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Plan the Perfect Butler's Pantry

A butler's pantry is a jack-of-all-trades helper. Whether you use yours primarily for prep, cleanup, or caterers, make sure it is equipped to handle the load.

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Planning Your Pantry

Consider all of the functions you want your butler's pantry to perform, and base your layout, special features, and storage specs on those needs.

Perfect for Prep
Storage is key to creating an efficient prep and staging area. Store serving dishes, stemware, and other items beautifully using these ideas:
Glass doors or open shelves showcase china and crystal.
Interior cabinet lights highlight dishware displays.
Undercabinet fixtures provide light for tasks.
Wide drawers store linens with fewer folds.
Deep drawers keep large serving dishes and platters organized.
Tall cubbies accommodate vases and pitchers.
Fabric-lined drawers protect flatware.
Plate racks add visual interest, offer additional display space, and keep frequently used dishes within easy reach.

Entertaining Hub
Keep entertaining streamlined with a work space that doubles as a bar or a self-serve beverage station. Consider these additions:
Wine coolers or racks hold bottles on their sides long-term.
Tall cubbies house stemware.
Concealed warming drawers discreetly keep dinner on hold.
Refrigerator drawers (or undercounter units) store prepared platters.
Bar sinks add convenience without taking up much space.
Filtered-water faucets are a smart, fuss-free alternative to bottled water.
Built-in coffeemakers and icemakers allow you to prepare hot and cold beverages with ease. New designs elegantly integrate with cabinetry.

Cleanup Zone
A hardworking butler's pantry needs smart appliances and beautiful materials that can withstand wear and tear. Here are some suggestions:
Dishwasher drawers are ideal for smaller or more frequent loads. Choose special cycles for china and crystal.
Full-size sinks allow you to soak dirty dishes and keep countertops clear.
Built-in drainboards can be carved into most countertop materials, including wood, stone, quartz, and concrete.
Durable surfaces, such as stone floors and low-maintenance countertops, are smart choices for cleanup zones. If you love the warmth of wood, make sure it's well-sealed to withstand moisture.
Integrated sinks are streamlined and sophisticated. Paired with a wall-mount faucet, an integrated soapstone sink sets a modern tone.

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Choosing Materials & Design Details

Designer Karen Kettler of Metropolitan Kitchen & Bath in Charlotte shares her insights about today's butler's pantries.

Why do you think butler's pantries are gaining popularity?
"The trend toward entertaining at home has revived the desire for butler's pantries," Kettler says. "Many people are choosing to have dinner parties at home instead of reserving a room at another location. The butler's pantry serves as a connection between the kitchen -- where everyone hangs out -- and the dining room, which was a little-used room in most homes in the past."

What style and material trends are you seeing in today's pantries?
Natural stone countertops in a complementary variation of the kitchen backsplash allow the spaces to flow, Kettler says. For sinks, copper, fireclay, and stainless steel are popular options. "Concrete is another good material," Kettler says. "You can get stainless concrete. Concrete is great because you can mold it to be whatever you want . You can embed it with interesting things. You can make drainboards out of it. You can have a pastry station. I think people these days want anything that the next person doesn't have. Concrete and some of the high-end marbles give you that."

How can you marry durability with style when choosing materials?
"You need durable materials, but I think it needs to flow (between the kitchen and pantry) because people are going to go in there, and you don't want it to look like it's all melamine and laminate," Kettler says. "Quartz would be a better choice than, say, marble. And there are some quartz materials that look like limestone or marble and look pretty but won't stain or scratch -- because the caterers are not going to be as careful as you are!"

Is it necessary to match the flooring in your butler's pantry with the adjacent rooms?
Materials don't need to match, but they do need to blend. "One material that blends nicely with wood is cork," Kettler says. "It's easy to clean up, and it's also soft. I've used a lot of cork to blend with hardwoods so it doesn't look like a circus when you move from one room to the next. There is some lovely cork flooring that comes in a lot of different colors. And you can even do patterns as with a hardwood floor, if you want something a little bit different."

What are your storage suggestions?
"It's always important to have lots of dividers for trays and platters," Kettler says. "You also need deep storage for larger serving pieces. And there should always be a little area to show some pretty glass or teacups." The key, Kettler says, is to have everything accessible while still making the room look beautiful.

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