The Butler’s Pantry Is Not a Scullery!

What is the difference between a scullery and a butler’s pantry? The lines are getting blurred, one is posing as the other, misinformation is being thrown around. Let’s settle this now.

A Butler’s pantry is a space located between the kitchen and dining room for the staging of food before serving; storage of fine china and dishware. A Scullery is a space for the prepping of food and dish clean up. In earlier times, laundry may have been done there as well.

Read on for more details on the differences between a butler’s pantry and a scullery, and the way they are changing for modern kitchen design.

My fellow pantry enthusiasts,

Please move over to your Pinterest boards and create and/or rename your boards as follows:

  • Butler’s Pantry
  • Pantry
  • Scullery Kitchen

Oh, if only it were that easy! Recently, while researching these topics, I was shocked to discover that what I thought of as a butler’s pantry was being defined as “another word for scullery.” NOOOOO! (sorry, I’m a little passionate about this topic). I would like to present my case why the two kitchen support rooms are not the same.

Let’s begin by the most simple of definitions for both:

Butler’s Pantry. A space located between the kitchen and dining room for the staging of food before serving; storage of fine china and dishware.

Pantry. A space for the storage of dry goods.

Scullery. A space for the prepping of food and dish clean up. In earlier times, laundry may have been done there as well.

In the modern kitchen, both the scullery and butler’s pantry have become extended pantries where preparation and cleaning up after meals take place. That is probably why people are using the term interchangeably.

Open Concept Floor Plan – No Place to Hide the Dishes

Let’s begin with the airing of grievances… first of all, I TOLD YOU SO. This kitchen space dispute has to do with the open concept floor plan, which I anticipated would create problems, namely, the lack of privacy in the kitchen. Read about the downfalls here. I am bringing this up because the open concept floor plan is really credited (at fault) for the trend of requests for kitchen support rooms (which is a good thing). In the very vintage sense, these “support rooms” played a necessary function all through history and up to the pre-war era of the 1940s.

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Kitchen Support Rooms: a Vintage Solution to a Modern Problem

The “modern” open plan concept started in the 1990s. By the early 2000s homeowners were beginning to look for solutions to give them a bit more shielding of kitchen tasks. Their love affair with the open concept floor plan dwindled as home owners tired of the constant mess that co-mingled with family and guests. They began to ponder the importance of the butler’s pantry, food storage pantry, and scullery in modern home design. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so easy to correct. The new homes built in the 2000s had to accept their ill-fated design choice, but it didn’t stop the next bunch of home builders from trying to improve the situation.

About the years 2015-2016, kitchen designers start to propose the concept of the “messy kitchen.” The idea was to have a second kitchen to hide the prep mess and whisk away the dirty dishes, thus allowing the owner to bask in their flawless designer main kitchen.

Well, someone wasn’t reading their history books. That room was already created and it was known as a “scullery.” This was the real workhorse of the kitchen going not back to the 19th century, but all the way back to the 15th century.

Here’s my gripe (sorry, I took the long way to get there). There are some websites calling the butler’s pantry a scullery. I will say that the glorious Instagram and Pinterest photos of butler’s pantries look suspiciously a lot like sculleries. They have all sorts of appliances, counters, and even sinks in them. When I think of a butler’s pantry, I think of a place to store your fine china and maybe wine, not after school snacks for kids.

Blurring the Lines Between Scullery and Butler’s Pantry

So here is what happened and why the lines have become blurred between what a butler’s pantry is and what a scullery is:

A butler’s pantry and a scullery are new ideas to people. They are definitely putting their own spin on it while they figure the whole thing out.

Houses are small and don’t have the option of clearly defining a butler’s pantry, food pantry, and scullery space; there is a lot of compromising/multi-purposing going on.

The trend is for more simple interiors and many modern homeowners are not interested in the trappings of fine china and dishware; the “old-fashioned” concept of a butler’s pantry is not what they need.

We don’t have a good name to take the place of “butler’s pantry.”

Butler’s pantries are one of the top requested features of new home design, but do people really understand what they are going to use it for? Based off of pictures I am seeing on the Internet, it looks like butler’s pantries are for countertop appliances and open shelving for dishware. Some have a sink in them (by the way, a “wet bar” is a butler’s pantry that has a sink in it). It’s turning into a cocktail station and/or breakfast station complete with toaster and expresso machine… all while still being labeled “the butler’s pantry.”

Oh, dear. Could someone come up with a better term than “butler’s pantry” for this all-purpose kitchen spot? Like the clever, modern day terms of “drop zones” we should be able to find one more descriptive than butler’s pantry. It is a given fact that most people don’t have servants or butlers in their home, yet the term prevails. I think we can do better; butler’s pantry is such a deceiving description. There is hope, though.

Kitchen designers are starting to suggest the term of sculleries/second kitchens for truly dedicated clean up stations. This is a step in the right direction, although I will probably lay awake at night trying to arrive at just what that perfect term should be for the vague butler’s pantry fiasco going on.

The Hybrid Butler’s Pantry/Scullery room

I highly encourage you to gather kitchen and support room ideas based on your own personal needs. For example, I dream of an ostentacious space of fine materials, countertops and flooring, topped off with an indulgent and glitzy chandelier where I can have a pretty display of glass that showcases… my glass.

I also dream of a workhorse room that I can give home to my ridiculous collection of kitchen appliances on their own counter with a REAL sink (3-compartment, hide-my-dishes sink complete with commercial-style pull down kitchen faucet with sprayer). If money and space was no object, I would incorporate both rooms into my dream kitchen. Feel free to insert your vision here.

I am delighted in the resurgence of butler’s pantries and sculleries in home design. In fact, it’s a great time to be a kitchen and pantry enthusiast. Creativity is abounding on the kitchen front and I can’t wait to see more ingenious and resourceful ways that people are using butler pantries and the scullery.

I would love to hear your viewpoint on this topic. Do you have a great idea how to sort this out? Do you have a butler’s pantry or scullery and wish to sing their praise? Please join in with a comment below!

differences between butler's pantry and scullery.

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