pocket doors impractical? not to me! i have the first one in already, and plan on 3 more! they save a great deal of room. i'm spoiled on Johnson PD frame kits too, by far the best out there i've found. hmmm, now i'm thinking how i can make a voice activated retraction drive on the doors! stop me now!
I've been following this discussion and have similar thoughts of creating a pulldown row of pantry shelfs from the ceiling. Creating a dropdown between the ceiling joists would work and a manual counterbalance/spring device seems the most practical. I personally dislike installing an electrical device into an attic area seeing as how the motors will eventually will wear out. Getting back into a crawl space to replace motors and the like doesn't interest me.
Seems to me that you could engineer or maybe will have to engineer a solution to this because each area you would place this pulldown would have different dimensions.
Finally it seems to me that a reengineering of a garage door trac/opening hardware would probably work. A garage door is typically (single wide) about 12-14 feet wide. Shorten that to 4-8 feet attach some counter weights depending upon the weight of the shelving and what would be placed on the shelving and you might have something that might work. The important thing, in my mind is to use off the shelf (homedepot) hardware to keep cost within reason.
What do you think?