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Get Organized: Butler’s Pantries

Entertain with ease—by organizing your butler’s pantry so the items you need for food prep and serving are right at hand. 

Written and produced by Debra Steilen
  • Anthony Masterson

    You love to entertain. But that desire to show off your clean, beautiful kitchen to guests can be thwarted by the messy realities of preparing appetizers, mixing drinks, and stacking up dirty dishes.

    So how can you throw a great party—with no one the wiser about how many messes you or the catering staff leave behind? Find space for a stylish and well-organized butler’s pantry—an old-fashioned idea that appeals to modern homeowners who don’t have an actual butler to take care of business.

    Still, a dedicated space for food prep and other niceties will do little good if you can’t find what you need when you need it. That’s why we’ve whipped up these tasty examples for keeping your butler’s pantry organized and ready to serve.

    Installing a wine chiller in the same room as the glassware makes this butler’s pantry a host’s best friend. An onyx countertop offers plenty of real estate for mixing and pouring drinks.

  • Gordon Beall

    Storage Savvy

    Boost your butler’s pantry’s efficiency—and declutter the kitchen—by outfitting the pantry’s cabinets and drawers with as many storage accessories as you can. Need some examples? Vertical dividers to park large trays and serving platters upright. Roll-out shelves that make it easy to see what you have. Drawer organizers to keep utensils accessible. Divided drawers with special liners that prevent silver flatware and serving pieces from tarnishing. Wide, shallow drawers to hold tablecloths and other linens. Another great idea? Installing shelves at varying heights—as this butler’s pantry does—to store dishes of different sizes without wasting space. 

    Design: Erin Paige Pitts

  • Werner Straube

    Gallery View

    Butler’s pantries should be as interesting and attractive as they are helpful. Along with beautiful cabinetry and countertops, install cabinetry with glass-front doors to display your best serving pieces, glassware, and collectibles. Not only will you save time finding what you need, you’ll enjoy working in a space that surrounds you with beauty. In this creamy yellow butler’s pantry, for example, the homeowner’s collection of glassware and blue-and-white porcelain in the uppers can be seen set off against a red-painted backdrop.

    Design: Anna Clark

    Browse through the rest of this beautiful home.

  • Greg Scheidemann

    Party Central

    Traditional white cabinetry with beaded-board detailing, a black walnut floor, and teak countertops help this butler’s pantry mesh with a 1920s cottage-style kitchen. Vintage-look bin pulls and latches add to the cabinetry’s charm.

    But what really make the space stand out are storage features that put entertaining front and center. Built-in stemware racks store glasses upside down to keep them dust-free and ready to use. Bottles of red wine remain horizontal in 15 wine cubbies tucked beneath the teak counter. Whites stay at ideal temperature in the raised wine chiller; beneath it, refrigerator drawers chill a variety of beverages so guests can help themselves. The butler’s pantry also helps keep the main kitchen clutter-free by keeping small appliances behind closed doors.

    Design: Dan McFadden

  • Werner Straube

    Glass Act

    Echoing the main kitchen’s elegant style, this butler’s pantry features traditional white cabinetry with a platinum glaze, and delicately veined marble used for the countertop, backsplash, and matching sink. Mesh wire panels add intriguing texture to the upper cabinets. Glass shelves—both in the open niche and the upper cabinets—let light through to make dishes and silver serving pieces sparkle. Cabinets near the ceiling are perfect for seldom used serving pieces and seasonal décor.

    Design: Brad Lewis, Jeffrey R. Jones

  • Andreas Trautmansdorff

    Angling for Compliments

    Tucked in a nook between the kitchen and formal dining room, an asymmetrical butler’s pantry simplifies entertaining and cleanup with its plentiful counter space, prep sink, extra dishwasher, and built-in coffee system. The main refrigerator and freezer are just around the corner, which makes the space an ideal staging area for parties. As for the style, glazed white-painted cabinetry teams with mottled granite countertops and metallic-finish charcoal-gray backsplash tiles to re-create a century-old personality. Leaded-glass panels grace upper cabinet doors, offering a glimpse of special dishes. Wide, shallow drawers keep linens and other supplies at the ready.

    Editor’s Tip: Choose a dishwasher with china and crystal cycles, and a reputation for being quiet—to avoid interrupting party conversation with background noise. Dishwasher drawers are great for separating delicate glassware from grimy pots and pans.

    Design: Lucy Keena Earl

  • Emily Followill

    Sky-High Storage

    Verdant-green cabinetry climbs to the ceiling in this butler’s pantry, offering plenty of space to store dishes, glassware, serving pieces, platters, bottles of wine, and everything else it takes to keep guests happy. A long stretch of white marble countertop supports this room’s serving role, making it easy for the host, chef, or caterer to provide guests with drinks, appetizers, or dessert.

    Editor’s Tip: Keep kitchen counters clear by immediately bringing dirty dishes into the butler’s pantry. Even better, load the dishwasher right away so post-party cleanup takes less time.

    Design: Katie Rosenfeld

  • Werner Straube

    Sunlit Space

    China and glassware enjoy ample storage space in a U-shape butler’s pantry just steps from the cooking zone. Interior cabinet lighting gives dishes in the glass-front upper cabinets a dramatic presence after dark; a skylight makes glassware sparkle during the day. A mirror backsplash and lower cabinets with lightly distressed nickel silver doors make the space feel bigger and brighter. (Upper cabinets are lacquered.) Oyster Pearl granite counters offer plenty of space for plating up appetizers and dessert.

    Design: Mick De Giulio

  • Brie Williams

    Open for Business

    Hand-glazed backsplash tiles, Carrara marble countertops, and white-painted cabinets make this butler’s pantry as beautiful as it is functional—a priority since the space is open to the kitchen. Several appliances supplement cooking and serving efforts: a 42-inch refrigerator, a built-in microwave oven, a warming drawer to hold food for late arrivals, an icemaker, a coffeemaker (not shown), and an undercounter wine chiller. Open shelves put beautiful stemware on display.

    Design: Linda McDougald

    Designer Tips for Getting Organized.

  • Emily Followill

    Action Plan

    The homeowner loves to entertain, so architect Tim Adams reconfigured the 16x12-foot kitchen by functions that include a primary work zone, walk-in food pantry, floor-to-ceiling china closet, and a wet bar where guests can gather. A small butler’s pantry with a square farm sink, a wall oven, and a microwave oven (not seen) doubles as a breakfast bar with the addition of a coffeepot and toaster oven. Note: The food pantry is to the right of the sink.

    Design: Nicole Metzheiser

    See before-and-after images of this updated Atlanta home.

  • John Bessler and Jonny Valiant

    Petite Powerhouse

    A bar sink, dishwasher, and icemaker give this small butler’s pantry an entertaining personality that comes out during parties. Designer Meg Braff made the most of the room’s small square footage by teaming a robin’s-egg blue patterned wallpaper with marble countertops and white cabinets with chrome hardware. For extra glam, the ceiling is clad in silver wallpaper (not shown).

    Design: Meg Braff

    Tour other rooms in this Hampton Designer Showcase.

  • Greg Scheidemann

    Furniture-Style Flair

    Glass-front upper cabinets sport X-motif muntins inspired by 19th-century Biedermeier design, making this butler’s pantry a stylish showcase for beautiful stemware. Beneath the sparkling display, a pretty faucet, bar sink, and honey-color onyx countertop help with hosting and cleanup duties.

    Design: Kristin Mullen