Urban Living

Urban Living

STOREYS’ 2021 Design Trend of the Year: The Post-COVID Pantry

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The walk-in closet? Hmm. Yours might have volume sufficient to send Carrie Bradshaw into Manolo Blahnik displaying overdrive, but — all things considered — your Narnia deep clothes vault, packed as it may be with every conceivable storage nook, is so last year.

Yes indeed, as a perilous 2021 rolls toward its conclusion, the must-have home attribute that nudged (nay bulldozed) its way into the fashion fraternity’s most style literate homes remains ‘storage’ focused, although this time around, the arrangement of sartorial collections has been pushed into outré submission by all matters epicurean.

From our own observations — across a tri-continental client roster that spans Canada, Australia, and Britain — it’s no longer enough to just have a state of the art kitchen. As appetites change, menu planning (perhaps more than ever before) revolves, like a stomach sating satellite, around the intricacies of the world’s finest ingredients. In turn, having the ultimate pantry has become the veritable holy grail for chi-chi gastronomes, the world over.

But hold it, if you will, for one Balsamic reducing, bulgur wheat totting moment. We’re not just talking any pantry — perish the thought. Your shelves have come to buoy with edible artifacts and the finest of everything. And if you don’t have space to show it all off?  Your snack bracket and pantry score will torpedo faster than an out of date carton of chive scented goose broth.

If you, like we, are a serious home cook with a skill set sufficiently deft to compete on a higher echelon TV cooking show (fyi – we took part on Celebrity Masterchef, UK, doncha know, during which our lavender scones and Bounty Bar tempura became the stuff of legend) then it’s time to step up your pantry game.

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To accommodate expectation, efficiency is the modus operandi of competent home cooks everywhere. Sure, the kitchen is the environment in which food is prepared, but behind every good meal is a good pantry, the place unto which dry — or preserved — foods, flour, condiments, grain, and tinned items are dutifully despatched.  And storage, therein, is king. Or indeed queen…

As we see it, the rise of the (formerly humble) pantry is undeniably fuelled by the movement that serves ‘home’ as this year’s hot ticket food destination. For the pandemic’s early calendar, restaurant patronage was — for many — denied, so we stayed indoors, scouring the internet for food porn, and emptying Amazon’s virtual shelves of every cookbook and ingredient upon which we could lay creative hands. 

Slowly and surely, our prep’ skills were honed, as grocery stores and specialist food outlets raised the bar to become viable alternatives to our favourite eateries. And, as we hungrily hunted and gathered, we needed better food storage for our catch. Thus the pantry, during the on-going pandemic, has elevated to become the ultimate domestic status symbol. One that proudly proclaims: “I cook, therefore I am…”

But we can’t entirely assign the burgeoning appetite for home cooking to Covid’s perilous blight. We need only reference a slew of baking shows — the breakout stars of cookery programming the world over — as the fuel behind a mushroom cloud of home bakers, a cloud that rises like an artisanal soufflé in a trusty farmhouse Aga. 

In dark times, we suppose, it’s somewhat comforting to reflect upon the past, and the need to feel cossetted and indulged. Driving factors, sans doute, that birthed a new guard of pie crafters and cupcake fashionistas hell bent on recreating, or bettering, grandma’s tried and trusted recipes. Recipes that are lavished, thereafter, across Instagram and Pinterest — filtered to the max, of course — in imagery designed to make even the most dry mouthed contingent drool.

Quarantine also proffered an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with– – and indeed augment — the contents of our cupboards. Necessity became the mother of invention as inauspicious, previously overlooked ingredients grabbed the limelight as constituent parts of delicious and attractive repasts. Key #pantrymeal into Instagram to demonstrate how much the ‘look what I made’ phenomenon has take off…   

Furthermore, restaurant chefs — bored and frustrated by Covid-19 closures — cooked up a storm across myriad social media platforms in a desperate attempt to stay connected to their clientele. Inspired, educated, and imbued with a new level of kitchen confidence, budding ‘students’ embarked upon their greatest harvest of recent times: searching out exciting new ingredients to combat the dark days of enforced stay-at-home manifestos.

According to IKEA’s ‘Life at Home Report’ (a paper which drew opinion from 34,000 people across 34 countries, including Canada) 60% of those questioned have changed their domestic landscapes in the past year to support new activities (such as working from home) and an augmented appetite for better organization and food storage.

pantry
IKEA

Additionally, 32% of responders recognize good home cooking as a precursor to ‘balance’ and wellbeing. Carmen Ciesielski, Director of Home Furnishing and Design at IKEA Canada, references increased interest in food storage — and organization — specifically when it comes to optimal use of pantries. “This insight,” she notes, “shapes the visionaries working within the IKEA kitchen department. We recognize the importance of ‘function’ and ‘mobility’ when appraising pantry scale, and the balance of what can and can’t be seen. Our existing kitchen systems are designed to meet changing needs, but for Spring 2022, we’ll be meeting market demand head on with a unique, open-source solution called Enhet, envisioned for consumers who crave a mix of open and closed storage.”  

Today’s pantries manifest in all shapes and sizes, offering, as they do, much more than simply convenient stash points for your latest Farm Boy haul. Wine fridges, cheese closets, and customizable shelving systems are now common requests from our own clients. Coffee bar stations (complete with state of the art barista quality machinery by Breville or Electra) are also typical requests. 

Similarly, for the budding Mary Berry, custom French style stone topped work ‘desks’ (the perfect surface upon which to flourish artisanal flour ahead of an online dough making class) punctuate our request roster. Google #pantrygoals to discover page after page of tailored spaces lined with mason jars, spice racks, and wooden crates, all beautifully name tagged and arranged, to house a library of ingredients that make cooking a joy.

From full, devoted rooms to stand alone furniture pieces, the internet is awash with manicured pantry porn. As is the case with any project, however, to fail to plan is to plan to fail. Before cooking up that dream plan, analyze what you need, and the requisite inventory which requires storage. Wherever possible, create orderly display solutions that appeal less to the ‘Bulk Barn’ aesthetic, and more to the visual tactics typically deployed by ‘Eataly’. You know: less ‘end of the world hoarding’, and more ‘up market global traveller’. With every edible jewel arranged close to hand… 

Other counsel? Carefully balance ‘display’ and ‘discrete’ storage — the modern pantry, after all, is super visual, so specify sealable boxes and jars to stash smaller ingredients cleanly and efficiently. Closed drawers or lidded boxes make sense to secrete items you need, but don’t necessarily want to see. If you have a coat or broom closet with proximity to your kitchen, consider transforming it into the perfect food destination. Install wall shelves to commandeer every inch of space, and stash a foldaway stepladder to access higher items with ease. Bear in mind, too, that swapping a swing door for a pocket slider (or even a barn door) can better utilize space, whilst adding a decorative layer, to boot. The possibilities, if properly appraised, are endless.

Beyond being of benefit to the home user, the pantry, during 2021, became an undisputed real estate accelerant.  According to realtor Josh Levesque of Berkshire Hathaway, changing lifestyle needs were the driving force: “In Toronto”, he explains, “space and square footage come at a premium. One of the first elements to be sacrificed, in new construction certainly, is storage: closets, cupboards and, saliently, pantries. The misconception being that urbanites don’t do much cooking as they’re either dining out, or ordering in. This observed, builders, of late, are finally recognizing that needs are changing. And that people do, in fact, like to cook…”  

Is Levesque witnessing an industry wide turn around? “Absolutely. And with this shift comes the provision of better storage — specifically for food. A more spacious pantry equals fewer trips to the grocery store, right? When touring larger properties, imaginatively composed walk-in larders are actually huge on my clients’ must-haves lists.” The busy realtor’s words still ringing in our ears, we’re reminded that if ‘home’ brings out the best in you, it’s also likely to bring out the best in your market. So reach for the pantry, in the selling context, to maximize dollar yield.

And so it continues. Canada’s attitude to matters gastronomic looks set to continue fanning the flames of pantry love. A recent study by meal-kit maestros HelloFresh analyzed the way in which consumers are changing their approach to cooking, eating and choosing food. A stout 48.9% spoke of increasing their home cooking frequency, whilst 34% talked of planning to spend significantly more time preparing food from scratch as 2022 looms. 

From a design perspective, as quickly as you’ve assigned space for food storage, it’s critical you consider systems to keep track of rolling inventory. Arranging food groups together makes sound sense, as does noting ‘use by’ dates on jars and boxes. Gather everyday items at eye level (and consign less frequently used items to higher shelves) and, wherever possible, employ rotating ‘Lazy Susan’ shelving and pull out organizers to facilitate easy access to hard to reach areas. 

2021, without doubt, reimagined the pantry as a fascinating food library crammed with tempting comestibles, its aesthetic assembled with generous shelving and compelling inventory, mindful of course of order, at every turn. To quote our wise auld Scottish grannies: “Hae a place for everythin’, son, and hae everythin’ in its place. If, that is, ye want an easy life.”  

Wise words, indeed, as the race to create Canada’s best pantry, continues apace…   

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