Kitchen Pantry Closet – Part 1

Someday I hope for the chance to remodel my kitchen. Unfortunately, that’s a big ticket project that will come with a big ticket price tag when that day finally arrives. It’s just not in the cards anytime soon. I’ll be paying off my new rain gutter and bathroom projects for the next couple years, and the next big project after that will probably be a new garage (with a new shop hopefully), so a new kitchen will have to wait.

wasted space above basement steps

Uncovering the wasted space above the basement steps and hoping that I can reclaim some of it for the pantry

In the meantime, I need to do something to get by. As it stands my kitchen is already short on convenient storage space, and that problem has become exponentially worse ever since Sweetness and I joined Costco. There’s just not a lot of places in my little 50’s ranch home to store bulk dry goods so we had to start thinking in terms of repurposing existing space. The most logical solution was to claim space for said dry goods in the closet in the office that is adjacent to the kitchen. We were really only using the space for odds and ends anyway. It could work as a pantry with a little planning.

The office closet was a small space with a single shelf along the back wall at around head-height. Under that shelf was a rod for hangers. It was basically just a simple bedroom closet and I’m sure it served its purpose as such throughout the years before I moved in. On the right side of the closet, which was positioned directly above the lowest section of the stairs that lead down into the basement, the original designers were able to fudge the plans a bit to reclaim some of that awkward wasted space. By building in a couple stair-like risers over that diagonal stairwell ceiling, they were able to add a couple feet of width to the closet, and at the same time add a couple extra built-in shelves. It was still a small space, but slightly better than what it would have been otherwise. Was it usable as a pantry to suit our needs though? Not so much. We still needed to think through the possibilities.

The easy fix would have been to simply remove the closet rod and add shelves above and below the existing one to maximize the existing space. In retrospect, I kind of wish that I would have followed that train of thought. I started to but then I worried that the new shelves wouldn’t match the old one. Okay, I’ll remove the old one and add a bunch of new ones that will match each other. Easy peasy, right? I thought so. Then, upon removing the old shelf I was faced with unsightly paint inconsistency and crumbling plaster from the old nail holes. It looked like shit. I couldn’t have that.

More closet demolition

More demolition of existing walls. The existing risers above the lowest part of the basement stairs are partially visible.

Yes, I could have, and should have just patched and painted to start with a blank canvas. But I didn’t.

Instead, the perfectionist in me kept nagging. I kept insisting that I could do better. To make matters more complicated, I kept staring at those two risers that were strategically designed to effectively reclaim some of that wasted space above the basement stairwell. I also kept studying the wall beyond those two risers, wondering what lay behind it. There seemed to be an enormous amount of wasted space above that diagonal basement stairwell ceiling that was just waiting for someone like me to come along and reclaim with purpose. It may be awkward to work with space, but it would be wasted space nonetheless and I am not a fan of wasted space. I just had to prove what I suspected and that would require me knocking a hole in that wall and shining a light in there. For the longest time I put off doing that one simple task because those few strikes of the hammer would signify my commitment to move ahead with the project one way or another regardless of my findings. I didn’t know if I was ready for that. Eventually, seemingly out of nowhere, I got the itch to get that ball rolling. Sweetness and I emptied the closet one day and like christening a boat with by breaking a bottle of champagne across its bow, I held my breath and took my hammer to the plaster and peered in.

Unearthed Hamm's Beer can

I discovered a Hamm’s beer can that had been disposed of behind the walls.

Without really knowing what I was in for I started down this road of speculation and discovery that will surely challenge the limits of my pedestrian-level home improvement skills. I am in no way a handy person so I count myself lucky that we live in an age where Google and YouTube can help one solve most problems. I intend to lean heavily on them as I go and I hope to learn a lot. I guarantee this project will take much longer than I had hoped but it is what it is. At least I’ll get a few blog posts out of the experience. Better still, I’ll have reason to purchase a few new tools. That’s always fun. I’m just getting started though. All that I’ve managed to do so far is kick up a lot of dust and make a mess. That old plasterboard stuff is heavy as hell too. I hoped that I might find buried treasure behind those walls. I haven’t yet but I did find one item of interest for a beer nerd like myself…an empty can of Hamm’s beer from 1955 that must have been slammed and tossed behind the wall by one of the workers back in the day. I thought that was pretty cool.

 

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