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Pantry closet

As you can read on the "Guided tour" page, Gertie came with 110 cubic feet of enclosed storage—a huge amount for a 22' motorhome, and in fact more than some much larger class A rigs can offer. But you can never have too much storage space, and that's especially true when it comes to kitchen goods.

Soon after I brought Gertie home, I had a chance to tour a nearly identical Lazy Daze motorhome—same size and same twin/king floorplan, but four years younger—owned by some good friends of mine. Pantry closet closed Superficially their interior looked much the same as Gertie's, except for upholstery colors. But as my friend was showing off the various features, she opened up a floor-to-ceiling closet near the entrance, and my jaw dropped—I had walked right by it without even noticing it was there!

The closet was only 4 inches deep, but it was full of food. It filled the wall next to the bathroom door. In Gertie, a full length mirror occupies that wall. In my friends' rig, "Ladybug," that same mirror was mounted on the closet door. When closed, this pantry closet was almost completely unnoticeable...it didn't intrude on the living space at all. But when open, it offered shelf after shelf of storage space, sized perfectly for food items such as soup cans and pasta boxes. It was a brilliant use of space, and I determined on the spot that Gertie had to have one like it.

It turned out that Ladybug's pantry closet was not a Lazy Daze feature, but had been installed sometime in the early Nineties by a moonlighting LD employee with good carpentry skills. He'd done this modification for a number of LD owners before he and the factory parted ways. I figured that what he had done in Ladybug, I could duplicate in Gertie—with improvements.

Floorplan

I took measurements and then designed a closet to fill the existing space almost completely, leaving just enough rooom for the door to swing. The external dimensions were 18" wide by 4" deep x 75" high. (The ceiling was 77", but if I had made the closet that high, its door would have struck the nearby fluorescent ceiling fixture.)

Ladybug's closet had eight fixed shelves, with a wooden barrier in front of each shelf to prevent the contents from spilling out when the door was opened. I also planned eight shelves, but they were to be completely adjustable (at 3" intervals). Instead of using wooden barriers in front, I fashioned guard rails from white coathanger wire for a lighter, more airy look in keeping with the rest of Gertie's redesigned interior.

Shelf

I built the closet from 1x4 red oak, with a door of 1/2" oak-veneer plywood. Although I normally prefer to merely oil wood to bring out its natural color, I stained the closet pieces first to more or less match the medium-brown color of Gertie's other interior wooden fittings. Then I finished them with several applications of Watco Danish Oil Finish, a resin-loaded clear penetrating oil.

The shelves were supported by brass adjustable shelf clips that fit into double rows of 1/4" holes. The studs on the support clips fit the holes rather loosely, and I didn't want the shelves ending up all in a jumble at the bottom of the closet after a day's driving, so I painted the inside of each hole with Leech F-26 contact adhesive, which did an admirable job of making the clips fit tightly. (A better solution would have been to drill the holes slightly undersize, but I lacked the correct size drill bit and was too lazy to run out and buy one.)

Latch

I used four bronze-finish hinges for the closet door, and two roller-type catches to secure it. But the roller catches didn't seem to have enough grip, and I worried that the door might fly open while I was driving, spilling food all over the floor. So I added three magnetic catches...and then to make assurance doubly sure, an attractive brass hook-and-hasp latch on the outside.

I could have used a standard closet handle on the door, but I didn't want anything protruding into the passageway. While browsing the hardware section at Home Depot, I came across an attractive oval trim plate, 3" x 1" and slightly dished. It was perfect—by mounting it on the face of the closet door with about a third of its width hanging over the edge, I had a convenient handle by which to open the closet, yet offering no protrusion to catch on as I walked by.

After removing the full-length mirror (which was mounted, in typically overengineered Lazy Daze fashion, with more than a dozen screws), I used the stud finder I always carry to locate cross-members in the wall. Then I screwed the closet's "mounting brackets"—two 48"-long pieces of 3/4" aluminum angle—to the studs in as many places as I could manage, and to the paneling in a few more for good measure. Finally I mounted the mirror to the closet door.

Pantry open

The finished pantry closet, with its eight movable shelves plus bottom shelf, adds 12 shelf feet of precious storage space to Gertie, conveniently located two steps from the kitchen. It weighs only 34 pounds, so the payload penalty is negligible (equal to four gallons of water)...and the convenience is wonderful! Because the closet is only 4" deep, all items are arrayed in plain view—unlike Gertie's built-in kitchen cupboards, where things are typically stacked three or four deep and can be hard to see and to reach.

Here's the plan I drew up before I started building, showing the closet's general dimensions and the materials I used. Feel free to copy this and improve on it! And if you think this project calls for professional carpentry skills and a fancy workshop, keep in mind that I built the pantry closet with only a portable circular saw and a hand drill, working in a crowded little 8' x 8' room...and I'm a software designer, not a carpenter! So if you have the basic tools and skills, go for it! The results are more than worth the effort.

Pantry closet plan
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