I am so excited about this post! As my husband and I keep searching over plans for building our dream home, we each have things on the wish list that are specialty items. One of those for me it is the Butler’s Pantry.
This is one issue in a Series of them from The Dream Home Planner Series. To visit more of the issues, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
So I am thinking you are probably underwhelmed or don’t even know why you would need one. I didn’t know what they were when we built the home we have lived in for 26 years. Mine is in the kitchen but next to the dining room. It is one double cabinet with a counter and then a double cabinet underneath. I store my 50 serving Perculator, Carafes, and odds and ends in the lower. The upper is my coffees for serving, for keurig and for a specialty coffee maker. The counter houses a Keurig and the Specialty Coffee Maker. We aren’t coffee drinkers except on holiday or when we entertain, so this really does do its business of keeping some of my entertainment ware, but oh my, I have so much more!
At first I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to put in it. I mean you have a buffet and often a china cabinet directly in the dining room. But as time went on and we enjoyed entertaining, I started realizing not only did I need a butler’s pantry, I needed one a lot bigger and more functional than that one.
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History of a Butler’s Pantry
In large estate homes in the late 1900s, this room became popular for storage of silver. Often there were sinks for washing the crystal and china as well. Eventually they grew to include linen storage and perhaps a desk for butlers to manage the dining room.
Here we see the Butler’s Pantry of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. Prominently displayed on the table is the Vanderbilt pattern available today at the Biltmore Giftshop. This is Epic! It is rare to see a two story butler’s pantry anywhere else in the US.
Butler’s Pantrys disappeared in the mid-century homes but were obviously coming back in the late 20th century in moderate sized homes but on a much smaller scale.
Resurgence to a more Historic Butler’s Pantry
Research shows that unlike many of their predecessors, a large percentage of baby-boomers are not down-sizing. In fact, many are building their largest home of their lifetime as they retire. Why I am I bringing this up? Yes, we are in that group. We should be looking at a 3 bedroom, low upkeep home to live out our days…but we would not be able to enjoy our life! We love having people come to our lake home and stay for 3 nights or more. There is nothing like cooking together and relaxing, not always out on the run because you stayed in a hotel and you have to eat meals out. No money for family or friends to put out and everything you desire is at your fingertips, games, billiards, patio, pool, media room…this is a dream home for people who love to practice hospitality!
As many new home builds have gone the way of deleting the formal dining room, there are just as many not only retaining but enhancing them for gatherings that will be memorable in spaces that have built ins, 2 story ceilings or barrel ceilings, doors opening to courtyards and the very functional, yet elegant Butler’s Pantry.
Planning for a Butler’s Pantry
We do entertain and have for years. Our gatherings can just be our immediate family, but that has already grown to more than 10 or there are times when we have had nearly 30 for Christmas Dinner! When I entertain on that level, I dream of a Martha Stewart Barn where we all can sit at one table in one room.
Knowing what I have to store that is not needed for my everyday life in the kitchen, makes me constantly think about how I would like a Butler’s Pantry to work for me. Things I need to store, and these and these too!
1. Holiday Plates, Chargers
I have lots of decorative plates and chargers. In my kitchen at the lake, there is a cabinet door that opens and has spools or dowels in the deep door. I keep plates in there. I love it. I can see them, they are safe and take up little room.
I would like to find a cabinet (probably custom made) that will be floor to ceiling which is a very narrow pull out on wheels, much like a spice pull out is, but on each side would be the dowels with wood in the center making use of two sides of a cabinet.
Linens need dowels too! I want to find a cabinet that also pulls out on wheels with the ability to hang the table cloths on.
3. Napkins, Rings, Place Card Holders
I also have a lot of Napkin Rings which are not flat. Some are fluffy flowers, others are fragile stones, while others are made of metals that need special storage. Drawers with dividers that are deep would work well for these items.
4. Serving Pieces
Serving pieces are often large and odd shaped, wide or deep or even tall. They are best displayed on open, lighted shelves. Pieces like these if popped inside a cabinet become the inevitable “out of sight, out of mind”. Then after your party you see the absolute perfect pieces you should have used but forgot you had.
Perhaps you have felt-lined boxes for some of your flatware or silverware, but often our buffets and china cabinets also have those. If you are going to store Silverware or flatware in the butler’s pantry, having drawers built-in with the proper lining and structure would be welcome.
Right now my holiday decor is stored in labeled plastic lidded boxes in our attic. Not convenient and again, as we are getting older, climbing up and down attic stairs with boxes will not be ideal. It makes sense to make accommodations for decor in the room that the decor belongs.
Prep & Cleanup
Many of the larger butler’s pantries have sinks, dishwashers, wine coolers. They are made so caterer’s can come in and be out of the way preparing, serving and cleaning. With our homes layout so much more in an open-concept, having a messy kitchen during a party is not something we really want to have if we can make a plan around it.
Unfortunately in this floor plan there are no dimensions on the “scullery” as they named it. So now I have to delve into that name! Scullery was used to refer to a place where dishes were washed, possible stored, but it was also the laundry area. In this floor plan, there is clearly a washer and dryer in the mudroom, so the scullery with it’s sink and dishwasher are made as a butler’s pantry.
Butler Pantry Style
Once you have a good idea of the function you want and the amount of storage you need, you can work with your builder or architect to build an EPIC Butler’s Pantry that is the right size for your needs.
Then comes the fun! Picking cabinet designs, finishes, faucets, lighting, tile, color and appliances. Because this is a transitional room and often a closed off room, you can break away from your kitchen design if you choose to take it from a casual look to a more formal. On the other hand, you can retain a simple farmhouse style if that is your desire.
What don’t you love about this butler’s pantry? Having a window is just such a bonus, natural light, view, and fresh air! Basically floor to ceiling storage and a sink, somewhat hidden but not shut out of view, because who would want to hide this?
Lighted cabinets with windows, plenty of counter space for prep and great storage below makes this a smart and functional butler’s pantry.
This butler’s pantry does not appear to be outside of the kitchen since we see the double oven on the wall next to it, but the storage and light with great sight lines is a work of beauty. Love the glass texture as well.
So what are your thoughts? If you entertain, do you have a butler’s pantry? Do you wish you did? How big would yours be? I found a house plan once that the butler’s pantry rivaled the size of the dining room. Now that would be a dream home for me!