Take a moment and think about how you can use the space within that wall to store all kinds of stuff you use every day. Deep pantry cabinets with pullout shelves are great if you have the room but the best small kitchens have a compact layout and effectively use every inch of available space.
A shallow pantry built into a wall cavity can keep a surprising array of food and kitchen items close at hand and easy to find without taking up floor space.
Think inside the box
While this article focuses on kitchen storage – there are several areas throughout your home you may be able make use of space within interior walls – for medicine cabinets, display shelves, tip-out waste bins or recessing your fridge.
Just look around you and you’ll see an endless variety of stuff that’s small enough to fit within a space 3 or 4 inches deep. Soup cans, cereal boxes, glasses, mugs, cell phones, keys, vases, DVDs, wine bottles, dog treats, toys, batteries, belts, ties…the list is endless.
Cabinet design is key
The illustrations below show a few design possibilities of how you can gain storage space by recessing a shallow cabinet fully or partially within a stud wall. There is no ‘ideal’ width or depth for a stud space pantry.
You can maximize the inside depth available by using 1/4” Plywood for the cabinet back nailed to the back of the side gables.
For this article, I’m showing a cabinet with a 5 1/2″ interior depth to illustrate how you can cope with common wall thicknesses and cabinet styles. Grab a measuring tape and check out the stuff you might want to put in your pantry. Plan your design based on your particular needs and situation.
New construction or renovation?
If you’re building a new home – bring your designer or cabinetmaker into the planning process as early as possible – ideally before you start framing walls. Your contractor can incorporate wall openings for stud space cabinetry while framing interior walls and plan wiring and plumbing routes around them. This prevents costly rework if you delay your decisions until after walls, electrical or plumbing are in place.
The same applies to renovation work as well, however potential impediments that can affect your design may not be revealed until you start opening up walls.
Plumbing & wiring & ducts, oh my!
During renovation planning, do some investigation into what’s within any walls that are potential targets for removal or gaining a few extra inches of storage space. Nearby wall outlets on either side of the wall indicate wiring may be an issue. A wire running between the studs may be fairly simple to overcome by routing it below, behind or around the cabinet.
Plumbing and ductwork are a show stopper unless you’re undertaking a bigtime reno that means moving them anyway. Consider the location of any upstairs bathrooms try to determine where plumbing may be routed. Look for wall and floor vents to indicate where ductwork for heating and cooling systems runs.
If you cut off a stud when creating your opening you’ll need to add a header to support the remaining section of stud above the cabinet.
Wall thickness workarounds
Available wall thickness can vary widely depending on the age the home or in the case of new construction whether 2×4 or 2×6 studs are used for the interior walls. Remember exterior walls are not an option for storage since they need to be insulated.
A drywalled 2×4 stud wall offers up to 4″ of usable depth. With a 2×6 stud wall – that depth increases to 6″. Lath and plaster walls in an older house may offer more or less than either of those – you really won’t know until you look inside.
As the illustrations show, your wall thickness doesn’t necessarily restrict how deep your cabinet can be. A cabinet that looks like it’s only a couple of inches deep can add interest and could offer an opportunity to create a focal point by using a different cabinet style or finish than the rest of the kitchen cabinetry.
Framed or frameless cabinets
Both framed and frameless cabinets can be recessed in to walls. Framed cabinets should be built with the interior face of side gables flush to door opening, leaving a collar around the outside to cover the edge of the rough opening.
Frameless cabinets can have a narrow side panel attached after it’s installed to cover the edge of the rough opening. A baseboard and crown moulding add the finishing touch.