A Basement Pantry Root Cellar Alternative

Art and Laura Matt feel lucky to have three pantries in their northeast Iowa home. The builder, Wisconsin Homes, helped the Matt's customize their pre-built home.  The star of this multi-pantry house is really the basement pantry root cellar alternative.

On this pantry tour, view a traditional corner pantry in the kitchen, a nearby appliance pantry, and the "This includes the room they planned in for basement cold storage. Let's take a look at the Matt's experience with a pre-built home manufacturer.

Custom corner pantry

The Matt's kitchen features a very popular pantry style: the corner pantry.  According to Art, "the corner pantry worked out the best, doesn't waste corner space, and gives two extra sides for storage."

Wisconsin Homes used the Organized Living® brand for the pantry shelves in the Matt home (this is different from what they use for the closet shelves in the home).  The shelves are pre-installed as part of the Wisconsin Homes package.  The company smartly used shelves with narrower wires, (1/2" spaced) and are installed pre-fixed at a spacing height of 16" (four shelves high to a wall on an 8' high ceiling). All the shelves are 12" deep.  The couple likes the wire shelves because light can get through, allowing them to more easily see everything, and there are no shadows as compared with a solid wood shelf.

Art says that if he could do anything different, he would have gone with adjustable shelves to customize the space.   Laura says the 12" deep shelves are adequate and fit everything they need, although working around the braces can be a little limiting. The couple added a few additonal wall organizers to store tin foil, wax paper, etc.

corner pantry customizations

Corner cabinet features custom-built shelf for bread machine and multiple corner lazy susan turntables for baking supplies and spice jars.

Laura's most favorite customization Art made was his special heavy-duty shelf he built to hold her bread machine.  Laura has shoulder issues and reaching above on a higher shelf is difficult for her.  Art also built a shelf to store Laura's heavy bread flour bin at a higher height so she could access it easier.  Art allowed extra room to be able to open up the breadmaker top door, as well as to open the lid on the large flour bin.

Corner pantry gets a tall lazy susan

The star of the Matt's pantry, though, is the 8-shelf tall Lazy Susan that Art custom-built.  He did not alter the shelves in any way, but added the Lazy Susans/turntables to the corner wire shelves.  Laura is able to put all of her important, but small, baking ingredients on one shelf so they are easy to find back, in addition to various shelves of spices.  Putting items back on the shelf where they were taken from (it's an alphabetized system) is key to finding them back the next time.  Because the small items are on the turntables, it prevents the tipping over problem that wire shelves tend to have.

Lazy Susan in Corner Pantry

Corner pantry features attractive glass door with words "Pantry" etched; closeup of organization of corner pantry closet.

There is one overhead light in the pantry, which provides sufficient light.  Corner pantries of this type are primarily step-in anyway.  The light fixture is included with the Wisconsin Homes building package and is to code:  bare lights must be covered in closets.  

Art said that they had requested a light sensor that went on when the pantry door was open, much like a refrigerator.  Art was surprised to learn from Wisconsin Homes that it wasn't to code.  Instead, Art and Laura have to manually turn the light on if they need it, but after a certain amount of time, the light turns off.  Art says that if you are standing in the pantry without moving, the light will go off, but if you make movement, the light will go on again.

Another important design feature to point out is that Art and Laura's house is a geothermal home, and they have in-floor heating... but not in the pantry.  Wisconsin Homes intentionally will not add floor heating to areas designated as pantry space in order to keep them cooler.

Appliance pantry stores the extras

Art and Laura knew that the corner pantry would not be enough for their needs, so they built an appliance pantry.  The couple has spent a lifetime of cooking, canning, and feeding large families, so having a special spot for just appliances was important to them.  They were both tired of bending down and looking into cupboards trying to retrieve small appliances.  They also planned on storing things like  paper products (plates, towels, etc.) and some extra food items (things not needed everyday).  

An appliance pantry is a small room or closet that only stores kitchen appliances. A larger room may store larger appliances likes refrigerators or freezers. Some food-related activities can take place such as food prep, clean up, or using it as a beverage center. An appliance pantry allows the kitchen to be clutter-free.

When working with the designer to create their floor plan, features such as closets and pantries are put in whatever space is left.  That is what determined the space of their appliance pantry which is 4'5" wide x 8'5" deep.  The shelves are similar to their corner closet pantry, they are installed pre-fixed at a spacing height of 16" (four shelves high to a wall on an 8' high ceiling). All the shelves are 12" deep. However, the wire shelving is nearly double the width as the corner closet pantry: 1". 

appliance and paper good pantry

Appliance pantry uses wire shelving spaced wider apart. The pantry has space for paper products as well.

Art's comment about his favorite part about the appliance pantry: "You can visually look and don't have to hunt for an appliance that is stuck clean back behind everything!"  Here, too, Art wishes that the shelves were adjustable.  To fit Laura's needs, Art built a heavy-duty appliance shelf for Laura's equally heavy-duty KitchenAid Mixer. If they had room, they would have put the KitchenAid Mixer on a roll-out cart for Laura to use in the kitchen.

You can also see in the picture where Art added additional shelves (even above the door to maximize every square inch of space).  If he had the extra added room, he says he would take it it in a heartbeat.  All-in-all, Art and Laura love their appliance pantry room.

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Basement cellar alternative for pantry

Last but not least, the Matt's planned for a fruit cellar. Art and Laura gave extra thought to special basement cold storage of food items to store their homegrown canned food and garden bounty.  This part of the project was outside the scope of the Wisconsin Homes' services. Their solution:  an extra addition underneath the large and generous front porch that also doubled as a safe room in bad weather conditions. 

fruit cellar under porch in Iowa

Fruit cellar is designed to be under the front porch.

Special conditions to keep the fruit cellar cool and dry

Locating a fruit cellar under a porch is one way to make a fruit cellar.  The room is not heated but must be managed to remain cool and dry.

As you can see in the outside picture, the ground slopes away from the porch.  Art explains that any cement walls under ground level must be insulated on the inside so the room doesn't freeze, which he insulated himself.  As you can see from the interior photos, he does not insulate the part of the wall that is underground.  The room proves to be slightly warmer than the December Iowa ground temperature (there is access from a heated basement, thus the room being not quite as cold).  

Art reported one issue with mold starting. Once he caught the problem, he immediately installed a dehumidifier to assure the room stayed dry.

Besides this storage space, Art has a heated workshop in an extension of the garage kept at 40 degrees fahrenheit.  Laura and Art keep potatoes, onions, and squash there. The Matt's are very satisfied with all of their pantry spaces.  It helped that they had past experiences to draw from and shape their vision of their perfect pantry space.

More than one pantry in a house

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is an Iowa farmwife with a background as a former kitchen designer. Supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life. Read more about this farmwife on her about page.

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