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The butler’s pantry

As the walk-in robe of the modern age, the butler’s pantry has undoubtedly become the must-have feature of kitchens in new homes. But before being locked into someone else’s creation, it can be worth considering how it will best work for you when entertaining or on a day-to-day basis.

To make your butler’s pantry an extension of your kitchen, Houzz.com.au recommends that you incorporate as much bench space as possible in its design. Provided that a sufficient number of power points are in place, this space of up to 50cm depth – it needn’t be as wide as your kitchen benchtops – can be used for housing small appliances such as microwave ovens, toasters or kettles. Keep them plugged in for ease of use. Or just utilise it for meal preparation. If you choose to integrate a sink, opt for a wide sink that can accommodate pots and pans and oven trays.

Uniformity with your standard kitchen is a must, but that needn’t mean using the same materials. The ultimate goal is to complement the existing decor, so the use of laminated plywood or any other engineered wood is perfectly suitable. The key element should be strength. Be sure to utilise any free wall space to increase the pantry’s functionality. It can be used for a chalkboard for items to add to your shopping list, or simply for hooks to house your aprons or oven gloves.

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Just as any decluttering expert will tell you, the best functioning walk-in pantry is one where you can see everything in its place as soon as you walk through the door. Most of the modern butler’s pantries have no door, but feel free to add a door or have a partition wall if you wish to create an illusion of privacy. But make sure that it enhances the design rather than detracting from it, i.e. avoiding any issues with inward-opening doors etc.

The number one piece of advice is to keep open shelving above bench height and for those shelves to continue all the way to the ceiling. It makes sense to store infrequently used equipment at the top. In addition, make the shelves adjustable so you can vary what can be placed there – from delicate platters and teapots to pull-out baskets. Keep a small stepladder close to the pantry so you can safely access the higher shelves when needed.

Just as it makes sense to place smaller items at the front and larger items at the back, heavy items, such as crockery and tableware, should be stored on wider shelves that are lower down. A common error is to line the pantry with shelves from top to bottom with no break. A small and wider shelf at bench-height will not only fit larger, taller items or appliances, such as mixers, blenders, toasters or even microwaves, but also act as an extra servery when preparing food.

Under the benchtop, try plate and pot drawers for easy access. If you’d like a neat finish, enclose your open shelving behind bi-fold or sliding door for a minimalist look. Unless you have a skylight or window to illuminate the butler’s pantry, it’s likely that you’ll need lighting in there. Try motion-sensor downlights and ensure the light switch is near the entry. Some smart designs in display homes are integrating a garden-view splashback window or server to create natural light.

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