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What is A Butler’s Pantry and Does it Come with a Butler?

Butler’s pantries were immensely popular decades ago, especially in the homes of the affluent. Writer and architectural historian, Catherine Seiberling Pond, writes in her blog In the Pantry, "1800s (especially 1850-1900) ~ The era of the ‘butler’s pantry’ begins in England and America: a small pantry between kitchen and dining room where China and silver were stored, and meals were plated and served (often by a butler or household staff)."

In addition to a staging a prep area, the butler's pantry securely stored fine China, silverware, crystal, and other valuables. The butler would keep these treasures protected from theft under lock and key.

In the 1950’s the butler’s pantry became near nonexistent yet began making a comeback in the 1990. In 2005, the National Association of Home Builders reported that walk-in pantries were the most requested item in American homes. A walk-in pantry is not really a butler’s pantry, but we like to think of them as siblings.

Butler's Pantry
Image from Shelf Genie

What is the difference between a walk-in pantry and a butler’s pantry?

The most obvious difference is that you walk into a walk-in pantry, whereas Butler’s pantries tend to be more for walking thru. Traditionally, the butler’s pantry is more of a transitional room between the dining area and kitchen and is used as a prep and storage area. Oftentimes, homeowners will use the butler’s pantry as a staging area for parties, or even an area to setup a buffet-type area for guests.

We would not recommend such a feat in a walk-in pantry, but you do you. A walk-in pantry is a closet-like space, equipped with shelving and storage options. The primary use for a walk-in pantry is to store dry goods, beverages, small appliances. Occasionally we have seen the walk-in pantry get used for the perfect hiding place when the kids are getting a little out of hand.

What are the benefits of a butler’s pantry vs. a walk-in pantry?

Both the butler’s pantry and the walk-in pantry provide storage, and who does not want storage? The amount of storage depends on the layout of each. Though some might argue that the walk-in pantry provides more storage, it is all about square footage so we don’t recommend one over the other for storage.

As mentioned earlier, a butler’s pantry has countertop space, giving space for prep and adding to its functionality. A walk-in pantry’s primary function is for storage. Because the butler’s pantry provides more functionality, we have seen a bit of a shift from walk-in pantries to butler’s pantries. Butler’s pantries can also be used as coffee and beverage bars. We know there is such a thing as a “closet drinker,” but let us just leave that to the butler.

Walk in Pantry
Image from Simply Organized

Which is best for you and your family?

If you find yourself liking the concept of both types of pantries, but do not have the kind of space needed to do both justice, we suggest you write out what you would use the space for, which space would be more convenient for your family and which type of pantry is needed most.

If entertaining friends and family is more important to you than a large space to hide away pantry items, then maybe the butler’s pantry is your best option. But, if the kids are out of the house and you rarely host groups, a walk-in pantry would make more sense.

We are more than happy to walk you through this process.

Eventually, you will know which option would fit your family’s needs best. We strive to bring your dream home into reality and are here to talk you though options and ideas and can answer any questions you might have.

Are you ready to discuss your pantry options?

Whether you are looking for a simple addition, or a complete kitchen renovation, we would love to help you add a pantry to your home.


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