Before and After: IKEA BILLY Bookcases Took This Pantry from Builder Grade to Absolutely Dreamy

published Sep 9, 2023
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Credit: Alice Kuaban

Having a kitchen pantry can be a major perk in any home — and you can get excited thinking about all the ways you’ll eventually sort, organize, and store items inside. But if you’ve purchased a builder-grade place and opened the doors to your new pantry, you might discover how lackluster it can be.

This was the case for professional organizer Alice Kuaban of ODDessence and her family. “It was just a builder-grade pantry, with very inefficient wire shelves and not a lot of character,” she says. Kuaban desired a light and airy area that would help her stay organized — without costing her a fortune. “I needed a room that was going to be functional and inviting,” she adds. “But I also did not want to break the bank, so I had to be quite creative with my choices.”

Credit: Alice Kuaban

She brainstormed her ideas and set a budget of $1,200, which would include all the major items, such as bookcases, paint for the walls and floors, a light fixture, and wall art.

Kuaban decided on purchasing IKEA Billy bookcases, so she first had to measure the room and sketch out how many bookshelves would be needed. “During the sketching process, I gave some serious thought to items that were going to be housed in the pantry and how many shelves I might need for them,” she says. “How much weight each shelf could hold was also very important to me, since I have some heavy cast-iron pots. So, it was quite refreshing to see that a 31.5-by-11-inch shelf held a max weight of 66 pounds.”

With the layout done, she got to work removing the wire shelves, patching holes, and cleaning and prepping the floor for paint and stenciling. She pulled out all the existing pantry items and grouped them as well.

Credit: Alice Kuaban

Once the floors were painted and sealed, the bookcases were assembled and mounted on the walls. Kuaban elected to keep some of the bookcases open while others had IKEA Oxberg glass doors installed to provide some customization and sparkle. “I should say the doors also play a practical role — they keep my dishes from getting dusty,” adds Kuaban. She then swapped the “boob light” for a lantern light fixture, which was the last step before welcoming items back into the room.

To get the pantry organized, she brought in an IKEA Forhoja cart for additional space to store items instead of having to reach for things on a higher shelf. She then incorporated a three-tier extendable shelf to stack canned goods, wire baskets, and various containers. 

Credit: Alice Kuaban

Kuaban isn’t a fan of exposed labels, so she does this little trick: She creates and places labels underneath containers instead of on their sides. This allows her to know what’s in the jar without it ruining the aesthetic she wants to achieve. “I also don’t like things in their original packaging, so I remove them from their original containers and place them in jars,” she says. “For instance, my trash bags live in a clear bread container.”

The room is divided into two zones: dishes, pots, utensils, and other similar items on the left and food items on the right. “It increases my efficiency because I know exactly where to look for items,” she says.

Kuaban shares that there was just one small mishap along the way. “The one hiccup we encountered was not measuring the window ledge that sticks out into the room,” she says. “The ledge ate off about one inch of the space, so I was unable to add in an extra bookcase on the left side of the pantry.”

Credit: Alice Kuaban

The overall process took six weeks, with the help of her husband, as they both had to juggle full-time jobs and taking care of their two girls. The most challenging part, however, was the actual research on stenciling floors. “The pantry was the first room we stenciled and I wasn’t sure how it will go, what materials I needed, and how long it will last,” she says. “I am pleased to say I have had these stenciled floors for almost three years now and have yet to see a chip in the paint. We use the pantry every day and the floors are super easy to clean with soap and water.”

It’s also her favorite part of her pantry — along with the newly organized shelves. “I love everything about it,” she says of the results. “The floors, how each item is displayed, and even my basic art on the walls. There’s a lot of stuff in my pantry, but it doesn’t look cluttered which I love.”

For anyone considering a pantry makeover, Kuaban recommends this: “Take your time and be patient. If you plan ahead and have on paper what is going to go on each shelf, it will save you so much time. More importantly, you will always have a cheat sheet that you can refer to in the event your pantry gets disorganized again.”

Credit: Alice Kuaban