The Return of the Butler’s Pantry

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Keeping Up With History

The Butler’s Pantry is making a comeback. New homes are built to include them while older homes are keeping this original feature when it comes time to remodel. Originally a staging room between the kitchen and dining room, the butler’s pantry housed the china and silverware. Original butler’s pantry cabinetry often has locking hardware. Some even housed large safes to keep the family’s collection secure.

The presidential butler’s pantry

From the White House Museum’s collection of photographs, here is the presidential butler’s pantry. For more images of the White House butler’s pantry, visit this link. Hardware buffs will notice that not much has been updated in the kitchen other than the knobs and pulls. Still, the choice maintains the butler pantry’s vintage aesthetic.

For another look at a butler’s pantry from a historic house, check out this post on Northern California’s Fioli estate.

A Secret Garden

Today’s butler’s pantries are often viewed as more than just added kitchen real estate. There is a certain charm that goes along with them. Let’s face it. Americans like the word “butler.” It conjures ideas of the best of British society, as well as a famously funny episode of Seinfeld.

In today’s butler’s pantries, beautiful painted cabinetry, apron front fireclay sinks and luxurious marble countertops are on display for homeowners and friends since very few of us have actual butlers these days. Yet the charm of the butler’s pantry persists.

Think of the butler’s pantry as your indoor secret garden. It is an interstitial space, offsetting the kitchen from a formal dining area. While entertaining, friends wondering in and out of the kitchen may linger in the cozier butler’s pantry, enjoying the intimate space and taking in the design details.

There is no rule that says your butler’s pantry must replicate the look of your kitchen. While it is best to avoid blatant design schizophrenia, the small footprint of the butler’s pantry provides a great opportunity to experiment with color or add certain luxury touches you may not be able to afford in your full kitchen.

This butler’s pantry designed by Miles Redd makes a statement with dark blue lacquer from Farrow & Ball. The monochromatic blue palette and polished nickel hardware contrasts with the walnut stained door and brass knob.

Inset cabinetry, cabinet latches, luxury cabinet hardware, boldly lacquered cabinetry, glass cabinet fronts, exotic stone countertops and high end lighting may break the budget when committed to a large kitchen space but in an are the size of a New York City apartment kitchen, it’s doable. Use the small space to fulfill your kitchen dreams to scale with your budget.

Modern Interpretations

Today, entertaining has taken a turn for the casual. Couples filling out their wedding registry are less likely to register for formal dinnerware sets and more likely to set their sights on a tricked out Italian coffee maker. It’s a reflection of how we live today.

Instead of housing collections of Lenox china and Waterford crystal, the butler’s pantries of today can be outfitted as a coffee bar, baking station or food pantry. There are plenty of ways to use the space to keep up with our modern way of life.

Another blue butler’s pantry by Miles Redd incorporates a bevy of luxe finishes in a small space. Sky blue painted inset cabinets with glass front uppers, a custom painted mural on the ceiling, and exotic blue stone counters make this space extremely easy on the eyes. Again, Miles contrasts brass with nickel, this time with a chandelier and cabinet hardware  Small knobs create an elegant, understated look.  Here we either have a butler with a drinking problem or a home bar for entertaining.

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