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Turning a Cupboard Into a Pantry

Turning a cupboard into a pantry - how to do it!

It's been a while since I properly updated the blog on some of our DIY and renovations - and that's because we've been working away from our home, in another home. Yep, we're doing bits and bobs for someone else's renovation; Grant's parents renovation. Actually, I'm not sure I can call it a renovation just yet, but as I mentioned a while back, we'll be tackling their kitchen later this year - and in order to do so, we needed to sort a few smaller areas of their home first. With the first job being the old boiler room.

Last year, we started prepping for this and organised for their boiler to be replaced and moved upstairs, which became an essential after their water tank collapsed; and we also organised their dodgy sliding door to be replaced at the same time. With those two expensive bits out the way, we took a bit of a break and have since been planning the rest of the work that needs doing. Now it's getting warmer again, we're back on the project, DIYing and turning a cupboard (the old boiler cupboard!) into a pantry.

old floor standing boiler

This is the cupboard I'm talking about. It sits right behind a wall in the kitchen and is incredibly narrow at just 80cm wide and around 2m long. From the outside, it's an 'extension' to the kitchen; although actually, the kitchen is the extension to it. We think it may have perhaps been an old coal storage room or even an outside loo. We're not sure, but it's separate to the kitchen, has a lower independent roof and is shorter in length - it's not something that could have easily been knocked through into the kitchen and since budgets are slim, we're doing a more 'mend and make do' project rather than re-design and re-build. Its location in the kitchen makes it the perfect room to become a pantry!

boiler room behind kitchen
old coal storage room

{The Plan} 

So Grants parents didn't really a plan or design they wanted from the room, just 'something with a character' was their input. I really wanted the room to feel more spacious, be practical, offer a ton of storage space but at the same time appear organised, look pretty and hopefully convince Grants parents to de-clutter a little (they have a lot of stuff!). My plan was to include painted panelling, a patterned floor and rustic shelves. Three simple materials that would hopefully add bags of style and character to this room.

{Repairing Brickwork}

The room had been covered in some kind of old manky boarding, which was barely attached with just a helping of nails. The ceiling had begun to fall down, the floor was just muck, it was dark, gloomy and did not feel like a 'room' at all. We set about ripping everything out to see exactly what we were dealing with.

MDF boards on walls
pantry renovation
insulation in sloped roof
missing brickwork in wall

Turns out there were missing bricks (quite a few of them!), some seriously shoddy mortar work, roof beams on the wonk and a floor that looked almost burnt by the boiler that had once been on it. 

girl bricklaying

We started by filling in the brickwork with new bricks (luckily there was plenty hanging about in their garden) and we also heightened the brickwork on the end wall so that it covered across the multiple vents at the top. Why that wall was only half bricked up, I don't know - but those vents were creating a major breeze and were only there for the purpose of the boiler, which had now gone. We'll probably need to remove them eventually, but we can do that at a later date from the outside. Here's a before and after:

external wall with shoddy brickwork
DIY bricklaying

{Plasterboard & Plastering}

As I mentioned, a part of my design involved using some mid-height panelling, so to save on plasterboard, we only plastered the top part of the wall and the ceiling. Grant fitted the boards and plastered it himself - I've written in detail about he learnt to DIY plastering before, so you can check that post out here if you want - It wasn't the most straightforward job as you can see we had some pipes to box around and quite a few angles to cut thanks to the sloping roof, but he did a really good job with it!

Quirky room next to kitchen renovation
affixing plasterboard to top part of the wall
plasterboard on sloped ceiling DIY
Plastering in a cupboard space


To affix the panelling, we attached batons across the wall horizontally, which would be the fixing point for us to nail the panelling into. For the most part, we were able to reuse the timber we had originally ripped out of this room; so only had to buy a few extra lengths. As well as horizontal batons, we also attached a few vertical ones too. These were strategically placed so that when it comes to fitting the shelf brackets, we can screw right into them without the faff of wall plugs.

DIY pantry renovation
how to attach panelling with batons

We made sure the batons were deep enough to recess the pipe into so that it would be hidden underneath the panelling. The only exception is the kitchen wall, where the pipe just stuck out far too much. With a bit of paint though, we thought it would look fine and blend in unnoticed. We made sure to take measurements of where the gas pipe is located so there won't be any drilling accidents in the future.

boxing around gas pipe

On the opposite side where the pipes from the old boiler were, we created a corner boxing. Annoyingly the pipes stuck out the wall quite a bit, so triangular boxing seemed the best way to take up as little space as possible. It was much harder to do than simple square boxing, but I think looks much better this way.

corner boxing around pipes

We then nailed the panelling into the batons, in the same way, as I had done previously in this post. This is actually the exact same panelling I used in our conservatory seating, just a taller version (1.8m). It's from B&Q (found here) and cost £12 per pack of 10. We needed 5 for this space, but I always recommend buying one pack extra because you do get a few imperfect planks per pack.

attaching panelling DIY
how to attach and fit panelling DIY
DIY pantry renovation

The nails were sunken into the panelling, poly-filled over, sanded and then I painted it in Valspar Premium v700 blend wood paint, colour-matched to Lamp Room Grey, which will also be the colour of the kitchen eventually. I really like Valspar paint, especially their wood paints (I actually prefer these to any other brand I've tried!) and it's perfect for a kitchen because it's easy to wash and scrub down, which is pretty vital when food is involved - and it doesn't stain too! We added a top trim to finish it off and left this raw. Oh, and the walls are just plain trade paint white.

Colour Match Lamp Room Grey Valspar
Valspar wood paint review
How to finish top of panelling
Panelling in Pantry


So, onto the flooring! I mentioned patterned tiles were going to be one of the main features in this room and you might have seen a glimpse of them already - they are some absolutely beautiful and simple Laura Ashley tiles. They're patterned, but not an in-your-face kind of pattern or a make-your-eyes-go-crazy kinda pattern. Just simple and pleasing on the eye. Being Laura Ashley though, they did come at a bit of a price-tag, but for such a small room I thought it was worth it (and not too drastic!).

Laura Ashley Floor Tiles

DIY tiling is something I've now done many many times, and I still haven't written a full how-to post yet, can you believe? It's on the agenda though! I'm not going to do one here or this post will be about 100,000 words long. BUT I'll show you a little bit of how it's done.

DIY tiling tools

So the guys at Vitrex did very kindly gift me a bunch of tiling tools for this project - some of which were new replacements for Vitrex tools we already owned and some were upgrades. Vitrex basically makes everything you need when it comes to tiling; From cutters to sponges, to spacers, grout smoothers, the whole shebang. Because we're using ceramic tiles and this room is pretty square, a manual cutter is all we needed to cut the tiles (if you have particularly complex cuts or are using natural stone, you'll need a wet tile cutter!). I did a dry-fit first, which means cutting everything before you affix it down. I have to say, having a new decent manual tile cutter made this job SO much easier - and I can definitely recommend this one.

measuring and cutting tiles
Using a manual tile cutter

I spend the adhesive across the floor, setting the tiles on-top, making sure they're level (if you've used self-levelling first as we've done this should be fairly easy, otherwise you can use some levelling spacers to help) and you want to make sure the tile has full contact with the adhesive as well.

DIY tiling with laura ashley tiles
spacers when tiling

Once it had dried overnight I went on with the grout. We decided to go for a light grey coloured grout that almost matched the tiles - the one we used was Mapei in 'Ash Grey' which I picked after demanding to see every packet of grout in Screwfix so I could compare greys, ha! Luckily I'm a regular there, so my excessive DIY spending probably kept them sweet ;) I'm really glad about my pick though, I think it's the perfect colour!

Light Grey Grout with Laura Ashley Tiles
Smoothing over Grout
Laura Ashley Floor Tiles in House

{Rustic Shelving}

So in order to save money, we wanted to use reclaimed wood to make the shelves. Pine furniture board is seriously expensive and MDF is even more so. We live near(ish) to a farm that sells 2m pallet planks for 70p, so I managed to pick up 15 for under £11 and that was all I needed to shelf-up the whole room. Can you get more affordable than that?!

However, of course, the downside of saving money on reclaimed wood is that you do in fact need to spend A LOT of time sanding it back (muddy was not the look I was going for) and de-nailing it. It took me about 3 hours in total to sand all 15 planks to 'rustic perfection'. I used my new random orbital sander, starting off with a coarse 50 grit and then finishing with a 120 grit. In the end, all the planks looked really good! Some are a little rougher and ready than others, but they all have their own individual character to them - and Grants parents did say they wanted character right?! ;)

Sanding Pallet Wood

As for the shelf brackets, Grant DIYed those himself from some simple planed timber, that cost £1.60 a length. We used 3 of those, so bagged 12 DIY-made brackets for just a little over £4! To buy these new would have cost us £24 at the cheapest place I could find. You can see why we DIY stuff when you look at those kinds of savings!! It also allowed us to make them to our own bespoke size too, which was essential for this narrow room. I'm going to do a DIY bracket tutorial separately I think, or this will be one very long post. But here's a little sneak peek, so you can get the gist of how they're made.

DIY shelf brackets

When it came to putting everything together - it was pretty simple. Thanks to the fact we'd carefully measured and planned the location of the brackets way back when we did the batons, we could simply screw everything straight through the panelling and into those. We'd left little markers on the panelling too - so we knew where everything was. We planned for 4 shelves, each with 3 brackets. We've kept the shelves quite slim (around 16cm deep) so that it's still easy to manoeuvre in this already narrow room.

Rustic Shelves in Pantry
Shelves made from pallet wood

At the end of the cupboard, we'd planned deeper shelves to be supported with timber running around the wall. It means these shelves will be much stronger. Again, we'd already attached batons in the right locations so we could also screw these straight into place too.

Pantry Cupboard DIY
Pantry with Pallet Wood

{Finishing Touches}

This room originally had a wall light (it was just a light bulb with a makeshift fitting) but because it's so narrow, I just didn't feel it was working. All the best designs I looked at stuck out far too much and I didn't think it would really light the space sufficiently. We couldn't change the wiring, so instead, I decided to buy a regular ceiling light with a long length cable and attach it up to the ceiling with a hook. It actually works really well and I think just adds to the quirkiness of this room! The light is from eBay (found here) it's quite similar to ours in the kitchen at home, but with a brushed metal shade and it's the perfect size for this room!

Turning a wall light into ceiling light
Narrow Pantry Design

Looking pretty different right?! We finally added a little ledge to that corner boxing, attached some skirting and VOILA, room done.

DIY Pantry Inspiration
Pallet Wood to Make Shelf

{A Final Look}

OK, so I feel like this is becoming a very long post. Thankfully, we're at the end! After six weeks off on/off work, it's DONE. Well, we actually have a door (and door trim) to potentially attach at some point. And there's one small piece of wood missing along that little ledge. But hey, I'm calling it done. Those things can wait, right?!

It's an incredibly difficult room to photograph, so I haven't been able to use my DSLR camera because the lens is too zoomed in (yep, I'm not pro enough to have multiple lenses!) so apologies for the iPhone pics, but hopefully you get the idea. It's obviously not our house, so I haven't 'styled' the shelves, nor have I properly added food - that's something they'll have to figure out over time (pretty labelled jars would totally be my go-to!) but I think it looks blooming' amazing and so freaking different to the 'before'!

Small Space Ideas for Pantry
DIY shelves and brackets from pallets
Pallet shelves with panelling
small cupboard pantry
Panelling in Pantry
Pantry Design
Quirky Spaces Pantry Design
Country Rustic Pantry with Panelling

I think it's definitely got a character - in fact, tons of it! I think the floor and wall panelling combo works SO well and I'm actually incredibly jealous this isn't in my house right now.

So that's how we turned an old ugly cupboard into a Pantry. I love it and I think Grants parents are pretty pleased too. It's such a better use of space and I'm certain will fit everything they need and more in there. So, what do you think? Fancy turning one of your cupboards into a pantry?

Total Costs
(rounded to the nearest pound)

New Tools Purchased:

Materials Used:
Panelling (B&Q) £70
Tiles (Laura Ashley, Homebase) £60
Screws £5
Plasterboard £30
Mortar £10
Plaster £5
Timber for Batons £10
Nails £5 
Self-Levelling £30 
Tile Adhesive £13
Grout (Ash Grey, Screwfix) £8
Timber for all Brackets/Shelf Support £13
Skirting £20
Pallet Planks £11
Light Fitting (eBay) £26

Total: £316
with materials to spare

*Both the Valspar paint and Vitrex Tiling tools were sent to me for review and feature within this makeover. All views and content are my own. This post may also include affiliate links.

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DIY How to Turn a Cupboard into a Pantry

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