Dechellis Homes’ Manhattan display at Mt Barker features a walk-through butler’s pantry. Picyture Nick Clayton.
CRUMBS on your island benchtop and clunky toasters lurking in corners – it’s the kind of mess that drives a self-declared MasterChef to distraction. As beautiful as an open-plan kitchen can be, the reality is once a hungry family moves in, so does all their mealtime mess.
Homeowners are turning to butler’s pantries to hide their daily disorder and, despite the aspirational name, these fancy kitchen cupboards are not just for the wealthy.
Take a look at local display homes and villages, and you’ll note almost every second one features a butler’s pantry or walk-in pantry of some description – even in many smaller home designs.
The pantry in Dechellis Homes’ Milano at Mt Barker. Picture: Nick Clayton.
Builders such as Fairmont Homes, Hickinbotham, Sterling Homes, Dechellis Homes, Rossdale Homes, Distinctive Homes and Rendition Homes are among those with butler’s pantries on show.
Felicity Page, senior designer at Freedom Kitchens, says butler’s pantries are booming, as shown on The Block.
“Having the extra benchtop space for food prep is a very practical feature,” she says.
Sydney-based architect Alex Roth says the purpose of a butler’s pantry remains the same.
“While we don’t generally use them as places for staff, we do appreciate that they allow us to work away in private,” he says.
The beautiful butler’s pantry in Jess and Norm’s apartment on The Block. Picture: supplied
Cooking behind closed doors
For a mostly hidden element, the butler’s pantry has an obvious role to play.
“Additional bench and storage space are their main advantage,” Alex says. “Being able to shift miscellaneous appliances into the pantry frees up space in the main section of the kitchen.
They are also great when you are entertaining as it gives you a space to put all the dirty dishes while you main kitchen stays pristine, so opting to put the dishwasher out back can be an efficient solution.
The fridge, a wine fridge or a microwave are appliances worth tucking away, and a second sink is an essential.
Felicity says butler’s pantries are a storage junkie’s dream home addition.
“This is where a mini bar fridge and bulk-purchase food items can be stored,” she says.
Make sure there is a space for appliances and open shelving in the butler’s pantry. Picture: supplied.
Planning the perfect pantry
“A walk-in pantry is traditionally a series of shelving sectioned up from floor to ceiling to allow for food and drink storage,” Alex says.
“A butler’s pantry also provides bench space to cook on, sinks to wash dishes in, dishwashers and other appliances like ovens or fridges. It’s a mini kitchen within a kitchen.”
And it can be simple to turn a standard walk-in pantry into butler’s pantry.
“If you have the space and the core shelving there,” Alex says.
“I would suggest removing or rearranging the shelves to allow for a more traditional cooking bench with enough clearance for appliances such as microwaves or wine fridges.”
Felicity says transforming a storage space into a mini kitchen requires a little planning.
“If any appliances involving heat are going in then ventilation is also a key consideration,” she says.
“Ideally there should be a window, along with an exhaust. Power for appliances is also key, so new electrics may be required which may be simple or not, depending on the space and age of the house.”
The sleek butler’s pantry in Hans and Courtney’s apartment on The Block. Picture: supplied
Everything and the kitchen sink
“They have the potential to be very large and packed to the brim with appliances,” Alex says. “Sometimes they can turn into the real kitchen with the ‘main kitchen’ just a facade to fit into the rest of the house.”
Felicity says it’s up to you to decide just how elaborate your butler’s pantry becomes.
“It can be as luxe as you like, if you’re prepared to splash the extra cash,” she says.
And the pantry doesn’t need to feel dark and enclosed either.
Long glass windows are a feature in some such as Dechellis Homes’ Manhattan as are skylights, and some pantries even have further storage with walk-in store rooms off the butler’s pantry.
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Kerrie and Spence’s kitchen and butler’s pantry won the kitchen week prize on The Block. Picture: supplied.
PANTRY STAPLES — WHAT YOU NEED
Powerpoints and plenty of them. To streamline the space, consider positioning powerpoints on the underside of above-counter cupboards, keeping them visually discreet but easy to access.
Butler’s pantries usually tend to be internal rooms without external windows, so lighting plays an important role in not only making the space functional but to give it a warm aesthetic. LED downlights or strip lighting under above-counter cupboards are good options.
Keep the microwave, dishwasher, even the fridge out of sight, but think about the function of each and where you will position it, ie; keep the fridge near the entrance so it’s within arm’s reach.
Space for cookbooks
Hans and Courtney used an otherwise wasted small corner to cleverly add cookbooks.
Not everything needs to be behind a cupboard door, particular in butler’s pantries and the easier it is to grab, the more functional the space. We do love the timber floating shelves in The Block’s Jess and Norm’s butler’s pantry.
Consider a large single or double bowl sink so you can soak those bigger pots and pans out of sight of your main kitchen.