Butler’s Pantry vs Scullery: What’s the Difference and Which is Better for Your Home?

When you hear of rooms like a butler’s pantry or scullery, historic Victorian and Colonial-era homes may come to mind over contemporary construction. However, while these rooms are rooted in tradition and history, they are becoming increasingly popular additions to modern floor plans for their practicality, convenience, and organization. Our interior designers and architects based at our San Antonio design firm are examining the history and differences of the butler’s pantry and scullery, as well as the best applications for homelife today. 

A Brief History of Pantries, Butler’s Pantries, and Sculleries

Butler’s pantries and sculleries have their origins in original storage pantries that date back to the Middle Ages. The history of the pantry is rooted in the French word panetière, meaning a place to store bread. These rooms began to expand in scope to also store meats, grains, and eventually finer things like china. In the case of butler’s pantries, the highest-ranked staff member would use this room as a hub for polishing silver, storing china, and housing entertaining essentials like wine. Butlers would even sleep in these rooms to protect them from theft. Scullery maids, on the other hand, utilized secondary kitchen spaces for hard labor, which included food preparation and cleaning. These maids were often the lowest ranking house staff members. During the Victorian and Colonial eras, all of these rooms were essential for storage and day to day chores. Through the years, they lost purpose as lifestyles changed. However, they have begun to see a resurgence as practical storage options and concealed entertaining prep spaces. 

What is a Butler’s Pantry? 

A butler’s pantry is a small room off the main kitchen used to store entertaining necessities including, extra sets of dishes, wine, snacks, and even coffee bar accessories. Primarily meant to serve as a storage space, these rooms also provide small workspaces to prep for large gatherings. In addition to cabinetry and counters, a large butler’s pantry may also feature a small sink, espresso machine, or wine fridge.   


What is a Scullery? 

A scullery is a small, secondary kitchen that serves as a place for food preparation and cleaning. This space needs to be fairly large to accommodate the essentials like cabinet storage, prep counters, sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, microwave, trash disposal, and small appliances. The purpose of the scullery is to function as a space that can get dirty when entertaining so that the main kitchen can remain presentable for guests and be used as a serving area. This is a great space for caterers to set up or to hide those dirty plates while you get back to your dinner party with ease and grace.   

What is the Difference Between a Butler’s Pantry and Scullery? 

By now, you may see that the line begins to blur between butler’s pantries and sculleries, especially in modern applications. The main difference is that the butler’s pantry is a dry area meant to serve primarily as a place for storage. The scullery is a wet area meant to function as an additional kitchen for event prep and cleanup. Both have very practical applications for modern living and the contemporary home, and key aspects from both concepts can be incorporated into design plans. 

Modern Needs for Historic Rooms like Butler’s Pantries and Sculleries

Today, most modern design schemes feature open concept floor plans, which are great for promoting conversation, entertaining, and that popular airy feel. However, open concept plans have many pitfalls, including keeping large living spaces neat, tidy, and clean. With open concept living, butler’s pantries and sculleries have become crucial separate spaces needed to prepare, cook, store, and clean. They allow the main kitchen to stay presentable and to function as a hub for serving and gathering, while messes are locked away behind closed doors. They also play into a recent fascination with organizing. 

The Current Organization Trend (or Obsession)

In the last decade, home organization has moved from a practical necessity to an all-out obsession. There are now endless selections or curated storage needs ranging from knife drawers to electronics charging hubs – all labeled, organized, and picture-perfect. Top organizers like Marie Kondo and The Home Edit have achieved cult level followings and stamps of approval from top celebrities. In short, the home organization trend is only growing, and we will see a rise of spaces dedicated to organized storage – like the butler’s pantry and scullery.   

Designing a Butler’s Pantry or Scullery for Your Home 

When deciding to add a butler’s pantry, scullery, or combination of the two to your home, there are a few factors to consider. In the case of renovations, one of the main ones is space. Working with an old floor plan can present challenges. However, it may be possible to convert a walk-in pantry into a functioning butler’s pantry with cabinets, counters, and even a wine fridge. Other options could include dividing the kitchen space with a partition or adding on an addition to create a full scullery. It is also important to assess your needs. For example, the occasional entertainer could benefit from a small butler’s pantry for additional storage and counters that can transition from a day to day coffee bar to a party prep space. For the lavish entertainer, a large scullery that serves as a second kitchen may be key for easy workflow and catering staff. Sculleries are also a great option for couples who love to cook but need their own personal kitchen space. Whatever your needs may be, we recommend incorporating adequate lighting, beautiful finishes, and essential storage solutions. 

Amity Worrel & Co. – Mayfield Park

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