Simple Tips To Help Make Your Butler's Pantry More Functional

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According to real estate experts, butler's pantries are making a comeback. Real estate broker Melanie Madden tells The Denver Post, "The butler's pantry became popular in the past 10–15 years," adding that "they're primarily intended as a prep space to keep the kitchen less cluttered." Typically found between the kitchen and dining room, butler's pantries provide a dedicated zone to keep everything from elegant dinnerware to food prep items neatly organized. Since many homes now feature open kitchen and living spaces, butler's pantries are also perfect for keeping party and entertainment supplies out of sight. 

If you're DIYing a butler's pantry for extra kitchen storage, you'll have lots of valuable opportunities to plan and build out custom solutions. But if you're dealing with an existing builder-grade pantry, you may need to create dedicated spots for small appliances, fine china, and food prep. You can also make the most of the space by incorporating hooks and racks for hanging everything from wooden spoons to hand towels. If you often have a big crowd for dinner, a mini-fridge for extra drinks storage or a temperature-controlled wine cooler could be the good way to go. Taking the time to transform your butler's pantry will ensure the space is easy to use, which results in a neater environment and less time wasted trying to battle chaos in the kitchen. 

Dedicate a space for a coffee station if you entertain often

If you consider yourself a coffee aficionado, or you enjoy serving barista-level beverages when entertaining friends and family, you might want to dedicate a space within your butler's pantry as a coffee station. Having a coffee bar can help keep all of your favorite blends, mugs, and supplies neatly organized. Setting up a mini café in your butler's pantry also leaves plenty of counter space open in the kitchen for important tasks, like food prep or displaying buffet-style items at your next dinner party.

There are a few options when it comes to planning your coffee station. If the butler's pantry has a dedicated counter space with cabinets above or below it, you can set your coffeemaker right on the countertop. Make sure there is an outlet nearby, or you won't be able to power the machine. Use the cabinets to store your supplies. Should the pantry simply consist of one tall closet, consider installing pull-out shelves. You can assign one shelf to the machine and use the other shelves to house your cups, grounds, coffee filters, and serving spoons. Again, you'll need to add an outlet on the wall behind the shelf if you don't already have one nearby.

Install hooks and racks for hanging aprons, towels, or frequently used utensils

Whether you'll be using your butler's pantry to discreetly add more storage to your space or to prepare food, you'll want to not only maximize the area but also keep it functional. One way to accomplish this task is to install hooks and racks, as they allow everything from aprons to hand towels to utensils to be in arm's reach when you need them. You can even hang organizers from the hooks to house frequently accessed items, like your child's favorite snacks, flavored tea bags, and any other supplies that you'd like to have at the ready.

While you can certainly install some permanent metal or wooden hooks in your butler's pantry, it may be a good idea to use Command products instead. Command hooks and racks can be removed and repurposed in another area, should you need to relocate them in the future. Before installing the hooks (following the directions on the packaging), you'll need to ensure you choose options that can support the weight of the items you'd like to store. For example, you can purchase cheaper hooks designed for lightweight items to hang up your apron and towels. If you want to hang a vertical organizer, you'll need to spend a little more for a hook that can hold heavier items, such as these 15-pound heavy-weight Command wall hooks from Amazon. Install the Command hooks on any available wall space or on the inside of your cabinet doors.

Add a mini-fridge for extra cold storage

Another way to make your butler's pantry more functional is to add a mini-fridge. This handy appliance will not only free up space within your main kitchen refrigerator, but it also works well for pantries with coffee bars, as it can keep milk and chilled creamers within reach. You can also use the mini-fridge to store juice boxes for the kids or to keep your veggies and meats fresh until you're ready to cook dinner.

Adding a mini-fridge is easy if you are in the middle of drawing up plans for your butler's pantry. You can have the fridge placed directly underneath your coffee machine or to the right or left of a mini sink. Depending on the aesthetic you're going for, you can opt for a glass door or one that resembles the existing cabinets. If the pantry is already in existence, you might be able to set a mini-fridge on the floor or place it directly on the counter.

Set up a dedicated small appliance storage space

Most kitchen countertops are cluttered with small appliances, including toasters, blenders, food processors, waffle makers, and microwaves. Utilizing storage space within your butler's pantry to house these items can help you keep your countertops clutter-free. Clear countertops don't just look nice; they're also more conducive to plating food, prepping meals, or even providing space for children to do their homework.

Several spots within your butler's pantry may work well to store small appliances. If you have counter space on the opposite side of your dedicated coffee station, you could set the items up there. If not, store the small appliances in one of your larger cabinets. Pull-out shelves are ideal, as you can quickly open the cabinet, slide out the shelf, and grab the appliance you want. If you want to create an appliance garage situation, Joanna Gaines has a great cabinet upgrade tip. Get an electrician to install an outlet inside the cabinet with the slide-out shelves. You can also place the small appliances you use most often toward the front of any shelves that don't pull out, as this requires less reaching and rearranging. 

Add space for temperature-controlled wine storage or wine racks

Not all wine connoisseurs have a basement to turn into a wine cellar. If you don't want your wine collection taking up space in the kitchen, consider installing a temperature-controlled wine fridge in your butler's pantry. If there's room, a few wine racks and a shelf for decanters and accessories could also make the area more convenient for entertaining a few guests or hosting a special event in the evening.

Just like with a mini-fridge, you'll have more options when designing a butler's pantry from scratch than if you need to find space within an existing pantry. During the planning phase, consider placing the wine cooler next to the mini-fridge or at the opposite end if you have a sink in the middle. If a built-in option isn't possible, use a free-standing floor model instead, such as this small wine cooler from Amazon. You can also find these coolers for sale at big home improvement stores, like The Home Depot. Locate an area near the wine fridge to install a few wine racks. You may be able to place one underneath an upper cabinet. You can also use stackable racks (like these acrylic ones from Amazon) that can sit on the counter above your cooler if need be. A nearby drawer or cabinet would be perfect for housing accessories like corkscrews, wine stoppers, and beverage coasters.

Install a butcher block countertop to create an attractive food prep area

When choosing countertops for your butler's pantry, you want to keep functionality in mind as well as style. Butcher block countertops add warmth and charm, and they're an easy-to-clean surface for food prep. They can last as long as 20 years with proper care, and you can customize the countertops to match the color palette of the room with the type of wood or stain color you choose.

If you opt for butcher block countertops, you'll need to decide whether to have them professionally installed or to take a chance and cut and fit them yourself. It's important to account for the effect extreme seasons can have on wood before you measure and make any cuts, and to acclimatize the wood before installation. You'll also need to pick between using a food-safe oil sealer, which will need to be reapplied more often, or a polyurethane sealer that lasts a bit longer. Warning: Butcher block countertops are prone to stains and cuts from preparing foods directly on the surface of the wood. Should you experience this type of wear and tear, you can re-sand and restain the top.

Install a rolling ladder to reach high shelves

In the event that you're taking advantage of every bit of space in your butler's pantry, you're likely to have a few tall shelves that aren't accessible without stepping on a stool or getting out a chair to climb on. To make the space more functional — and reduce the chance of an accidental fall from using an unsteady stepping aid — install a rolling ladder. The ladder is secured at the top with a rod and designed to slide back and forth to make it a cinch to reach lofty shelves and cupboards.

Installing a rolling ladder in your butler's pantry is fairly simple if you consider yourself handy with a few basic tools. Begin by pre-drilling holes for your track along the front of your top shelf. Attach the stops and end caps to the track before screwing the track into the board. If one track isn't long enough, you can use a connector to install a second one. Screw the floor rollers onto the bottom of your ladder before attaching the top rollers. Your rolling ladder is now ready for use!

Install a small sink for convenient food prep

A butler's pantry that is being used for more than just storage can greatly benefit from a small, inset sink. Prepping vegetables, meats, and cocktails will require washing everything from knives to cutting boards to drinking glasses. Running back and forth to your kitchen sink isn't practical, so having a dedicated area within your butler's pantry to complete these tasks is a must.

When shopping for an inset sink, Caesarstone recommends going with a model that measures 24 inches by 30 inches by 36 inches. This offers enough space to rinse off your vegetables, wash your hands, and clean utensils without taking too much room away from your countertop. When it comes to selecting the material you'd like the sink to be constructed from, there are many options, including budget-friendly stainless steel and porcelain products, all the way up to genuine marble and granite. Once you have the sink, installing it yourself is doable; however, you may wish to hire a professional to hook up the faucet and drain pipe if you don't have any prior plumbing experience. If installing a sink means cutting into the existing countertop, approach this task with the utmost care or outsource the job to a contractor.

Install a warming drawer to keep food at the perfect temperature until you're ready to serve

As you plan your butler's pantry, you'll want to add features that increase the usefulness of the space. Homeowners who enjoy throwing parties will probably benefit from having a warming drawer that can keep food at the perfect temperature until it's time to serve. Besides being convenient, a warming drawer can build confidence, as you won't have to worry about your partygoers being given plates of cold food. Most warming drawers allow you to set the temperature anywhere between 170 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Warming drawers can be placed underneath a stove, or you can install them above a cabinet, just below your countertop, or at eye level in a bank of cabinets. For safety reasons, it's best to leave the installation of a warming drawer to a professional. When using the drawer, you'll also want to follow a few precautions, such as not leaving the warmer on unless you're present in the room, not warming flammable foods, and not cleaning the drawer until it has completely cooled. Hot tip: If you don't want to add a warming drawer, you could use a cooktop warming tray or a hot plate instead.

Add a wall oven to level up your hosting game

While a single kitchen oven may meet all of your needs to serve a nutritious nightly meal, it likely isn't enough to accommodate cooking dinner for an extended crowd. One of the mistakes everyone makes when buying an oven is automatically assuming they only need one. Adding a wall oven to your butler's pantry will give you the ability to prepare a big feast for special holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. You'll be able to prepare a turkey in the oven in your kitchen, while the green bean casserole and scalloped potatoes bake in the wall oven in your butler's pantry.

Where you install your wall oven is dependent on the available space. During the design process, make sure you select a spot that is easily accessible and has plenty of room to open the oven door and insert your baking dishes. The wall oven can be set underneath a countertop, or you can go with double ovens if you want to make use of one strip of vertical space and tend to do a lot of cooking or baking. Wall ovens come in a variety of sizes, so make sure you refer to your plans to select the right dimensions before you go shopping.

Safely store your fine china, silver, or special occasion dishware

If you're wondering whether a butler's pantry adds value to your home, the answer goes beyond just dollars and cents. It provides a safe place to store all of the china that may have been passed down to you from previous generations, as well as more expensive silver cutlery and fancy dishware for special occasions. In fact, that was one of the original purposes of a butler's pantry, and these higher-end items were kept in cabinets and drawers under lock and key. Of course, you don't have to add a lock unless you really want to.

As you begin designing and organizing your butler's pantry, consider using glass doors in a few upper cabinets for displaying decorative dishware, such as your grandmother's china or a collection of crystal glasses. Use lower cabinets for porcelain teacups and specialty items, such as Christmas-themed casserole dishes. Set a few drawers up for housing your silver and serving utensils. If you have space, you can dedicate one drawer to napkins and another to candles.