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Pantries Perform

Greg Hanner, project manager and real estate agent for Brom Builders in Norwich, put it best.

“My kids stand either in front of the refrigerator or in the pantry looking for something to eat,” he says. “Or they'll be in the pantry and telling my wife, who's on the laptop doing the (grocery) thing, what we need. The pantry makes it easy to see what you've got and what you need at the store.”

It may sound simple, but a one-stop, pre-shop view of your groceries beats opening up a multitude of cabinets and drawers to try to determine what needs replacing. And that convenience is one reason why pantries are making a comeback, after a few years of being sacrificed for other amenities requiring space.

“People are actually giving up eat-in kitchens to make those kitchen spaces more functional,” says Alan Hanbury Jr. of House of Hanbury Builders in Newington. “With a pantry, you take fewer trips to the store. And you have more freedom to change what you're going to cook because you've got some extra stuff hanging around.”

And you've got some extra conveniences. Hanbury and Hanner say that walk-in pantries are often used to hold — in addition to food — a wine chiller, ice machine, a secondary sink for entertaining, extra glassware, recycle centers, a water cooler and the large bottles it holds, and outlets for flashlights, hand vacuums and cell phone chargers.

The walk-ins are becoming the pantry of choice in new construction, whereas reach-ins dominate remodels unless the kitchen had a walk-in before or, as Hanbury mentioned, the homeowner gives up other space such as a dine-in area.

Children factor into the pantry equation as well. Hanbury says that people will use cabinets with doors in the upper portion of their pantries for alcoholic beverages that are not child-friendly. And in addition to giving kids a one-stop peak at what's available to eat, Hanner explains that a pantry also allows them to be more involved in the meal process.

“The ergonomic issue is that small children can easily reach the first three shelves in a pantry” he explains. “In contrast, children under nine have difficulty reaching anything in an upper cabinet without climbing on a chair or stool.”

And the equation quite literally includes equations.

“When one is not familiar with the benefits, I often compare the space of an upper cabinet to that of the pantry,” Hanner says. “If you have two 30-inch wide by the standard 30-inch tall upper cabinets dedicated to food, one can really only access the bottom and first shelf without a stool or step. Above that, especially when we have nine-foot ceilings and we increase the upper cabinets to 36 or 42 inches tall, the increase in cabinet height does little for convenient access, unless the clients are especially tall people.

“I ask the clients to do the math,” he continues. “Two 30-inch cabinets with two rows of food storage gives a total of, let's say, 120 inches or 10 feet of shelving at 12 inches deep. Now let's run the numbers on a typical reach-in pantry with just a four-foot wide door opening: Each row of 12- or 16-inch deep shelving is a minimum of five feet long. There are five rows of shelving plus the five-foot wide floor area for bulk storage. That gives a phenomenal total of 30 feet of storage.”

To get the same amount of storage using upper cabinets, Hanner says a home would have to have 15 feet of upper cabinets.

If a pantry seems preferable, Hanbury says one can be carved out of almost any home kitchen.

“Sure,” he says, “cabinetry in 18- to 36-inch width can be added to most kitchens without taking away too much in the way of counter or floor space.”
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