The practicality of a beautiful pantry

Story highlights

Pantries can be practical and beautiful, but organization is key

Take off the door for an open shelf look, and use your supplies as decor

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CNN  — 

A box of cereal or can of tomatoes is not usually a decorator’s first choice to accessorize a kitchen. But when it comes to pantries, your sundries can be an unexpected element of decor.

A pantry is an extension of your kitchen, said Melanie Serra, an interior decorator, staging expert and instructor in Atlanta, Georgia.

“When you are entertaining, that is an area that people will still see, when you open your pantry to grab an appetizer or chips,” she said.

Increasingly, it’s a part of the kitchen that homeowners want to see. “In the ’70s and ‘80s, you used to hide it behind closed doors,” she said. But open shelving trends and the popularization of home staging has inspired courage for decorating food closets, she said.

“When you stage you should turn all your cans, making sure they are faced the same way and color coordinated. It adds a sense of order, Serra said. “People are so visual, they really want to see every space decorated so that (the entire home) flows.”

But decorating with dry foods? It’s a good idea, she said.

“When you display things like that in glass containers you’re displaying texture and color.” Polar opposites, like the rough texture of cereal flakes against the smooth, shiny texture of glass are very stimulating to the eye, she said. Pantries are also spaces that provide homeowners with a great opportunity to display inherited crystal or silver heirlooms.

In this edition of CNN’s Open House, we look at organized pantries that take a practical approach to decorating as well as find beauty where it’s least expected. We asked decor enthusiasts for advice, plucked from their own living spaces, on turning an over-stuffed pantry into a beautiful and useful part of the kitchen. Here’s what they had to say.

Organize practically and stylishly:

KariAnne Wood displays her collection of plates and bowls in her butler’s pantry because she uses them everyday. “The pitchers are used for sweet tea (with lime, of course) and the stacks of luncheon plates are used for parties,” she said.

Storage and decor choices can have measurable applications. “I wanted to use glass containers so that I can just look up and see what we are running low on,” said Tracie Stoll.

Don’t hide your odds and ends:

“When you have containers that look pretty on the outside you may be more prone to keeping the space neat and tidy,” observed Stoll.

In open shelf pantries, every item has visual meaning and adds to the ambiance of the room. “I think it is fun to incorporate pops of color with dishes and bowls,” Stoll said, “maybe introduce a color you wouldn’t normally buy.”

Wood’s large collection of white ware turns her pantry into a collection showplace and sets the tone for the rest of her china, which is also white. Against the soft green walls of the room, these everyday items stand out with a sculptural quality. Plate racks and hanging racks for wine glasses keep everything neat and tidy, Wood said.

Stoll also advocates taking cabinet doors off for a more open look. “Jars and baskets with cute labels looks great in any kitchen,” she said.

Turn food items into flourishes:

“I think baking ingredients are so pretty,” Stoll said. Sugar, flour, brown sugar, pasta, pretzels and cookies can be striking design elements when displayed in glass containers, she said. “Friends walk in and feel like they can help themselves and they do!”

Charming, see-through containers are user friendly but so are the large baskets Stoll placed at kid level. Her children can easily get their treats from the baskets and don’t interrupt the organization of the higher pantry shelves.

Likewise, Wood keeps seldom used casserole dishes up high and out of the way in her butler’s pantry.

But what if you don’t have a huge pantry?

Not everyone can live in a huge, old, Kentucky farmhouse and have a walk-in butler’s pantry like Wood. But she was able to apply the same design principles she used in her larger pantry in a much smaller space.

“I just remodeled a kitchen in our guest house with the same concept with wall cabinets,” she said. She removed the wall cabinet doors and painted stripes on the inside of the cabinets. There, too, white china provides a striking contrast to the backs of the cabinets.

Are you inspired by this edition of Open House? The featured designers will take your questions in the comments below.