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What is a Butler's Pantry? Learn All About This Bonus Kitchen Space

Butler's pantry with marble backsplash

Veranda Homes

When they first became fashionable in the 19th century, butler’s pantries were originally meant for— you guessed it!—butlers. These small, narrow rooms were built just off (or in-between) the kitchen and dining room, with shelves and cabinets meant for storing tableware and serving items. Though butler's pantries were almost exclusively found in upper-class homes, today, these practical spaces are being revived for all types of homes—no butler required. 

What Is a Butler’s Pantry?

A butler's pantry is a small buffer room between a kitchen and a dining room that serves as a space to store tableware and serving items. Today, modern butler's pantries can hold a host of extra kitchen equipment and food.

What Exactly Is a Butler’s Pantry?

The main purpose of a butler’s pantry is for storage; like pantries meant for food storage (which, traditionally, are called larders), a butler’s pantry is built with utility in mind, making good use of every inch of space with built-in shelves, drawers, and cabinets. Larder pantries are meant for cooking food; butler’s pantries are meant for serving food. 

It is important to note that a butler’s pantry is not the same thing as a scullery, even though these names can occasionally (and inaccurately) be used interchangeably. A scullery is also a small room set just off the kitchen and dining room, but it is meant for washing dishes, preparing foods for the table, and acting as an architectural buffer to keep cooking smells out of the dining area. Sculleries may look similar to butler’s pantries, but will also contain a sink, and possibly a dishwasher. 

Butler's pantry with marble backsplash

Design: Gillian Lefkowitz

Photography: Ace Misiunas

The History of Butler's Pantries

For families who could afford the services of a butler or other household staff, butler’s pantries were used to store fine china and crystal, glasses, linens, and silverware. Many drawers and cabinets would feature locking mechanisms to protect these fragile, expensive items from thieves. In some of the wealthier households in Victorian England, these pantries would occasionally be more than a workspace for the butler; some butlers were made to sleep in the pantry so the household’s valuable silver was never left unprotected

Some butler’s pantries acted as the center of operations for the household staff, and might feature desks, document cabinets, and special drawers for the butler to use for administrative tasks. Grander estates might have a call system or intercom to reach the butler, who acted as the manager of the house. 

Butler’s Pantries Today

Today’s butler’s pantries retain the same major design elements of their 19th century ancestors, but their purpose and usage is decisively 21st century. You no longer need a butler to enjoy the benefits of having a butler’s pantry in your home. 

A butler’s pantry will be located off, or in-between, the kitchen and dining room, and will feature plenty of shelves, counterspace,  and storage cabinets. Some butler’s pantries have absorbed the functions of a scullery, and may include a sink, dishwasher, or small refrigerator. 

Modern Butler's pantry with marble counters and tile

JK Interior Living

Butler’s pantries can be used as a sort of extension of the kitchen; their ample counter space makes them a helpful prep area when preparing large meals, or for storing specialized cooking equipment (like pasta makers or paella pans) that aren’t used on a daily basis. A butler’s pantry can also be a good space for frosting cakes and cookies, working with chocolate, candy making, or anything else that can be affected by the heat of a kitchen. 

A butler’s pantry can also function as an extension of the dining room, and can be used as a buffet area when entertaining. Aside from the storage of linens and servingware, the cabinets and counterspace make butler’s pantries an ideal place for a home bar. Because the rooms can be climate controlled, a butler’s pantry is a great place to store wine, spirits, and other beverages that can be affected by sunlight and ambient temperature. 

If you’re not much for cooking or entertaining, there are many creative ways to put a butler’s pantry to good use. Because they’re built with organization in mind, a butler’s pantry can be a great location for a home office, or as a crafting space.