What is a butler’s pantry and can you have style and functionality on a budget?

Enjoy entertaining but hate the inevitable mid-dinner-party mess of dirty dishes? A butler’s pantry might just be the solution.
Mini-kitchen inside a pantry
This butler’s pantry adds welcome extra capacity to a compact kitchen area. An extra sink, a dishwasher, wine fridge and food storage are all kept in the pantry. A mirrored splashback on the rear bench of the main kitchen area adds a feeling of spaciousness. Source: JR-stock (Shutterstock)

 

What is a butler’s pantry?

Often called a ‘kitchen within a kitchen’, a butler’s pantry is an extra food preparation and storage area hidden away inside your main kitchen. It can be used to store appliances, prepare food and hide mess out of view. 

For many food lovers and home entertainers, a butler’s pantry can be an inspired addition to the home. We asked some of Australia’s leading kitchen designers to share their advice on how to include a stylish and functional butler’s pantry without necessarily blowing the budget.

Detail view of a small sink area in a butler's pantry
A butler’s pantry could include an extra sink and a dishwasher. This means that the mess of dinner party dishes can be hidden from view. Source: All About Space (Shutterstock)

 

Sydney-based kitchen designers, Dan Kitchens Australia, said butler’s pantries were a popular request from customers designing a new build home and that, across the board, approximately 10% of its customers were interested in including a butler’s pantry in their homes. However, Darren Genner from Minosa Design cautioned that, although a lot of clients were trying to include a butler’s pantry in their homes, in some cases this could be to the detriment of the main kitchen area.

View from a butler's pantry looking out to the kitchen.
Marble benchtops and integrated appliances add a touch of luxury to this spacious butler’s pantry. A dishwasher and a double-door fridge is hidden behind cabinet doors. Access to the pantry is via a wide archway, allowing for easy transit of dishes from the eating area to the clean-up zone. Source: Pics721 (Shutterstock)

 

What should you keep in mind when choosing a design for a butler’s pantry?

A butler’s pantry is typically located next to your kitchen and, ideally, has a door that can be closed to keep the room from view. According to Australian home builder, Metricon, when designing a butler’s pantry it’s important to think about how many appliances you have and to make sure you include enough power points for them. Given the room is not intended to be on display, you may be able to keep costs down by using less expensive materials, such as laminate for your cabinetry and bench tops. 

Online directory service Hipages recommends the minimum floorspace you will need for a butler’s pantry is 1.6 metres by 2.2 metres. If possible, it suggests you install plenty of lighting or, even better, a window to allow natural light in. Keep in mind it’s a work space and you want to be able to have enough space to move freely around and have everything within easy reach. If you have the space, you could also include additional dishwashers, sinks or stove tops, but bear in mind, these will increase costs.

A butler's pantry hides appliances from view.
A small room to the side of this galley-style kitchen separates the fridge, a second oven, dry-goods food storage and some bench space from the main working area. The addition of a recessed sliding door could hide this butler’s pantry entirely from view. However, the sink and stovetop has been retained in the main area, which would allow the host to stay in the party action while working on a meal. Source: JR-stock (Shutterstock)

 

How much does it typically cost to build a butler’s pantry?

At the lowest end of the range, kitchen designer Hayley Dryland says that a basic butler’s pantry can be built for approximately $2,000, provided the kitchen already has the necessary space for it. As a further guide, Graeme Metcalf, an industrial designer at Dan Kitchens, says you could expect to pay between 30% and 50% of the cost of your main kitchen on a butler’s pantry. 

Large butler's pantry with a door.
This large butler’s pantry is separated from the main kitchen area by a door. The walk-in dry-goods storage area is a great place to store rarely-used, but important, appliances, as well as allowing the home owner to stock up in bulk. Source: Artazum (Shutterstock)

 

What are the pros and cons of a butler’s pantry?

Given how much they can cost to install and how much valuable floor space they can take up, Graeme Mr Metcalf recommends that a butler’s pantry is something you’d typically only consider in a larger home. He also notes that they are usually only achievable in new home builds, unless you plan to extend or knock down walls during a renovation. He believes that the luxury factor and benefit of keeping your main kitchen on show for guests to mingle in can make a butler’s pantry a desirable option for those who love cooking and entertaining at home.

Before opting to include one in your home, however, he recommends thinking about what you will be using the space for and being certain it’s not something you could do in your main kitchen. Mr Genner agrees and advises against installing a butler’s pantry if space and budget are a consideration. Instead, he recommends creating hidden working zones inside the main kitchen, so messy-looking areas – such as the spot where the kettle and toaster goes – can be concealed and then opened when needed. This can help you save money, since you won’t need to build a separate room nor double up on appliances.

A semi-recessed butler's pantry
Space-saver idea: This kitchen design has part of a longer bench tucked away from view, creating an area that could help to hide the mess. It would serve a similar purpose to a butler’s pantry, but is much kinder in terms of the space a full-size, separate pantry would take from a kitchen floor plan. Source: Jodie Johnson (Shutterstock)

 

How to make savings on your butler’s pantry without losing style and functionality

If you decide that a butler’s pantry is a worthwhile addition to your home, all of the kitchen design experts Canstar spoke to agreed that the greatest savings can be made by selecting cost-effective materials for it. While many people like having continuity between the style of the main kitchen and the butler’s pantry, there’s nothing wrong with opting for something different if it will save you money. The experts say a butler’s pantry is not a kitchen’s show piece, it just needs to be practical and functional, and have durable materials. Melamine doors and laminate benchtops are both durable and cost-effective, according to Mr Metcalf, who also said that stainless steel bench tops are increasingly popular.

The size of the space you allocate for a butler’s pantry will also impact on the cost to build it. So long as there is enough room for you to be able to do everything you need to within the space, it doesn’t have to be overly generous.

You may also opt for shelving instead of drawers, and perhaps you can manage without plumbing in the space or adding an extra cook top.

Financing your butler’s pantry

There are many ways to finance the addition of a butler’s pantry to your home, including using savings, taking out a personal loan, drawing from an existing home loan offset or redraw account, or refinancing your home loan if it’s part of a larger renovation. 

 

 

 

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