Butlers Pantry: A New Old Trend


Editorial, Photography & Graphics By: Dr. Christopher Cooper


Recent trends in the creation of a fine kitchen are to create, or repurpose a butler’s pantry. Originally used as an area where household servants made final food preparations, a butler’s pantry design was intended to create a buffer zone between the kitchen and the dining room, a small space to store specialty items, such as the best china, fine silverware, and linens, and also to heat up the food right before serving to ensure its exact temperature. European butlers often slept in the pantry as their job was to keep the silver under lock and key.

Many kitchens today such as the stunning kitchen showcased in our last issue built by Historic Lumber and Future Antiques also include a butler’s pantry in the design (not shown in the article mentioned). As kitchens now are both a place to cook and entertain, a butler’s pantry is a perfect place to take away from the sometimes chaotic pre-preparation of food before a dinner party, with the philosophy of keeping your main “show” kitchen for the actual cooking of the food.

Just because the butler’s pantry is out of the way and behind closed doors does not mean it should not be both functional and beautiful, with respects to an old home it should be kept in a style that is in harmony with the period of the house, never skimp on its fit and finish! Don’t just throw in an old refrigerator and some cheap cabinets that need a “hex key” to put them together! The space should reflect your taste and be planned out as well as your “show” kitchen.

There are lots of pragmatic and aesthetic options for this room; therefore, prepare yourself beforehand by answering one simple question: What is the space going to be used for? Knowing the necessities of the room will help make for a more efficient butler’s pantry design, and it will help determine the size and cost of the space in terms of counters, electrics, and plumbing. You will also have to decide what appliances will go into the space: under counter freezer/refrigerator, wine cooler, dishwasher, microwave etcetera, etcetera?

Will you need to wash-up? Plan for a sink; consider recycled farm sinks that can be picked-up at your nearest architectural salvage yard.

Make sure you have a healthy budget for the final fit and finish, which will inevitably add more value to your home, so think about adding wine racks for your red, granite, marble or custom tiled counter tops, and make an impression with your fine china with custom glass doors.

Location is everything! The butler’s pantry should be placed in between the dining room and the kitchen, look at your existing house; many of these rooms have been repurposed into laundry rooms! It could be time for a change. I always design a laundry room where it is most needed, where the laundry is generated, on the bedroom level! Many people who own old homes are wanting to add-onto the existing home, I don’t have a problem with this as long as certain design criteria are met, see our issue number five on how best to design an addition. A new/old addition can provide you with a fresh slate and allow more freedom in design, especially with an existing floor plan that is cramped.

If adding on is not an option or your house is small and does not have a space for a butler’s pantry, all is not lost. Many butlers’ pantries take advantage of small alcoves between rooms to add useable and practical space. An open butler’s pantry can possess many fine attributes such as a place to display fine wines and china. Whatever your house size, remember to plan ahead and don’t skimp!


Side bar:

Small Concept 7′-0″ x 8′-0″ Plan

Above graphic: This is a typical small plan of only 56 square feet. This pantry is placed between the kitchen and the dining room. Because it is small it does not have to compromise in its high style and elegant fit and finishes. The floors are large irregular sized square and rectangular limestone tiles with a beautiful 2” thick soapstone counter top.

The under counter wine cooler could also be switched out for an under counter refrigerator or freezer.

Cabinet design must be in concert with the cabinet maker and the designer to achieve the look you want!

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