With Clients expecting more and more from their kitchens – particularly after a year of at-home cooking – a hideaway space for cleaning and pantry storage overflow is almost always in the brief. In this feature, we’re taking a peek into butlers’ pantries and sculleries, and setting out our top ten considerations for these very important zones.

Butler’s Pantry or Scullery – what’s the difference?

While the names are often interchanged, a professional designer will want to know the difference between a butler’s pantry and a scullery. We’ll start with a step back in time to the Victorian Era, and look at the roles of the namesakes of today’s pantry extensions.

You’ll be greeted by Mr Butler…
The upper-class houses of the Victorian era saw the Butler’s role rise from a simple cupbearer to a highly ranked servant. In his newly established position, the Butler added the more modern wine cellar (‘buttery’ or pantry) to his charge, alongside his dining room duties and front door attendance. In his day-to-day work, the Butler would greet and announce the arrival of guests, wait on the table at mealtimes, and clean and polish the household silver and knives.

His pantry space (the ‘Butler’s Pantry’) was a dedicated area for the cleaning, counting and polishing of the family silver, china sets, serving dishes and so on. The Butler would keep this pantry locked to prevent the theft of the family heirlooms, and would sometimes even sleep in the space for added security!

Image sourced from Victoriana.com. Learn more about the history of the Butler’s Pantry here.

But you won’t meet the Scullery Maid…
At the opposite end of the servant hierarchy was the lowest ranking female servant, the Scullery Maid. Scullery Maids were very young girls employed to assist the cook. They were the first to wake in the morning and the last to go to bed. They rarely saw the outside of the scullery, which was the small kitchen or room at the rear of a house used for washing dishes and other dirty household work.

Image sourced from The Victorian Emporium. Learn more about the history of the scullery here.

So how do these historic roles determine what we call our kitchen extensions today?
 
If your client is looking for a predominantly dry storage space to house the overflow of their pantry ware, they’re likely after a butler’s pantry.  (A small singular sink – like the kind used to wash glassware – is sometimes found in the butler’s pantry.)
 
If your client wants a heavy duty (but unseen) wash-up area, or will be doing some hefty meal prep in their kitchen extension, you’ll be designing a scullery.
 
Of course, both areas need good design, and as the ‘work-horses’ behind a show pony kitchen, they need plenty of attention in the planning stage. Following are our top ten considerations for practical pantry and scullery design.
 
1. Workflow
If your butler’s pantry is the primary point of food storage, you’ll need to consider how traffic will flow to and from the space into the main kitchen area. If your client is a baker, step through the scenario of baking a basic cake – they’ll need to collect their dry goods (flour, baking powder, bi-carb and salt), juggle a couple of eggs and a bottle of vanilla, take some butter out of the fridge and set all ingredients out by a stand or hand mixer. Will this process be smooth and efficient in their new space? 
If you’re designing a scullery, you’ll need to consider the workflow both within the space and to/from the central kitchen. As above, determine the types of activities your client will carry out in the scullery and do a dry-run. If the scullery will be the primary (or only) clean up zone, assess the trip between the dining table and the dishwasher – with a stack of dirty dishes in arms, will they make it without a pit stop?
 
2. Ventilation
A well-vented pantry space will avoid the spoiling of food and cross-contamination of odours. If the pantry or scullery does not have an openable window, discuss mechanical air extraction with your clients. Keep in mind that it’s not only ovens that generate heat: in a confined space, the refrigerator or dishwasher could contribute some hot air, too.
 
3. Lighting 
Don’t overlook the lighting – a single luminaire in the centre of the room may not be sufficient. Directional or task lighting will make the small space much more user friendly.
 
4. Ergonomics
Not all budgets will accommodate banks of drawers in this out-of-sight space, and open shelves are often desirable. If the pantry will house bulk food stores (e.g. 5kg flour sacks for the keen bread maker), or heavy cast-iron Dutch ovens for the casserole kings and queens, you’ll need to plan out your shelving heights accordingly. 
 
5. Cleanliness
While on the topic of open shelves, consider the potential for dust collection. And if the room will house an often-used kettle or toaster, assess the space between these benchtop appliances and any shelving above. Will steam residue cause a potential mould issue down the track?
 
6. Power outlets
Make a list of the small appliances that will be used (a) on a regular basis and (b) at any one time and ensure you position power outlets in the most suitable places.
 
7. Plumbing
If the scullery is a full-service space, you may need to allow for more than just a kitchen sink. Will the dishwasher be located in this room? Is a water filter necessary? Would a multipurpose tap be more appropriate and practical? Will the ice-making fridge need plumbing? Ensure you’re leaving no stone unturned when mapping out the plumbing requirements, and keep your client wary of the budget implications.
 
8. Setdown spaces
As you would in the main kitchen area, consider the set down areas either side of your sink and to the opening side of a microwave oven. Think about the landing areas for bags of groceries, too – where will your client unload their shopping stash?
 
9. Refrigerator openings
If you’re cramming a large appliance like a refrigerator into a relatively small space, you’ll want to pay extra attention to the fridge door opening. Can the door be opened beyond 90º for the removal of crispers? And have you allowed the recommended ventilation space to the sides, rear and top of the unit?
 
10. Waste
Could this be the number one oversight in a scullery? If this space is designed to be the meal prep area, or if it’s a genuine cleanup zone, ensure you’ve allowed for landfill, recycling and compost disposal. 
Kitchen designed by Frank Iaria CKD Au (Mint Kitchen Group)

ABOVE: We love the hideaway butler’s pantry in this kitchen designed by Melbourne’s Frank Iaria CKD Au (Mint Kitchen Group).

Kitchen designed by Simona Castagna (Minosa)

ABOVE: The scullery in this kitchen (designed by Sydney’s Simona Castagna, Minosa) was carefully planned to accommodate the client’s beloved Thermomix. Note the dedicated ceiling cassettes positioned to capture the steam generated by this do-all appliance.

Kitchen designed by Mary Maksemos (Mary Maksemos Design)

ABOVE: Melbourne’s Mary Maksemos designed this beautiful butler’s pantry. Yes, it has a sink, but it’s more of a ‘cleaning glassware’ variety, and not the dedicated wash up or preparation zone you’d find in a scullery.

If you have a top tip or pet peeve when it comes to these kitchen add-ons, we’d love to hear it. Share your wisdom in the comments below.