How to Build the Perfect Pantry Kitchen

Kitchen Remodeling
Additions and Remodels
Small Projects and Repairs
By Contractors.com Team June 07, 2021

You’ve probably had your fair share of cooking in a crowded kitchen. Even kitchens with a relatively large floor space can get packed when you have family or friends over. The busy holiday dinner cooking or birthday party prep can get quite hectic with you juggling pots, pans, baking trays, and cutting boards.

This is why a back kitchen, (aka a pantry kitchen, butler’s pantry, or scullery) can be a fine addition to your home. It provides that extra bit of space you need to cook, clean, and use as storage without bumping over glasses, bowls, and other people. With the help of highly experienced and knowledgeable specialists representing different crafts and trades, you can have your own gorgeous back kitchen and plenty of extra “backstage” space to work in.

The Perks of Having a Backstage Kitchen

The Perks of Having a Backstage Kitchen

Not every home is going to have enough space to accommodate a pantry kitchen, but there are enough variations for anyone to consider creating an ideal back kitchen with the following tips and tricks.

A Quick History Lesson on the Pantry Kitchen

Handed Down from the Butler's Kitchen

Handed Down from the Butler's Kitchen

Throughout history, the pantry, or as they were more commonly referred to back in the day, the butler’s pantry, was used to store family heirlooms like exotic china, decorative silver, and other kitchenware passed down through generations. Nowadays, we store these items in designated cabinets inside the living or dining room or more remote storage units around the house.

The room was called the “butler’s pantry” as resident butlers of a household would sometimes sleep there, making it more than just a room for storage. Today, there are many more uses for pantries. While most of them may not be fit for sleeping in, back kitchens can certainly be very stylish and practical.

How to Build a Kitchen Pantry

Making the Space for a Pantry Kitchen

Making the Space for a Pantry Kitchen

Making the Space

Not all kitchens are modeled with a back kitchen in mind. Furthermore, most modern households don’t have a butler, so having a separate butler’s pantry is a common oversight. Building a pantry first requires making space for it by using what’s available.

Kitchen Closet Pantries

The Benefits of a Kitchen Closet Pantry

The Benefits of a Kitchen Closet Pantry

Kitchen closets are always a great place to start when building a pantry. By nature, these rooms already have built-in shelves and maybe a few cabinets. All you need to do is add more cabinets, put in a few drawers, install a countertop or any other work surface, and enhance the lighting, as closet lighting is typically not very bright.

Adding On a Back Kitchen

If your kitchen lacks a separate closet, you have more work on your hands. Work with a licensed contractor, preferably one who has experience in kitchen remodeling, and get their professional advice on where to build a pantry. You may need to build an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) that’s attached to the kitchen. This is quite a large building project and may be more resource and labor-intensive than you would like.  

Hallway Pantry Kitchen

The Different Ways You Can Add a Pantry Kitchen In Your Home

The Different Ways You Can Add a Pantry Kitchen In Your Home

Alternatively, dedicate a portion of the hallway that connects the kitchen to the dining room and turn it into a small, open pantry. Install shelves, cabinets, drawers, countertop, even a minifridge and you have yourself a back kitchen that’s not really at the back (but you won’t hear anyone complaining). Being situated between the kitchen and dining area gives this pantry several advantages. You have an additional surface to make final touches to the food before taking it to the table and there is easier access to additional tableware without having to make a trip to the kitchen.

The Essentials

Countertop: Your Main Work Surface 

Back Kitchen Essentials

Back Kitchen Essentials

Once enough space is found for a pantry kitchen you can start thinking about what will go inside it. And one of the most important elements of any kind of kitchen is your workspace — the countertop. Since these are typically your widest work surfaces in both the kitchen and the pantry, think about how much countertop space you need and what you will be using it for. Especially if you’re thinking of adding a back kitchen for kitchen work prep, you’re going to need all the efficient space you can get.

Will you be using the back kitchen for preparing meals, cutting ingredients, extra storage, or washing up? All these uses require different amounts of surface area. For example, food prep requires lots of counter space, but storage is more dependent on shelves and cabinets more so than on counters.

Also, consider what other kitchen appliances are going to be in the pantry. Even minifridges, which are meant to be compact, can take up plenty of space. Consult with your contractor or kitchen designer to get more accurate estimates of how big the countertops can be before they start making the room feel cramped.

Cabinets and Drawers

Functional and Efficient Drawers for a Functional Pantry

Functional and Efficient Drawers for a Functional Pantry

With the pantry space measured and more or less planned out, it’s now time to think about the storage units of the back kitchen. Cabinets and drawers are your main storage for food, appliances, kitchen, and dining ware. If there is not enough storage space, you may end up with a cluttered pantry with some kitchen appliances resting on the floor or piled up on the countertop.

To make the best of the space you have, take advantage of some creative workarounds you can install. Pull-out shelves are a perfect way to make full use of the storage space in your cabinets. The cabinet back corners are more often than not left empty, as they are harder to get to and most people don’t want to stand on a stool every time they need to pull something out from the back. With pull-out cabinet shelves, this is no longer a problem.

Also, consider making some of the cabinets open, as in without any doors. A good way to understand how much space you have in the pantry, or any room for that matter, is by opening up all the cabinets and drawers. While cabinet doors may seem like a minor obstacle at first, once the pantry gets busy and you are constantly opening and closing the cabinets, you will find that these doors are quite obtrusive. Not having doors on two or three of the cabinets opens up some space for easy access. You also don’t have to worry about bumping your head against the corner of an open cabinet door, which is a major plus.

Kitchen Appliances and Other Requisites

A Multipurpose Room Is a Happy Room

A Multipurpose Room Is a Happy Room

A kitchen can’t function without its appliances, and a back kitchen is no exception. It should have all the kitchen appliances and devices one needs to prepare, cook, and clean so you can avoid having to run back to the kitchen every minute.

Aside from storing extra kitchen appliances, like the popcorn maker, spice grinder, and gyro spinning grill, it’s also nice to have a few back kitchen mainstays like a pressure cooker, a mini-fridge, toaster oven, and any other appliance that you regularly use. While a back kitchen does not have to be as versatile as the main kitchen, it should have all the necessary appliances to be mostly self-sufficient.

Pantry Kitchen Style and Design

Something that should get you excited for your back kitchen or pantry is that this is another area of your home you get to personalize and make your own. There are all kinds of pantry designs and stylizations that you can use as inspiration in your own back kitchen.

Embracing Color

Endless Opportunities for Pantry Kitchen Style and Design

Endless Opportunities for Pantry Kitchen Style and Design

Just because the pantry kitchen is hidden from most guests’ view, that does not mean it can't be a joy to look at. Splashes of color, natural stone choice, and tile patterns can make this room look very lively even if the back kitchen is relegated to the deepest corner of your home. 

See-Through Storage 

What's a Pantry Without Clear Containers?

What's a Pantry Without Clear Containers?

Having transparent jars and containers is more than stylish; it’s also very practical. Not having to read labels, open lids, or shake cans to hear their contents will make your time backstage more efficient. Let your vision work for you and pull out just what you need each time. 

Open Shelves 

The Undeniable Charm of a Butler's Kitchen In a Modern Home

The Undeniable Charm of a Butler's Kitchen In a Modern Home

Using verticality to organize your back kitchen is a great way to maximize storage and minimize clutter. But having too many cabinets can make the back kitchen seem claustrophobic. This is why the aforementioned open cabinets and shelves work so well in smaller rooms. They give you all the storage space you need with a little room for air to breathe.

Baskets, and Lots of Them

Remember how we talked about maximizing storage space by using pull-out shelves in cabinets? Well, you can also use baskets to serve as your pull-out shelves. Not only are they practical, lightweight, and easy to clean, but they are also very quaint and just plain cute. Their brown weaves are decor in and of themselves, giving the back kitchen a rustic appearance. They are a perfect way to add more style to your pantry, even if they may not be very fancy.

A Little Extra Light

But if you do want to be a little fancy, you can use LED light strips to accentuate your shelving and provide extra light in your small workspace. LED strips are very versatile, easy to install, highly customizable, and cost-effective. You can purchase a 20 foot RGB LED strip for around $20 to $25 which comes with its own remote for you to control the colors and lighting effects with.

Even if they’re not LED, extra lighting in small but productive zones is very important.

Back Kitchen Uses

Storage

The most common use for the back kitchen is to use it as a kitchen closet. Storing canned or dry food, extra dishes, silverware, as well as appliances that are not used as often such as an ice-cream maker or sous vide cooker, are all great uses of the extra space.  

While you can optimize the storage in your kitchen and use various declutter hacks to make the best of the space you have, sometimes, there just isn’t enough room no matter what you try. Having a pantry or back kitchen is a very effective solution to this problem.

Food Prep or Wash Station

Countertops packed with dirty dishes, foodstuff, and kitchenware leave very little room for cooking. You need enough surface area to peel, slice, stir, and whisk everything, and still have some elbow room to spare. A great way to maximize cooking and prep space is by using the back kitchen as a food prep station.

While you bring together all the ingredients into pots and pans in the main kitchen, use the food prep pantry to slice, dice, and prepare the ingredients themselves, without using up all the countertop space in the main kitchen. You can also flip the switch and prep in the main kitchen while you chat with your guests and place all the dirty dishes and unpleasant mess in the back kitchen. If you can’t see it, you don’t have to worry about it — until later.

Coffee or Tea Bar

Coffee and tea connoisseurs often need a separate corner of the kitchen to dedicate to their favorite drinks. Different kettles, filtration appliances, countless bags of exotic tea and coffee can take up a lot of space that you may need for your standard kitchenware.

You can use the back kitchen as a little haven for all your favorite coffee and tea collections. Just dedicate an area of the pantry for this use, or even the entire back kitchen itself, if you’re a hardcore enthusiast. Putting the tea or coffee in transparent jars will also make picking what your guests will have an interactive part of entertaining.

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team