What is a Pantry Closet?

M.C. Huguelet

A pantry closet is a partitioned space or small room in which food products and cookware are kept. It is usually adjacent to a kitchen or dining area, but is separated from the main room by a door. Pantry closets can vary greatly in size, from shallow recesses in the wall to large spaces in which one can move about freely and prepare food. Regardless of its size, a pantry closet is usually lined with shelves on which its contents are stored.

Canned goods are typically stored in a pantry closet.
Canned goods are typically stored in a pantry closet.

Historically, the pantry closet was an important fixture of most kitchens, particularly in large homes in which a kitchen staff was employed. In addition to providing a storage space for food and cookware, the pantry closet was also commonly used by kitchen staff to assemble dishes before delivering them to a dining area. To accommodate storage and meal assembly, these pantries were typically quite large, and featured work surfaces in addition to shelving. This type of pantry closet, sometimes known as a butler’s pantry, can be found in many older homes. Some larger modern homes also feature butler’s pantries, often in a “walk-through” style which links the house’s kitchen to its dining room.

Storing foods in stack-able plastic containers can help save space in a pantry closet.
Storing foods in stack-able plastic containers can help save space in a pantry closet.

Due to space constraints as well as changes to cooking and grocery shopping habits, many modern kitchens feature only a small pantry closet. To conserve room, these pantries may be separated from the kitchen by folding or pocket doors. While they do not offer the luxury of a butler’s pantry, smaller pantry closets can play an important role in a kitchen’s overall functionality, keeping countertops free of clutter and providing a structured space in which food products, dishware, and small appliances can be organized.

Some modern kitchens do not have a dedicated pantry closet. With a bit of work, however, industrious homeowners can convert a normal closet in or near the kitchen into a pantry. Most home improvement stores and kitchen supply shops offer a vast range of pantry components like shelving, drawer units, spice racks, and plate and silverware organizers. These items are often fairly low in cost and can be combined in a way that suits the size of the closet as well as the needs of the homeowner. Those who shy away from do-it-yourself projects or who would prefer a more polished space can hire a kitchen designer or contractor to install custom-fitted pantry fixtures in an existing closet or, if space allows, even construct a new pantry closet.

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