Credit: Anice Hoachlander/HDPhoto

With more and more clients requesting walk-in pantries, builders are forced to make them work in homes of all sizes. (According to the NAHB, at least 84 percent of all buyers consider a walk-in pantry essential or at least desirable.) In this clean, contemporary kitchen, builder Charlie Sleichter had to get creative because the powder room on the adjoining wall prevented building a bigger storage space.

This compact kitchen serves as an entertaining hub, so finding pantry doors that wouldn’t take up extra space posed yet another challenge. A barn door, rather than a hinged one, was just the thing, says architect Ankie Barnes. What’s more, these asymmetrical sliding doors work some sleight of hand, tricking the eyes into perceiving the pantry as centered on the wall. The storage space and its entry are actually positioned slightly to the right to accommodate the powder room plumbing.

Birch plywood with a clear varnish is hardy, looks fresh, and is easy on the wallet, says Barnes. Most important, sliding doors of birch plywood can handle frequent use. Their stainless steel rolling hardware is exposed and ends up being both functional and ornamental. The absence of pulls is intentional, Barnes says, because they would have upset the optical illusion. Design doesn't hinder function, however, as the doors open and close just fine with a push or a pull.