Since the butler’s pantry serves a different purpose to food storage pantries, the design and style are usually different, too.
Traditionally, a butler’s pantry was the place where food was arranged for final presentation at the table, fine china and silver were cleaned and stored, and wine and other alcoholic drinks were prepared for service at the table. Nowadays the butler’s pantry handles the modern versions of those same tasks, as well as others that may not fit exactly into the kitchen or the dining room. Your own version of the butler’s pantry should be designed to work for the functions you expect to use it for.
The traditional location was a hallway or an actual room between the kitchen and dining room, sometimes with swing doors at either end similar to those you see in a restaurant. The space can be quite small, and is often a galley-style with cabinets or storage shelves on both sides of a central though aisle. Narrower spaces may have storage on only one side.
If there’s no room for a space between the kitchen and dining room, then the next best option is a space that opens off one of those rooms near the door to the other room. This space may be a U-shaped dead-end rather than a through route.
Because the butler’s pantry is intended to be a public room it should be decorated to match either the kitchen or the dining room, or to act as a transition between them. Ideally, those rooms as well as the butler’s pantry will blend with the age and style of the home as a whole.
Style features commonly included in a butler’s pantry are glass door upper cabinets and open shelves, to display decorative china and glassware
While the butler’s pantry is sometimes intended only for storage and display, most will need counter space as well for carrying out service tasks. The actual storage features you need will depend on what you plan to store: for example, if you have and use a lot of fine tablecloths, you might want a special rack which stores them hanging rather than folded, to reduce creasing and wear on the fabric.
Depending on how you use the room, these are some of the things you might need to store:
Table linens: tablecloths, napkins, place mats, table runners, tray cloths, buffet cloths
Cleanup equipment (for minor spills at the table): dishcloths, tea towels, hand towels, stain remover
Place Settings: plates, dishes, cups and saucers; flatware/cutlery/silverware; glassware
Serving pieces: serving dishes, tureens, platters, trays, salad bowls, sauce dishes, trivets and mats for hot dishes, salt and pepper shakers, mustard container, gravy boat, pepper grinder, ladles and serving spoons, carving knife and fork
Table Decorations: flower vases, candles and candleholders, napkin rings, centerpieces
Drink Accessories: corkscrews, decanters, glasses, punchbowl, shaker, blender, ice cube molds and maker, decorations
What you build into your butler’s pantry as well as basic storage depends on how you plan to use it. Which of these items will you need?
As you can see, your butler’s pantry can be very useful and decorative as well, and your version will be different from that built by anyone else. Make sure your design takes all your functional and storage needs into account as well as looking good.
You might think that a pantry is something that will only fit in a large kitchen, but nothing could be further from the truth. Our grandparents’ kitchens were mostly small, and they had pantries: in fact the kitchen could be small partly because much of the food and “stuff” was stored in the pantry, not in the kitchen. Given that we have a lot more “stuff” to store now, a pantry can be even more useful.
So, how can pantries be squeezed into small kitchen designs?
First, open your mind to more than one type of pantry. While we often envisage a pantry as a small room we can walk into, with a door and lots of shelves, that’s not the only type.
A “step-in” pantry is like smaller version of a walk in – more the size of a deep closet, you step in and are surrounded by storage shelves, bins or drawers.
A pantry cabinet is not even a separate room: it’s a regular kitchen cabinet (full height, base or wall) outfitted with storage units that make every cubic inch of space usable and accessible. If you don’t want a single full height cabinet, it’s quite possble to have several smaller pantry cabinets in your kitchen, perhaps with each one devoted to a different type of storage.
One more type of pantry is a shallow cabinet, often full height, that makes use of space where a standard wall or base cabinet would not fit.
Including a walk-in or step-in pantry in a small kitchen design will often mean either using an existing or previous pantry space, or stealing space from a nearby room.
If you have an older house with several small rooms in the kitchen area, the trend in previous years has been to knock down the walls and make them into one big kitchen. That may not be the best use of the space, though: consider using one of those smaller spaces as a pantry.
Stealing space from a nearby room may mean a laundry room, mud room, garage or even bedroom, and can be as easy as putting a door in a non-bearing wall and building another short wall section behind it. You’ll need to consult a construction expert before juggling walls around, to decide where the bearing and non-bearing walls are.
Another option is a corner pantry. If you have an L-shape or U-shape work area, one possible use for a corner is a pantry which takes up a little more than the footprint of a regular corner base cabinet, and has a door the goes diagonally across the corner. Inside, the whole space can be shelves and you never have the “out of reach back corner” of a base cabinet. A tall corner pantry like this works well lined up with a fridge or wall oven stack.
Pull out pantry cabinets can be placed anywhere in the kitchen, although if you want a full height pantry you may want to line it up with other full height appliances and cabinets.
Hallways are often good candidates for shallow pantry shelving or cabinets: if you have 6″ of depth you can build a wall of shelving (with or without doors) which will hold an amazing amount of cans, jars and small packets. On an interior wall this can even extend to between-the-studs storage, which again is a great place to store cans and jars. If you are truly stick for space but you have wider-than normal stairways, shallow wall shelves and cabeinst up the stairs or on a landing may be an option.
So, don’t rule out a pantry if your kitchen is on the small side – pantry designs can be an integral part of small kitchen designs and improve the looks, style and function of your new kitchen.
Pantry designs are like most things – others have been there before you and made mistakes, and you can learn from them. Check out these do’s and don’t's before you go ahead with your pantry:
The best pantry designs in the world won’t help much if you don’t use the pantry in an organized way, or if you have more to store in there than can fit.
A pantry can help with your small kitchen remodel even though you may think pantries are only for people with lots of space. How can this be?
Well, there are several ways this can happen:
A pantry can also help maximise counter space in a small kitchen, in several ways.
As well as saving on cabinet space and free-ing up counter space, a pantry can save aggravation too – if the pantry is at one end of the kitchen and snacks are stored there, it minimises multiple people wandering through the kitchen as kids and spouses can get what they need without entering the work core.
So, when you’re planning a small kitchen remodel, make sure you include pantry designs in your thinking.
If you’re thinking about including a pantry in your new or remodeled kitchen, you’re not alone. While pantries were out of fashion for many years, lately their usefulness has been rediscovered and pantry ideas are in all the shelter magazines.
If you don’t already have a pantry, and you want one, the first question is probably where to put it. First, let’s think about possible locations for a walk-in pantry:
“Walk-in” in pantry terms doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be able to walk in and walk around: it can mean that you step through the door and are surrounded by storage, all within arms reach: more of a “step-in” pantry.
If you absolutely have no room for a walk-in pantry, then a pantry cabinet is probably the solution for you. There are many designs or swing-out, fold-out or pull-out pantries made to fit in full-height cabinets, base cabinets or wall cabinets, from large to small.
Inside your pantry, once you’ve found the space, you have a long list of choices for the storage structures you choose to build. Many of them depend on the type of things you want to store in the pantry.
Shelves – narrow so you don’t lose things at the back, easily cleanable, labelable if you want to have specific areas of your pantry for specific types of goods. The vertical space between shelves can be customized to the height of your stored objects. Adjustable shelving is a great idea if you think you’ll change your mind about heights, but in reality most people find that they never change their adjustable shelves once they’ve initially been set up.
Baskets – these can be hung under shelves, stacked on shelves, placed or stacked on the floor, racked up in rolling carts, and made of natural materials like wicker or seagrass, or of wire (chrome or plastic coated). Plastic baskets are also available, and cheap, but they tend not to last very long unless they are seriously heavy duty.
Bins – made of metal, wood or plastic, with or without lids, stackable, with open, glass or solid fronts or lids, placed on shelves, the floor, or in drawers.
Drawers: can be solid or open (wire); wood, plastic, basketry or metal; compartmented or otherwise organized or subdivided inside; large and deep or small and shallow, with or without label holders, full extension, or removable to carry to a work area.
Hooks – to hold bags, aprons, clipboards, strings of onions or garlic, etc
Barrels, clean garbage bins, or sacks for holding seriously large quantities of bulk foods
Racks on walls or the inside of door(s) can hold smaller packages, pots and pans, kitchen utensils, etc. Pegboard racks are especially useful for walls or spaces where you can’t stick out into the room much and so don’t have space for shelves. A plate rail at the top of the wall can decorate your pantry while storing extra plates or platters.
You might also consider including these other items in your pantry:
If you live in an earthquake zone, your pantry ideas should take that into acount. Breakables need to be held in place, and heavy items like canned goods should be stored so that they can’t fall, break other things, block the door closed, or hurt people.
Your pantry contents would be part of your emergency food supply if an earthquake happened, so you want them to be in usable condition and accessible.
There are many different pantry designs for different types of pantry, and each needs a slightly different approach. Butlers’ pantries, kitchen pantries, cold storage rooms, larders, pull-out cabinet pantries and walk-in pantries have different requirements and may serve different purposes.
A butlers pantry is usually set between the kitchen and the formal dining room (or the place where you do your entertaining) and it’s where the heat and rush of the kitchen becomes calm, cool, elegant food service. Fine china and glassware is often stored there, sometimes with a sink and dishwasher so the dirty dishes never even reach the kitchen.
A pantry for dry goods and bulk foods is best if it’s as dry as possible, and ideally reasonably cool, although not as cold as a traditional larder or cold room. A north wall location for coolness, and top and bottom ventilation for the chimney effect will help. However, you definitely need metal screening over the vents to keep out insects and rodents. If your north wall is exposed to high winds or rain, you may need more protection for the vents in the winter.
A walk-in pantry can be ideal if you have a lot to store. You can see everything at a glance, reach things easily, and if it’s right off the kitchen it’s very convenient. It’s also much cheaper than the same amount of storage in the form of cabinets, because you don’t have to buy fancy doors and drawers, just plain shelves.
If there’s no space for a walk-in pantry, a pull-out or unfolding pantry cabinet can store a lot of stuff in a small space. Most are full height, so they blend well with fridges and wall ovens in a full-height wall when you’re designing your kitchen. However, they also come as wall cabinet or base cabinet units, in many widths as small as 3″!
Many of your pantry design decisions will depend on what you plan to store there. General categories of items which make good pantry storage candidates are:
Bulk items – paper goods such as bathroom tissue, paper towels (but consider using rags instead) and facial tissue, dry goods like pasta, sugar and flour, canned or packaged goods, home-canned food, home-dried food, pet food, etc
Seldom-used or “extra” equipment – small appliances and large pots and pans, the canner, fish cooker, pressure cooker, big platters and serving bowls, extra china and flatware, plastic containers, and empty canning jars plus spare lids and rings.
Fresh food – food which doesn’t need to be refrigerated but takes up too much space in your kitchen cabinets might include potatoes (if you can provide cool and dark storage), onions (cool and dry), winter squash (cool to warm and dry), ripening fruit for eating soon, nuts in the shell, etc
Some people store cleaning supplies in the pantry, but I’d recommend separate storage for that if at all possible. Mops and brooms are not the cleanest things in the world, and cleaning fluids, detergents etc often smell – you don’t want your food picking up soap or detergent scents!.
If you do have a walk-in or step-in pantry, the door can be a real decorative accent in the kitchen if you wish. There are some beautiful etched-glass pantry door designs here: