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Even though our closets hold some of our most important possessions, we inevitably end up neglecting them. So we’re asking clever homeowners and renters to share their time-tested organizing methods that really (really!) work in our new series, Reclaim Your Closet.

When Toronto-based designer Gabriella Borg ripped out a section of floor-to-ceiling cabinets in her kitchen to make a wider walkway, she was left with a problem: She no longer had a pantry. The nearby stairwell, which never got much use, became her saving grace. “It’s a bit of a weird space, but I thought, how can we make this more functional?” recalls Borg, who, with the help of her partner and a $170 IKEA shelving unit, turned the once-purposeless nook into her dream walk-in pantry. 

The Kungsfors shelving system’s price tag was a major draw for Borg, but so was its modular design. The couple personalized the piece by adding more wood shelves to the stainless steel frame, as well as a grated pot rack with produce baskets. “You can ultimately reach everything you need,” says the designer. 

Level to the T

Knowing that the unit would end up bearing a lot of weight, the pair took their time with the installation. “It’s easy to put together, but that doesn’t mean you can be loose with it,” says Borg, who used a leveling cross-line laser to make sure the vertical and horizontal brackets were perfectly aligned, double-checked for studs, and used deep anchors to secure the mounted pieces. “We didn’t want it to tear the wall down.”

Experiment Before Making Any Big Decisions

Borg measured her tallest cans to figure out the exact spacing and placement of the shelves. “Before I had the opportunity to make my own pantry, I never realized how annoying it is to lift big, heavy jars from the top shelf,” she says. She strategically placed the bulkiest items on the lowest surfaces. Then she put cans and labeled jars at eye level so no one ever has to guess what they’re grabbing. Decanting baking staples into clear containers makes it easy to keep track of which ingredients she’s running low on.

Don’t Forget Your Tools

Right next to the stair landing is the grated rack that houses all of the couple’s pots, pans, and strainers. Borg opted for two different types of hooks: standard S-shaped ones with a low profile and deep ones that are more suitable for stacking. She also mounted four IKEA spice racks, which can be easily accessed from the next step.

“Not everything’s perfectly lined up, which is on theme for our pantry,” says Brog. “It’s organized chaos.”