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What a Good Butler Should Do
By Tracy Dickinson
KITCHENS & BATHS August/September 2017
home :: home & garden :: kitchen & bath

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The right pantry can do almost as much as the right butler.

The right pantry can do almost as much as the right butler.

Centuries of upper-class tradition have made the butler’s pantry a common feature in many British homes. On this side of the pond, however, a full pantry is a rare find.

Homeowners are beginning to recognize that a well-designed pantry might actually be the next best thing to actually having a butler.

Eliminate clutter

A classic butler’s pantry was a separate room or walk-through hallway, usually between the kitchen and dining room. The area often included counter space for prep work as well as storage for silver and glassware.

According to Builder magazine, one reason homeowners are intrigued by the idea of a traditional butler’s pantry is the freedom it gives them to design an open, uncluttered kitchen. “I think the attraction is to keep the area uncluttered yet keep everything at your fingertips,” says Beisser Lumber’s Barb Hyde.

A pantry is a great way to organize and store large bulk items and small and awkward appliances that either don’t fit well in a cabinet or have an odd shape—like a wok—or to store seasonal dishes and items that aren’t used often.

A pantry of this type can require anywhere from 50 to 150 square feet. Finding that much space is a problem for many homeowners. But, adds Jennifer Sweet of Sunderland Brothers, “If you have the space, why not?”

For homeowners who like to entertain, the butler’s pantry can offer extensive storage, leaving the kitchen itself for dining and serving guests.

Tina Noel of Moehl Millwork adds, “People are using their walk-in pantries for functional purposes, not just storage.”

Work efficiently

Including a butler’s pantry in your home doesn’t have to be reserved for the wealthy. The design options available today mean the pantry can be as basic or as polished as the homeowner prefers or as the budget allows.

Noel says, “It’s important to consider what tasks may take place in that space so we can make it as efficient as possible for the homeowner.”

Whether you opt for the hallway design or a separate room, you can create exactly the space you need. Sweet says, “I’ve seen some pantries used as a prep kitchen. I designed one with base cabinets, some wall cabinets (one housing a microwave), and wood floating shelves.”

“If it is new construction, I am seeing a walk-in pantry as efficient use of space and then more counter space in the kitchen,” adds Woodharbor’s Cheryl Arganbright.

A well-designed pantry can be especially beneficial because people can then focus on the everyday items they use. Pantries can be designed around the function and organizing of daily use instead of worrying about incorporating and using up space for items that now can be stored in the pantry.

Even with a smaller budget, a separate butler’s pantry can be achieved with basic shelving and cabinetry enclosed behind a decorative door.

Adding a full-size pantry room to an existing home can be more of a challenge, but with the efficient storage options available these days, a modern take on the butler’s pantry is well within reach.

Put everything in its place

“Not everyone has the space for a true butler’s pantry,” explains AIM Kitchen & Bath’s Corey Gersdorf. “But lots of times, you can add a built-in piece to add good functional storage.”

Because manufacturers and custom cabinet makers can create exactly the type of storage a homeowner wants, the pantry—whether it’s a built-in cabinet, a walk-through space, or a full-fledged room for that nonexistent butler—can truly reflect your needs.

Arganbright describes one option. “It seems a lot of kitchens have a small pantry closet in place, but we are taking these out and putting in the pantry cabinets with the roll-out shelves to give more accessible space in the kitchen. Some manufacturers have really nice pantry units that fit inside a tall cabinet that pull out as the door opens.”

“Walk-through pantry door cabinets are becoming more popular now,” says Hyde. “The cabinet industry has created a good system to do this without the bulky construction we have had to use in the past.”

Gersdorf adds, “You have a lot more options today than just adjustable shelves: roll-out shelves, swing-out shelves, recycle bins, pull-out trash cans, spice racks, and even drawers for pots and pans. You can really customize your pantry to fit your needs.”

Noel says the right design can offer storage for mixing bowls, pop-up mixer cabinets, floating shelves to display canned goods and dishes, sometimes even a beverage refrigerator and microwave.

People like features that help them stay organized, such as drawers with dividers, bins for shelves, slide-out trays, tray dividers for cookie sheets—anything that makes your space more efficient whether the features are in a pantry area or a cupboard in the kitchen.

You don’t need a butler to have a butler’s pantry. You don’t even need a traditional butler’s pantry to achieve the same goal. Today’s manufacturers and designers enable you to achieve maximum storage and work space without adding more clutter to your kitchen.

That is exactly what a good butler would do.


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