One of my goals for next summer is to a) have an awesome garden (always a goal, not rarely accomplished) and b) save all those beautiful veggies to enjoy year round by preserving them. I got a dehydrator for Christmas (thanks Kelly!) so I’ll be drying some things. I’m particularly looking forward to “sun” dried tomatoes and homegrown garlic powder. But most of our veggies will probably end up canned since that’s what I have the most experience doing and using. After last summer’s canning our regular pantry started getting pretty full. Even more so once I added the big box of empty jars I found at the thrift store, and all the dozens of little metal lids. Our pantry has nice deep shelves which are perfect for cereal boxes and big bags of flour and chips and things but the jars just get lost in the depths and then we can’t remember what we have, or find anything when we need it. So, when family came to visit for Christmas I had my Dad help me come up with some plans for a new set of shelves. Over the last week or two Chris has helped me build them. Today we put the last coat of paint on them!
The pantry is built into a short hallway between the kitchen and the “bonus” room (my work room), laundry room and guest bathroom. Our house was added on to at least once during its history so the layout doesn’t always make sense, and yes, it is weird that you have to walk through our pantry area to get to the guest bathroom. Because its an area that can’t be hidden from guests, the new shelves needed to be not only functional but also attractive.
On the opposite side of the hallway from the pantry was a blank wall. Being right off the kitchen and somewhat hidden from view, this area tended to accumulate junk. Being right off the (very small) laundry room we would sometimes set the ironing board up there….and then forget to take it down and it would get covered in junk. The space between the wall and the door to the kitchen is very narrow though- about 8″ so it was kind of an awkward space. Thankfully, shelves for jars of food don’t need to be deep. In fact long narrow shelves spaced relatively closely together are better than tall, deep shelves.
We decided to use the entire length of the wall between kitchen and bathroom which is 5.5ft and space the shelves at about 12″ in between. I would have liked for the bottom shelf to be lower, but there is an a/c grate and power outlet in the wall that we had to build above.
At first I considered building a bookshelf type piece that would just fit into that space but be self supporting. I decided against this though because that would create an unattractive protruding side where you turn to go into the guest bathroom. And I was concerned that such long shelves would bow with a heavy load of filled jars if only supported on either end. Instead, I decided to go with built in “floating shelves”. To build these, you locate the studs in your wall and attach a 1×2 directly to the wall, drilling into the studs. You can see the 1×2 flat against the wall in the bottom shelf. The framework for the shelf is built onto this. Then we used plywood to cover the tops and bottoms of the shelf frames and finally added a pretty molding to the edges and gave everything several coats of white paint. The molding wasn’t part of my original plans but I’m very glad we decided to add it. It was the most expensive part of the project, but it makes the shelves look much more “finished” and decorative as well as functional.
The hardest part of the project was dealing with materials that weren’t perfectly straight or square (almost always the case with woodworking and/or construction). First of all, the wall itself wasn’t flat. It looked flat, but when we held a long level up to it we realized that it undulated a bit. Apparently this is fairly common with drywall. This meant that when we tried to attach straight pieces of wood to the wall there were gaps. Chris has a better eye for details than me, so he took on the task of making everything fit correctly. He trimmed some of the boards to fit the walls better and filled in gaps with silicone grout. Together we bent and strong armed some of the warped pieces of wood and molding into place. There are still some places that aren’t perfectly straight but hopefully no one but us will notice!
Now I’ve got lots of new space for jars of food – both canned and dried- plus all my empty jars. I even made some little holders to keep the lids under control, though I still need to find a way to tame the mountain of rings.
I think we will also want to add some extra supports, like a bracket or two under the bottom shelf, as we add more full jars. For now we are going to keep an eye on it for sagging or tilting.
This is the first time I’ve ever permanently changed the interior of the house which made me a little bit nervous. When we sell this house we will take the pictures off the walls and the new owners may replace the curtains and repaint the walls, but these shelves are here to stay. Thankfully, I am very pleased with how they turned out. Hopefully any future owners of the house will enjoy them as well, even if they decide to fill them with something other than glass jars!