Is the butler’s pantry a must-have or just pretentious?

Sep 23, 2019 | Building Industry

Last night saw the all -important kitchen reveals on The Block and the butler’s pantry became a talking point on Twitter. Dee Madigan, Creative Director of Campaign Edge, posted about her loathing of butler’s pantries, asking “why have a kitchen if you don’t want to cook and prep in it”.

Many agreed with her (590 people to be exact at last count). It seems that many people view them as luxuries for the rich and pretentious. The butler’s pantry was referred to by others as just a status symbol, a total waste of space, another first world indulgence, an example of unnecessary waste, faddish, ostentatious extravagance and the ultimate look at me.

Ouch! I have a butler’s pantry but I don’t consider myself wealthy or pretentious. I sure hope my butler’s pantry doesn’t give off that vibe either! I am lucky to own one, but many people nowadays are inclined to factor one into their plans if they have the space. Perhaps, as one Twitter user observed, the increasing trend for a butler’s pantry in new homes is proof of the failure of open plan living?

I probably wouldn’t go so far as to say open plan living is a failure, but can definitely see how it creates a privacy void. We also live in an age where we have many electrical gadgets that we don’t necessarily want on display or taking up precious bench space in our kitchens.


This discussion prompted me to look up the history of butler’s pantries.  The word pantry originates from the Old French word paneterie which translates to pain or bread in modern language.

Butler’s pantries have kind of come full circle in terms of use, although today they are not restricted to the homes of the wealthy. Between 1850 and 1920 they were popular in large stately homes in America and England and were basically situated between the kitchen and dining areas. They were used not only for meal preparation and service of food but to store crockery and silverware. An actual butler managed the room, having a desk in there to manage the household duties of food stock and meals – and some even had a bed in there so they could guard the good china and stop it from being stolen! I can only dream of a butler to go with my pantry!

After World War II, the butler’s pantry slowly became obsolete and by the 1960’s it was simply a full length cupboard in the kitchen.

Today, it seems to have had a resurgence. Located just off the kitchen people use it to store food and other cooking items either on open shelves or in cupboards. Most have bench space for food preparation and often a second sink or dishwasher.

Those in favour of butler’s pantries in the Twitter discussion saw them as a handy way to store eye-sore appliances and other items, as well as a space to contain mess that could be closed off and kept from the view of guests.

Personally, I love my butler’s pantry. I designed it myself to suit my own family’s needs. I have my main sink in there (with a smaller sink in main kitchen), my one and only dishwasher in there along with a second fridge/freezer and plenty of bench space and storage/open shelves. Sometimes it becomes a mess, but so does my kitchen where I actually cook. To me it’s a valuable kitchen work and storage space – and definitely not a “look at me” room – if it were, I’d be giving guests a tour of it!

What do you think of the butler’s pantry trend? Do you own one? Would you include one in your house design if you could?

Main image: The Block 2018 (Kerrie and Spence) found at Homes to Love.

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