Following on from our previous post on kitchens, this post looks at a very critical kitchen adjunct. You’d think that bigger is always better in the luxury market, but according to many of the best builders in Sydney, there’s one small room that’s getting a large amount of attention these days; the butler’s pantry.
And again, Christmas seems to have caused a spike in already surging interest. Luxury home clients are getting inspired by examples they’ve seen amongst award winning homes and requesting butler’s pantries like never before. Perhaps this is because food and entertainment are naturally top of mind for most homeowners round about now. Or should we say food as entertainment? The birth of the open kitchen and our cultural obsession with cooking as theatre means hosts understandably suffer performance anxiety at the thought of being on view in front of guests.
Add the pressures of the festive season into the mix and entertaining at home often leads directly to some form of combustion, be it literal (the flambé that went awry… the Christmas pudding that got lit a little too enthusiastically), or metaphorical (multi-tasking meltdown).
If only we could hide away the machinations of food preparation, and its mishaps, and emerge butterfly-like when the guests arrive?
Enter the butler’s pantry! Sydney home builders consistently note that butlers’ pantries are now one of the most sought after must-haves in any luxury house plan. So, aside from the fact that its name alone hints enticingly at the presence of a Jeeves or a Carson (of Downton Abbey fame) what is the fascination with this functional, grandly small space?
The word pantry comes from the Old French word “paneterie” meaning from “pain”, the French word for bread. In bygone times different types of food were stored in different rooms: meats in a larder, and yes, bread in a pantry. Over time the word has evolved to cover a more generic definition, namely a small functional side room that acts as an ancillary space to the main kitchen.
When butlers were a thing, the butler’s pantry came into being; traditionally used to store silver, serving platters, trays and so on. Butlers haven’t been a thing for some time now, and the idea has remained dormant for decades, but in recent years, you’ll find it tripping easily off the tongues of prospective luxury home owners, renovators or design professionals.
One interior designer who works regularly with leading Sydney home builders notes the butler’s pantry has come back into demand in symbiosis with our passion for open spaces.
“With homes continuing to embrace open plan living, kitchens are increasingly seen as an extension of our living space. They’re on display. While they’ll never lose their functional role, the ‘luxe-ing-up’ of the kitchen is now seen as a real hallmark of high end homes. Statement light fittings, even chandeliers, elaborate paintings or sculptural artworks, even exotic floor rugs and animal skins are now seen as staples of the kitchen. All very lovely, but if you’re one of those cooks that likes to use every pot in the kitchen and leave a trail of creative mess in your wake, you need hidden space. This, among other things, is one reason why building companies in Sydney increasingly report that the butler’s pantry has come into vogue. Some butler’s pantries are almost a whole second kitchen. The possibilities are endless, depending on your budget and needs.”
“Butler’s pantries are great for smoothly executing the otherwise frantic changeover between courses if you’re entertaining. Dirty dishes can be deposited in the butler’s pantry and loaded into the dishwasher there while the next course is delivered to tables. Meanwhile your guests can gather in an elegant, relaxed kitchen space without sullying their party clothes on spilt gravy.”
So what are the key ingredients to the ideal butler’s pantry? Here’s a round-up of key pointers from the best builders in Sydney:-
- A good butler’s pantry is not a glorified cupboard. It’s a rectilinear walk-in space with no odd corners or crannies; you want to be able to see and access everything.
- Fridge/freezer with ice dispenser, sink (double sink if space allows, including specialised tapware to produce filtered / boiled / sparkling water direct) and dishwasher are also high on the must-have list.
- It should enable heaps of storage, from waist to eye height solid open pantry shelving to glazed cupboards and perhaps a couple of non-glazed ones too, to store those unsightly items: that blackened wok you don’t use too often but that still makes the best stir fry, for example.
- Lower level storage should offer plenty of space for a mini wine cellar, drinks cabinet and food items.
- Any decent butler’s pantry will offer plenty of bench space for food and drink preparation, as well as stock items such as kettle, coffee maker, toaster and so on.
- Remember power requirements and provide outlets for the items you’ll want easy access to. You can even create an appliance cupboard by sitting a bottomless-cupboard on it and locating your power outlets inside. You can store your appliances in there and pull them out onto the bench-top space when you need them.
- The hatch is back! Anyone remember the ‘60s and ‘70s when an opening or ‘servery’ between kitchen and dining space was all the rage? Well, this concept has now been transposed as another way of effortlessly transitioning between butler’s pantry and display kitchen. Food and drinks can be passed through with ease.
- Plan the relationship between your butler’s pantry and your kitchen with care. If you’re the main cook, remember that your family and your friends will usually be in your kitchen as you get busy basting, chopping, reducing and so on. Ideally you want your layout to enable you to be part of the conversation without constantly disappearing into another room. At the same time, you don’t want to be cooking (and perspiring) directly under guests’ noses.
- Temperature control: when the heat is on, you want a cool space in which food won’t wilt, and neither will your mood as you go full throttle playing ‘Carson’ to your Christmas day or summer barbie guests.