Designing a functional kitchen takes a lot of thought and planning.

I have always employed the theory of FOOD FLOW when designing my client’s Kitchen Layouts.

With more than 1000 Kitchen Designs to my credit, this approach has served me well!

The FOOD FLOW Theory places 5 essential zones within the Kitchen Design.

  • The Food Storage Zone
  • The Prep Zone
  • The Cooking Zone
  • The Serving Zone
  • The Clean-up Zone

In my next 5 blog posts I will take a deep dive into each one of these zones to help Kitchen Designers implement this design theory into their projects.

We will begin with The Food Storage Zone.

Since the Kitchen is primary used for preparing food, the FOOD FLOW Theory makes sense.

This theory lays out a kitchen based on how food moves through the Kitchen space.

In one of my previous blogs, Why to include Kitchen Zones in Your Kitchen Designs I outline the theory for you.

Beginning the Kitchen Design process with placing the Food Storage Zone will get your functional Kitchen Design off to a good start.

The Food Storage Zone

This is the Kitchen Zone for the storage of consumable food products.

It includes refrigerated and non-refrigerated food stuffs.

Think of this area as the place to store most of your grocery shopping food items.

The COVID lock down put a lot of pressure on the Food Storage Zone with consumers visiting the grocery store less frequently and needing to store more food in the kitchen.

Our post-pandemic kitchen designs will need to address the need for more food storage capacity in our client’s Kitchens.

Since Kitchens vary considerably in size the Kitchen Designer needs to get creative to maximize the storage capacity in the Food Storage Zone.

First let’s look at some basic requirements.


The refrigerator is the center of this zone.

6 options for refrigerators that work for a family of 4
Six examples of refrigerators that have the cooling capacity for a family of four

To determine your client’s refrigeration needs do a quick calculation.

As a rule of thumb, you want about 4-6 cubic feet of storage per adult in the household plus 1-2 cubic feet per additional family member

So a family of 4 would require 10 to 16 cubic feet of refrigerator capacity not including freezer space.

As you can see from the examples above, that family of 4 has many options in refrigerators.

The width of a refrigerator with approximately 13 cubic feet of fridge capacity can range from 24″ wide to 36″ wide.

This gives the Kitchen Designer a lot of flexibility when developing the Food Storage Zone for their clients.


Once the refrigeration requirements of the household has been determined it is then time to look at the cabinetry needs of the family to store their non-refrigerated foods.

Kitchen Designer interviewing a client about their food storage needs.
Interview your client to determine their specific food storage needs

The best way to do this is to interview or survey your client.

Here are some of the questions you should ask:

  • How often do you grocery shop?
  • Do you purchase food in bulk? and in what quantities?
  • Do you cook most of your meals from scratch?
  • Do you store pre-packaged food products in your kitchen?
  • Does your cooking require a stock pile of gourmet or ethnic food ingredients?
  • How often do you entertain? and what type of entertaining do you do?
  • Do you preserve food by canning, dehydrating or freezing?
  • Have your food storage habits changed in the last year?

The answers to these questions will inform you of your client’s specific food storage needs.

Cabinet Pantry Storage

The most common cabinet storage for dry goods is the Cabinet Pantry.

The standard cabinet pantry is available in double door and single door configurations with 24″ deep and 12″ deep units common.

Many cabinet manufactures offer customization allowing the Kitchen Designer the ability to specify a variety of additional depths with 15″ and 18″ deep pantries popular.

Another customization to consider is deep drawers at the bottom of the pantry unit for easy access to packaged goods such as oversized cereal boxes or large flour bags.

To maximize the storage of the pantry cabinet specify an appropriate accessory.

A go-to accessory for many Kitchen Designers in their pantries are rollout shelves.

This is a good solution, but think about where you place them and what height the sides of the rollouts are.

Having more distance between the rollouts at the bottom of the pantry allows for taller, heavier items to be stored there.

As you move higher within the unit, specify them closer together to accommodate smaller items.

One of my favorite accessories for single door pantries is a full extension pullout.

This accessory is great for storing packages one or two items deep and when pulled out the cook can see everything they have at a glance.

For your “foodie” client you may want to specify a chef’s pantry accessory.

This accessory has been developed for a 36″ wide, two door pantry and houses individual food stuffs on a variety of swivel, door mounted and adjustable shelves.

Base & Wall Cabinet Storage

Base and wall cabinetry may not be the first thought that comes to mind for food storage but it can be a great solution in the Food Storage Zone.

Sometimes a full depth pantry can be too deep or overwhelming in a space and the combination of base and upper cabinetry can be the perfect solution for food storage.

Standard deep drawer banks and base cabinets with rollout shelves are perfect for storing a variety of food stuffs.

There are also multiple ways to accessory base cabinets to store food.

Narrow pullouts with adjustable shelves allow the cook to pack in a lot of food items.

The traditional lazy susan can also work well for food storage.

There is even a base version of the chef’s pantry that can accessorize a full height double door base cabinet.

Upper cabinets can also be accessorized for food storage.

An upper cabinet pullout can be perfect for organizing small packages in the Food Storage Zone.

For great access to food items you could specify a pull down accessory in your upper cabinetry to bring food supplies down to the counter.

Another favorite way to utilize upper cabinetry in the Food Storage Zone is to bring the upper cabinets down to the countertop and add shallow shelves on the doors.

The Walk-In Pantry

The ultimate in food storage for the Kitchen is a walk-in pantry.

This small room is usually adjacent to the kitchen and is outfitted with open shelves.

The open shelves allow the cook to see everything they have in inventory but can shut off the visual of the room by closing the door.

I am a big fan of the walk-in pantry and will devote a full blog to it in the future.

Food Storage Zone Solutions

Knowing that the Food Storage Zone is the area that the majority of the household’s food should be stored, the Kitchen Designer should look to place the refrigerator and the “pantry” beside each other.

The following are several examples of Food Storage Zone Solutions for every Kitchen size and budget.

Many homes will only have room for the refrigerator and single door pantry in the Food Storage Zone.

When faced with this, be intentional with your cabinet layout. You will see that in this example all of the upper doors line up and they are all the same width.

For a streamline look in the Food Storage Zone consider paneling the refrigerator to match the pantry cabinet.

Again, lining up the upper doors and matching the widths of the doors gives a more custom look.

Bookending the refrigerator with pantries is a great way to define the Food Storage Zone.

Flush mounting the refrigerator provides a streamline look in a modern kitchen and a detailed paneled refrigerator can provide a classic traditional look.

In a small space consider “Filler” pantries flanking the refrigerator.

This type of storage can house many small packaged items in as little as 6″ of width.

Specifying a base cabinet with an upper cabinet to the counter can give a furniture look to your food storage area.

In this example the refrigerator was flanked on the left with this combination and supplemented with a 12″ deep pantry on the right.

This combining of different depths made the Food Storage Zone much less overwhelming in this small kitchen, while still making it very functional.

The pantry in this example consists of a set of deep drawers with an upper cabinet to the counter.

The upper cabinet is 18″ deep with 12″ deep adjustable shelves and shallow shelves on the doors.

The small mount of countertop provides an additional drop off space for items coming out of the freezer portion of the refrigerator.

This final example provides an unique pantry with rollout shelves, drawers and a display area.

You will also notice the designer was very intentional when designing this pantry.

All the pantry sections line up with the corresponding refrigerator sections.

A standard full height pantry would have worked in this situation but it would not have been as interesting.

I’d love to see how you tackle the design of the Food Storage Zone in your Kitchen Designs.

Please comment below.

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Jan Rutgers B.Sc. H.Ec.

Jan Rutgers has been designing kitchens and products for over 25 years and is a recipient of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ Top Innovators in 2020 for the Kitchen & Bath Industry. She has designed more than 1000 kitchens learning valuable skills with each one! Her experience in Kitchen Design, Millwork Manufacturing and Product Development has led her to create VESTABUL SCHOOL OF DESIGN where she educates and mentors people passionate about the Kitchen Design Industry.

8 Comments on “Everything You Need To Know About the Food Storage Zone

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  4. Loved it! Great information broken down by work zones.

    • I find following the Food Flow Theory with Zones for Kitchen Design always produces a functional space!

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