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The Butler’s Pantry

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.

Food Service

  • Carving meats
  • Arranging food on individual plates
  • Transferring from cooking utensil to serving dishes
  • Arranging appetizer and buffet platters
  • Re-heating food
  • Keeping food hot or chilled

China and Silver

  • Dish and flatware storage and display
  • Washing dishes, especially delicate pieces that need hand washing
  • Cleaning silver

Drink Service

  • Opening wine
  • Decanting wine and spirits
  • Bar service for parties
  • Storing wine and other drinks
  • Making and serving hot drinks

Other Uses

  • Arranging flowers
  • Tending to house plants
  • Making table centerpieces
  • Making place setting decorations
  • Keeping household accounts


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?

  • Sink
  • Dishwasher
  • Dish drainer
  • Wine cooler
  • Wineglass racks
  • Wet bar
  • Under-counter fridge
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Kettle
  • Ice maker
  • Warming drawer
  • Salamander grill
  • Computer
  • Telephone
  • Desk
  • Filing Cabinet
  • Stools

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.