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8 Steps to Building a Smart, Organized Pantry & Mudroom

It’s a new year, which means transplanting get organized” from your 2018 resolutions to your 2019 hit list, just like you did last year… and the year before. (Tell me I’m not alone here?) Despite being increasingly allergic to “clutter body,” piles of assortments to be sorted just seem to accumulate. Last year, thanks to the gallons of brain juice spilled on planning the Mountain House and Portland Project, I found a new appreciation for some simple design systems. So, guys, 2019 is our year! Here are a few things I learned or relearned while designing the Portland mudroom and built-in breakfast pantry. 

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Mudroom128

Getting organized means making a storage plan. Each space should have a purpose and everything needs a home. In Portland, the mudroom was a transition between this little patio side entry, the garage and the kitchen, so it could quite easily be a multipurpose mess. But by sorting like items with like (you heard it first here, folks) and delegating space by activity/purpose while considering proximity to the other rooms, we kept this in-between room highly functional and clean.  

Now that that’s established, let’s dive in a little deeper and break down the 8 steps to organizing your mudroom and pantry areas (and thus…your life).

Emily Henderson mudroom organization

Designate Open and Closed Storage.

The section nearest the patio entrance provides a landing pad for coats, bags, shoes etc. through flexible open shelving that can hold large items or be divided by bins, baskets or trays. And a very practical, integrated bench positioned between the patio and garage entrances hopefully begs, “sit here and lose those muddy shoes!” Open shelving is often more flexible and is definitely easiest to access when coming and going.

Emily Henderson mudroom organization

Add Plenty of Hooks & Bins.

Large, sturdy hooks were needed for heavy bags and these were so pretty. Of course coats, scarves and such could live here, too. Or if extra space was still needed for storage, hanging bags and bins could serve the job. Hooks are so flexible.

Emily Henderson mudroom organization

Create a “Command Center.”

Some families barely even use a front door for everyday in and out, so if this rings true to you (i.e. you run in and out of your garage/side door/mudroom more often), setting up a “command center” for easy grab and go is going to save you on those rushed mornings. Here, we just set up a tray to catch things like keys, sunglasses, outgoing mail and beyond.

We also dedicated another shelf cubby to all things pets (outdoor toys and treats). Really, the key to a storage set up like this is a place for everything and everything in its place. Take the time from the get-go to “dedicate” each shelf to something that makes sense for your life to avoid otherwise impending chaos.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Keep utility items tucked away.


Across from the open storage, we created a work/wash space, flanked with floor-to-ceiling closed storage, opting for doors here to hide ugly cleaning supplies. A space to clean up after outdoor activities is a useful luxury if there’s room and the durability of the Cambria countertop (which is nonporous, nonabsorbent and less likely to scratch or stain) has already proven necessary when we used the surface as a worktop during gardening and styling.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Hooks, again, came in handy to utilize vertical space within the tall cabinets for things like brooms (ugly brooms need not apply, thanks) and dusters, then the rest of the cleaning supplies that you use on a regular basis can be placed in a caddy that you can quickly scoop up to bring to whatever room needs sprucing. 

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Can we stop for a second to talk about that faucet though? We worked with Kohler throughout this project on all the fixtures, and this is from their Purist line, which I love for how sleek it is. We could have easily done a deck mount here, but the height and all around space the wall mount gives us works so well for tasks like gardening and cleaning where sometimes you just don’t want something in your way.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Pull-Out Shelves to Create More Real-Life Usable Space.

The overall style of the space matches that of the kitchen and dons the same mixed-finished fixtures; brass hardware from Rejuvenation with a polished nickel Kohler faucet. It’s visually and functionally a kitchen spillover, which means space for food! The tall cabinet nearest the kitchen became a larger storage pantry (as opposed to the breakfast bar we’re about to get to INSIDE the actual kitchen), with adjustable, pull-out drawers that customize to different needs and make food in the back accessible.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Clear, canister storage in the pantry not only looks better than original food packaging, it saves space and keeps food fresh (airtight). And baskets are great in a cabinet…okay, anywhere! They’re basically the cowboy of organizing… super sturdy and great for corralling.  Yet another quick tip for you, if you store onions and potatoes in a cool, dark space, they’ll last at least twice as long.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Changing spaces here from the mudroom to the kitchen…

Emily Henderson pantry organization

…See you wouldn’t even know it…What seamless design! To keep countertops clutter free, we snuck a hidden breakfast pantry into the cabinet plan. Here, everyday small appliances like the toaster or espresso maker can be hidden (let’s face it, they’re not usually as sexy as these Smeg gadgets). And everything you need for using these contraptions is within reach.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Make Use of Vertical Space & Dead Spaces.

Shallow, vertical storage on the cabinet door (that “dead space” we just referred to) provides extra space for making sure everything has a space to belong. This shallow storage is great for spices, jars/cans…or more clear canisters! Notice the adjustable shelves we used are also shallow (as most ‘uppers’ are) which accommodates the storage on the back of the door and spares knocking your noggin’ when you reach for that needed morning coffee. 10-15″ is a decent depth for upper shelving.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Drawers (especially divided ones) are most functional for organizing, so we squeezed one in if you can. To carry through the same materials as the kitchen, we echoed the Bedrosians stone in here, and the solid surface makes for easy cleanup, though trays can help with containing spills/mess, too.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Don’t Forget the Outlets!

ALSO! Don’t forget if you’re integrating appliances into cabinet storage, you’ll need electrical outlets! Seems obvious, but the space is out of sight, out of mind and easy to forget, so be sure to make that part of your initial design so it can be planned for BEFORE the electrical work is done and cabinets go in.

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Use Varied Sizes of Like Containers for a Seamless Look.

Doesn’t this make you breathe just a little deeper and easier? Aaaaahh! It’s what my brain needs this year. A place for everything and everything in its place—brilliant…someone write that down. 😉 Clear storage items that are easy to grab-and-go make it simple to take stock of supplies (for non-light sensitive goodies…dark storage for the tea and coffee). Jam, bread, sweeteners, stir spoons, cereal… basically, breakfast is neatly hidden away yet so easy to see and access. I’m so happy.

Oh, and when the packaging of your coffee and teas are this beautiful, there’s no need to decant it into anything else (unless your coffee is open, in that case you’ll want to make sure it’s in an airtight container). Speaking of tea…we went the same route here as we did with the art and makers we use in the project…kept it close to home with Portland-based brands like Smith Teamaker. Not only is the tea in a beautiful box (and yummy), we can get behind the small-batch process and the highly curated varieties. If you prefer your cuppa to be via tea leaves instead of beans, check them out. Beautiful for your pantry, beautiful in your mouth!

Emily Henderson pantry organization

Look how clutter free the kitchen is with small appliances and all the associated supplies out of sight. It’s enough to give me an adrenaline rush. If you’re an org junkie like I am, you’ll definitely want to hop on over to Instagram (or Facebook, pick your poison) after 11 am PST to see a special Style School video we put together with the 5 steps to building the perfect breakfast pantry.

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Kitchen Second Round48

So guys,  if “get organized” fails this year,  screw it…we shift gears in 2020: “just find new places to hide things.” But hopefully, something here inspires you along in your storage plans. Happy 2019!

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Mudroom Reveal Get The Look

1. Cabinet Maker | 2. Drawer Pull by Rejuvenation  | 3. Knob by Rejuvenation | 4. Serving Spoons | 5. Bowls | 6. Towel | 7. Backsplash Tile by Pratt & Larson | 8. Countertop by Cambria | 9. Switch Plate by Rejuvenation | 10. Faucet by Kohler | 11. Sink Drain by Kohler | 12. Sink by Kohler | 13. Pitcher | 14. Twine | 15. Scissors | 16. Jennifer Urquhart Painting | 17. Large Glass Jar (similar) | 18. Mini Glass Jar (similar) | 19. Basket | 20. Faux Leather Storage Bin | 21. Dog Leash | 22. Tray | 23. Dog Toy | 24. Tennis Balls | 25. Farmhouse Caddy | 26. Backpack | 27. Hook (similar) | 28. Duster | 29. Broom | 30. Sunglasses | 31. Wood Tray | 32. Tote (similar) | 33. Hand Broom | 34. Dustpan | 35. Woven Baskets (similar) | 36. Tray | 37. Dog Bowl | 38. Floppy Hat | 39. Hand Rake | 40. Hand Trowel | 41. Garden Gloves | 42. Pewter Green by Sherwin-Williams | 43. Pure White by Sherwin-Williams | 44. Oyster White by Sherwin-Williams | 45. Wood Flooring by Hallmark Floors | 46. Crown Moulding by Metrie | 47. Baseboard by Metrie | 47. Door Casing by Metrie

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Mudroom Pantry Reveal Get The Look

1. Cabinet Organizer | 2. Food Storage | 3. Tea | 4. Basket | 5. Wood Tray | 6. Handmade Creamer | 7. Mug | 8. Dish Towels | 9. Coffee Scoop | 10. Espresso Machine | 11. Stoneware Mug | 12. Soup Mug | 13. Basket | 14. Can Organizer | 15. Café Clip | 16. Coffee | 17. Napkins | 18. Serving Fork | 19. Serving Spoon | 20. Pie Server | 21. Toaster

Emily Henderson Portland Traditional Mudroom Entry Reveal

1. Dutch Door by Rejuvenation | 2. Door Hardware | 3. Lounge Chair by Room & Board | 4. Window by Milgard | 5. Outdoor Sconce by Rejuvenation | 6. Striped Pillow by Jillian Rene Decor | 7. Planter by Room & Board | 8. Floor Tile by Clé | 9. Hunter Boots

For more Portland Project Room Reveals: Living Room | Staircase | Office | Master Bedroom | Master Bathroom | KitchenDining Room | Powder BathroomGuest Bathroom | Hall Bathroom | Laundry Room | Guest Bedrooms | Media Room | Family Room | PlayroomSecret Room


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52 thoughts on “8 Steps to Building a Smart, Organized Pantry & Mudroom

  1. This is so beautiful, I could cry, but since I am a grownup, I will just keep browsing and dreaming 🙂

  2. Looks great!! Question for EHD team & readers…when you remove food from their original packaging how do you figure out cooking instructions. I know how to make pasta like the back of my hand and cereal is obvious, but for the rest what do you all do? Tips welcome!

      1. That would require I know each brand/ product every time I cook. For instance my steel cut oatmeal. I have tried 2 different brands over the years and have come across 3 different cooking methods based on “quick/instant” product status. Not trying to be difficult just looking to see how practical beautifying my pantry would be.

        1. I actually use scissors to cut out the cooking instructions from the package and then stick it in the lid of my container. Usually you’re not looking at the containers from the top, so you can’t even tell it’s there til you need it.

    1. Sometimes things from the bulk store have a slip of paper that you can take with the recipe (I’m thinking muffin mix etc) and I will just slip that in the canister with the powder or use masking tape to tape it under the lid if it’s a white lid like the canisters above.

      If it’s something really simple that I keep in the same canister all the time I will add a label to the top of the canister (for example “pancake mix – 2:1 mix/water” or whatever). If it’s something temporary – mark on masking tape with a pen and stick it on the bottom or back.

      Another hack I do at the bulk store (or you could do when you unbox items) is take a picture of the box/bin and then it’s on your phone when you need to reference it. For the bulk store it also saves you from writing down the code – you can just show the picture to the cashier.

    2. You can use washi tape (which is adorable!) to write the name of the item on it, or even cut out the instructions from the original package and tape that to the back (outside) of the container.

    3. I tear the instructions off the original packaging and drop that into the storage container.

    4. If it’s simple, I write it on a piece of washi tape (which is also how I do the label), but if it’s more complex, I’ll cut it off the original packaging and tape in on the back of the canister.

    5. Ha that’s a very good question that I’ve never thought about really. I feel like anything I decant are things like almonds, oats, beans, rice, pasta…things I confidently know how to prepare without instructions (but when in doubt, I usually just do a quick search like…”how long to soak dry beans” when I forget!)

  3. Love this post! Gives me so many ideas! And now I want to see the insides of ALL the kitchen cabinets!! Haha!

  4. Our designer convinced me to put in lockers for each person in our home rather than storage hooks in the mudroom. It was THE. BEST. DECISION. My mudroom is as clean and tidy as the pictures in this post about once a month for 30 seconds. The doors on the lockers lets you shove backpacks, swim suits, a basket for gloves, hats, etc.., lacrosse equipment in a locker and close the door. Its awesome! I thought it would be an inefficient use of space – but any space we gave up is more than made up by how quick it is to tidy – just close the door and be done.

    1. That’s amazing (and envy-inducing). My kids throw their coats and shoes IN FRONT of the closed door and leave it there, so close yet so far… I gave up and now we have a wall of hooks for coats and a bench where they are allowed to just kick shoes under. About once a week or so, I go though and put less used coats and shoes back in the cupboard but I do still appreciate that it’s a mud room so even if it’s messy, I can close the door and ignore the mess. So, I guess this is a heads-up to people with stubbornly messy kids!

  5. This makes my heart sing…and cry at the same time. When I was a kid, I used to offer to organize my aunt’s cabinets. I loved it! This would be hard for my husband to believe. That’s because we live in Brooklyn w/ two kids in a two bedroom apartment with a tiny kitchen, so although I try to organize things, it so quickly falls apart because there just isn’t enough room for everything. But this is encouraging me to try again, maybe with those simple, lovely storage containers from Target…

  6. I can’t find the video but I am not tech savvy. ??
    My dream is to add a mudroom to our house especially because we are a no shoe house so I’d love to have all my shoe storage their!!
    Love this inspo and this kitchen is phenomenal!!

    1. I’ve heard this! How far do they need to be? Would a different shelf do the trick, or do they need to be separated more than that?

    2. I was going to say the same thing! Potatoes and onions are friends on your plate, but not in your cupboard!

    3. What she said! I’ve always stored them on separate shelves in ventilated wire baskets lined with paper towels (to catch the bits that slough off).

      Also I’d love to see the toaster breakfast bar on a pull out shelf for easier access. Or is that just me?

  7. I quickly scrolled through your post hoping to catch a better picture of your denim “dress” only to find out it was an apron!! Now back to reading……

  8. This is such a perfect post! We get to see more of the beautiful Portland house and some really practical advice and products! There is so much here that has sparked some ideas and major motivation to tackle some problem areas in my own home. I am going to tackle my coat closet tonight! Or maybe after I buy some pretty bins… Also, I LOVE that outdoor tile. I CANNOT WAIT TO SEE MORE OF THE OUTSIDE. I feel like there can never be too much exterior content! Thank you!

  9. Gorgeous – thanks!

    Where is the vacuum cleaner? I would have thought that it would be in another tall cabinet in the mudroom, but there didn’t seem to be space for one there.

  10. This is really beautiful and makes my heart sing a little 🙂 In our new home we have an entryway/mud room with a broom closet, and a 4′ wall of shallow pantry cabinets in our kitchen. I really love the functionality we have so far but they are not fully organized or efficient yet, so this was a lovely nudge with excellent ideas! I can’t be bothered to decant my foods into pretty containers at this season of life and since it doesn’t really bother me behind closed doors it’s all good! Our main storage is only 12″ deep so nothing gets lost and can be lined up tidily.541 Love the broom closet/caddy ideas. I’m still figuring out how to store our larger kitchen appliances and strongly second the suggestion to remember outlets! An outlet for the cordless vaccuum in our broom closet would be fab so that I could hide it in there, and we did put one in the kitchen’s storage tower (formerly holding a wall oven before the remodel) so the microwave hides behind a rolltop door in there.

  11. This post literally made me tear up. …I LOVE organizing and styling. If I could do it for a job, I would.

    1. Me, too! Sometimes I just open my pantry door, stand and stare while that wave of euphoria washes.. over me just one. more. time. and sometimes I think I need to ask a therapist if I’m taking the “a place for everything and everything in its place” thing too far.

  12. Oh how I would love to have a mudroom with my two boys and a husband!! I’m even blessed in our current house to have a generous entryway by the front door with a coat closet (after two houses that opened directly into the living room without even a coat closet nearby!) and I still long for this. I finally found a cubby storage shelf for corralling some of the hats/gloves/mail/stuff issue, but I still dream of a mudroom. All the hearteyes to this design!

  13. Well, shucks. We have two renovations to do in the next couple years — our ensuite and our mudroom/laundry/pantry. I chose the ensuite to do first but now after seeing this, I am all gah! I know, first world problems. Our ensuite is fairly functional, just ugly. Changing it out will give us something new and pretty to look at, but that’s about it. Our mudroom/laundryroom/pantry, on the other hand, which is an area that gets hard-core daily use, is probably the most dysfunctional area of the entire house. See what I mean by gah? Now I am questioning the wisdom of my decision. Especially after seeing what it could be. The mudroom/laundry/pantry is split with walls and doors into three separate rooms, even though they are all side by side. Dark mudroom, brightly lit laundry room, dark pantry, leading into the kitchen. Removing those walls would allow for one light, bright, functional area rather than three chopped up areas. And it would improve the lives of everyone in the house, rather than just me! This really has me thinking. Thanks Emily!

  14. Do you have any recommendations for cabinet makers that can do this good of a job located in CA?

  15. I know some people complain that pull-outs decrease your usable space in a pantry, but I will never give up my pull-outs! I grew up trying to reach things in the back of cupboards and often “losing” things I couldn’t see.

  16. Love it! Just curious – are the washer and dryer hidden somewhere in this room, or elsewhere in the house? I’ll eventually redo a mud room/pantry and am trying to decide if we’ll bring laundry up from the basement or not. (And if we do, if we’ll hide them behind cabinets.)

  17. This is all very beautiful! But man, an easier and cheaper way to “get organized” is to have about 75% less stuff! Holy wow, those pantry cupboards are so full, no wonder you are going crazy! Just have way less stuff, so much easier on the head.

  18. It’s gorgeous, but…it’s a show house, right? No one actually uses this space to live in at the moment? I would find the content more relatable/realistic if we were shown someone’s actual living space, because I too can make my home super organized if I just remove all the people…..

  19. Hmm, I flipped through this post quickly, because It seems like one would need lots of space and money to organize in this fashion. I’m hoping to see your pantry, Emily (with the gold PB hooks you talked about) because it might offer more realistic ideas for a smaller space. Thanks!

  20. Would love to know organizing tips for people that rent and don’t have mud rooms or the liberty of designing completely hidden storage…

  21. So pretty! Would love to know where the two tier paper storage shelf (beside the tray) is from! I have been looking for pretty paper storage!

  22. What great inspiration! I especially love the breakfast pantry – makes mornings easier. Where did the white cup with blue banding come from (the one with the spoons inside)?

  23. My heart skips a beat when I see a mudroom like this. Not in a million years, will we ever have a mudroom because we live in the city and unless we can magically build something new in the city, there will never be space for a mudroom. That being said, my entryway causes me the most frustration in the world. It is 3 ft wide and 4 ft long. Where I live, we have winter – real winter with snow and slush. I can see our entrance from our living space (it’s at the end of a narrow hall) and in the winter, because of said snow and slush, my entry is not only not functional (we recently installed pegboard shelving and that’s helped a bit on the functional end) but so so so ugly. So please, it would give me great joy if you could do a post about how to de-uglify your entryway for winter. Right not we have and industrial black rug in the space to help absorb some of the slush but there has to be something that is prettier and a way to style this kind of entry so that when I enter my house, I don’t groan every single time.

  24. Hi Emily,
    Australian Education researchers list
    1. Organisation
    2. Persistence
    3. Resilience
    4. Confidence
    5. Getting along w others
    as core skills for success..
    Another bk I read asked Do you want the Treasure or do you want to Hunt for it?
    I love your articles n always feel good after reading .. Thank-you..
    Best regards

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