Modern Kitchen Ideas

10 ways to design the perfect butler’s pantry

The secret to a pristine kitchen lies in a little help behind the scenes
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We’ve embraced ‘open-plan’ as a way of life with combined living, dining and kitchen areas, but what to do when a stack of dishes start piling up halfway through a dinner party? The ultimate solution is a butler’s pantry, which is basically a mini kitchen within a kitchen. 

Butler’s pantries can be used to store appliances, prepare food and stow away mess mid-party. Follow our tips to create a hardworking space to suit your needs, where practicality reigns over luxury finishes.

1. Know when to save and splurge

Keep costs down by opting for inexpensive materials, as this area won’t be on display. Laminate or engineered stone benchtops are a fraction of the cost of other finishes and can be closely colour-matched to your main bench, ensuring continuity of style.

Butler's pantry with white benchtop
The main kitchen in this home features natural stone, but behind the scenes in the butler’s pantry, durable Corian benchtops (made from a mixture of natural minerals and an acrylic binder) are ready for action. (Credit: Photography: Elouise Van Riet-Gray | Styling: Lana Caves)

2. Consider how much space you have

Think about the footprint you can allocate to a butler’s pantry and how it will be utilised. As a general guide, the width of the walkway should be at least 1000mm, then add another 600mm for benchtops. 

Consider L-shaped cabinetry to make best use of space and for a modest pantry; allow a minimum area of 1.6m x 2.2m. For a pantry with a double sink, dishwasher, microwave, fridge and bench space, allow upwards of 2.4m x 2.8m.

3. Opt for open shelving over cupboards

This will help to stretch your budget further. If you prefer cupboards, try melamine door fronts, which are cheaper than laminate, polyurethane or timber veneer fronts.

Butler's pantry with open shelving
Vertical storage space has been maximised in this compact butler’s pantry with the addition of floor-to-ceiling open shelving. (Credit: Photography: Simon Whitbread | Styling: Corina Koch)

4.Get organised to maximise space

Pack in the storage by taking shelving to the ceiling and organising the contents by frequency of use. Glass jars or stackable square containers with locking lids are ideal for organising pantry staples such as cereals and pasta and are available from major retailers such as Kmart.

Wire baskets are good for under-bench storage and tricky corners can be utilised with pull-out cupboard systems such as Blum’s Space Corner.

5. Map out your storage needs

To prevent losing items at the back of the pantry, opt for a U-shaped design with shallow shelves. For smaller items such as herbs and sauces, aim for a shelf width of 200mm. Open shelving is a great option for condiments, salt and pepper, which can be seen at a glance for easy access.

Butler's pantry with open wall shelving
Write a list of all the items that need to be stored in the pantry, then design the cabinetry to suit. (Credit: Photography: John Downs | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

6. Section your butler’s pantry off

Keeping your pantry off-limits is as simple as installing a door. A great space-saving option is a cavity sliding door or a bifold.

7. Find the right sink

Factors such as cupboard placement and pot size will help you determine the most suitable one for your space.

8. Ensure your pantry is well-lit

Good task lighting is a must. Consider using a ‘micro switch’, where a trip catch attached to the door frame turns the light on when the door is open.

Butler's pantry with shaker style cabinets
Cabinets with a shaker profile give this butlers pantry a classic, yet contemporary feel. (Credit: Photography: Helen Ward)

9. Create a list of must-haves

Allocate a spot for regularly used appliances within the pantry and calculate your space requirements.

10. Little extras make all the difference

Install hooks and rails to hang tea towels, utensils and reusable shopping bags and utilise wall space.

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