Have you ever wanted something in your home, but didn’t know how to get it without either moving or doing a renovation? Maybe a bigger closet, another bathroom, or a walk-in pantry? Could it be one more bedroom to accommodate your growing family, a guest room, or a hangout space for your teenagers to entertain their friends? Well, I’m ashamed to admit that even though we have a lovely home, there is one thing I have been guilty of wanting for a very long time; a Butler’s Pantry.
Yes, you heard me correctly, a Butler’s Pantry. The funny thing is, until about 2003, I didn’t even know what a Butler’s Pantry was. That was the year that we decided to move from the small first house we purchased when we moved to Hawaii, to a larger home being built a few blocks away. In the course of finalizing the plans, the developer sent us over to a development on the other side of the island, to see what our model would look like with a family room/master bedroom extension. In the course of looking at each of their models, there was one that had a pass-through hallway between the kitchen and the dining room. It was lined on both sides with upper and lower cabinets, a sink, beverage fridge, and countertops for days. Some of the upper cabinets had glass fronts for storing pretty things, and the rest were closed to provide a place to hold all manner of entertaining supplies. That pass-through had my name written all over it! Finally, a place to keep platters, placemats and napkins, extra sets of dishes, and all of the glassware reserved for guests. It was like an entertainers heaven. Sadly, that model was not available in our neighborhood, but the concept stayed with me.
Attending our local Parade of Homes, I started to see many houses that came with a Butler’s Pantry, sometimes located behind the kitchen, that incorporated a traditional pantry for food storage and space for entertaining essentials. I would swoon over these functional, yet beautiful spaces. But we don’t have a butler and we already have a pantry, so this obsession made no sense at all. It got to where I think if my husband heard the words Butler’s Pantry one more time, he was going to….well, I don’t know what, but let’s just say he didn’t share my obsession with this kind of space. One of my most redeeming qualities is knowing the right answer when told, so I dropped the Butler’s Pantry idea like a bad habit and moved on.
Flash forward several years to last February, just prior to the pandemic, when we went for lunch at nearby Prosser, to a restaurant/winery called Wine O’Clock. It is a lovely place where the chef prepares your meal in an open kitchen, they have an oversized fireplace burning, a television streaming old episodes of Julie Child, and a brick oven ready for pizza orders. The vibe is really great. As I sat there taking in the decor, something I’m guilty of no matter where we are, I noticed the cabinetry that lined two walls of the restaurant. They were made up of open and closed glass-front shelving that held their white serving pieces, platters, wine and water glassware, and stacks of cookbooks. It was functional, eclectic, and beautiful.
As I was admiring this bistro-like display, it occurred to me that 1) It was in essence a Butler’s Pantry, out in plain sight, and 2) I have an area just like that in my own kitchen that I could convert into something similar. Remember when I said I had dropped the Butler’s Pantry idea like a bad habit? Well, I was wrong, because in that moment, in that restaurant, I realized that I was going to go home and create my own “Butler’s Pantry” with what I already had. I couldn’t finish my lunch fast enough:)
The first step was clearing out the mismatched catch-all assortment that currently graced my glass-fronted kitchen cabinets. Next, I gathered up all of my white serving plates, dishware, pitchers, and bowls from every cabinet. I also corralled the drinkware we use for entertaining; stemmed and stemless wine glasses, cordials and highballs. Then it was time to select some special patterned pieces like the blue and white items from my mother-in-law, brown transferware pitchers, and special teacups from the Empress Hotel in Victoria, BC. The last step was to gather up cookbooks from the cupboards to add to the mix.
I started in the middle with the white pieces and stacked them bistro style. To break up all of the white, I put our stemless wine glasses in the middle of the second shelf, and used cookbooks as risers in certain areas. The cookbooks are not only beautiful, but practical as well. Moving to the left, I placed the rest of our entertaining glassware. Various sizes of wine, cordial, and martini glasses made up these shelves, again broken up with some white platters and gratin dishes. Lastly, I tackled the small right side cabinet and placed a platter behind two pitchers, a butter dish, and other decorative pieces. Using cookbooks to elevate some of the smaller pieces gave the collection more interest than if everything was the same height. And just like that, in a manner of a little over an hour, I had somewhat of a Butler’s Pantry of my very own.
In the months since I made the change, this area is one of my favorite areas in the kitchen. The adjacent closed storage holds additional entertaining items like water glasses, larger platters, and other serving pieces. The drawers below hold placemats, napkins, napkin rings, and place card holders. No more scrounging several cabinets to find the serving pieces I wanted. When we have entertained, all of the drinkware is right there, and it is easy to grab whatever is needed. This area has all the functionality I always knew a space like this could have, and I’m ashamed that I thought it needed to be a separate room to accomplish our needs. I’m sure you all join me in yearning for the day post-virus, when we can safely resume family get-togethers and entertaining friends. When that time comes, I want to be ready!!
I love the thrill of figuring out ways to “get the look for less.” In the case of the Butler’s Pantry, I admit that arriving at the the perfect solution took a little longer than usual, especially for an impatient person like me. Inspiration for our homes can come from unexpected places, and I hope you are encouraged to look around your home and find ways to recapture and repurpose areas to better meet your needs. Sometimes the answer can be there the entire time…right in plain sight.