage wall using the Elfa system from Container Store and I love it. Using the systems has created so much extra storage and organization for us, especially since we live in basement-less California so storage space is a premium. I would highly recommend it. Container Store will help you design a system based on your needs and if you don’t like something, you can return that piece. Also, love that you can adjust the shelves – has come in handy with growing children and their changing needs.

BTW, there is more than just the white wire available – just look online.

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13 Stephanie June 3, 2008 at 11:52 am

I like the stainless shelves from the Container Store. They come in small, medium and large ($15-22) and attach onto existing shelves. No more dead space between shelves! I just bought a few for my hall closet to utilize the space better.

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14 Lauren June 4, 2008 at 9:40 pm

Don’t forget the value of a half-shelf, placed in between two full shelves, but only half as wide — maybe only 4 inches wide. It’s big enough for most cans and jars, and keeps everything within view.

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15 Anonymous June 5, 2008 at 11:37 am

We used Closet by Design to organize two walk-in closets. While the difference is enormous and the resale value excellent, I am not sure that I would recommend this type of solution. First of all it’s expensive, and second the cabinets, shelves, etc, are veneer which in the long run will become cheap looking no matter what. I mean, the result (especially if you go all the way, with trimmings, moldings and stuff) is nice but there’s nothing for me that beats the work of a good carpenter, given that you find a good one! /also the workers weren’t really as precise as I expected: they left smudges, some of the drawers were not cut perfectly, etc. (And we had met with two other companies before deciding for them because they seemed the best).
To quickly beautify a closet however, I find that there’s often no need for a carpenter. In a linen closet where I had very basic white shelves I hung a lace border with flat white push pins and it made the whole thing thoroughly romantic. Cost: $8.00! You can also find self-adhesive paper lace borders which might work just as nice, possibly in a contrasting color. Otherwise a nice scented paper like Crabtree and Evelyn’s is always a good solution! (sorry can’t seem to sign in, today…Baboon)

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