Design detail: Do you really need a butler's pantry or scullery in your new kitchen?

As the name suggests, butler's pantries or sculleries were once just for people with staff out the back doing all the work. 

Now with the rise in popularity of open plan living and kitchens, they're appearing in regular New Zealand homes more often. 

But are sculleries any use? Or are they an unnecessary bougie addition?

We ask the experts. 

What is a scullery?

A scullery is a work area separate from - but adjacent to - the main kitchen. 

"Modern kitchens have become more open," says designer Toni Roberts, from Kitchen Architecture. 

"They are connected with dining and living areas where we have family activities and entertain friends. We are happy and relaxed to be creating meals while guests and family linger in conversation nearby." 

With all this openness, sculleries provide "a visual block" to hide the mess. 

Kitchen designer Annika Rowson says that in her experience people use them mainly used to store extra food items, crockery and kitchen appliances that look better when tucked away. 

"They are also handy when entertaining as food can be prepared and dishes placed out of sight." 

The scullery can be handy for storing extra appliances and stashing dirty dishes out of sight.
The scullery can be handy for storing extra appliances and stashing dirty dishes out of sight. Photo credit: Getty.

What goes in a scullery?

If the primary purpose of your scullery is to hide clutter, you will need storage space such as cupboards, drawers and open shelves. If you'll be working in there you'll need bench space for food prep, and a sink and tap for things like washing up or filling the jug. 

Rowson, who designs award-winning high-end kitchens, has plenty of other gadgets that she likes to include.  

"When designing a scullery I would allow for a sink, dish drawer, a cool drawer, recycling bins and drawers for additional crockery and cutlery if the scullery is being used to prep meals.

"Ample benching and storage above the bench is important, and when space allows a single oven for baking and a beverage fridge. 

She also recommends an 'all-in-one' tap which eliminates the need for a kettle, Soda Stream and water dispenser on the fridge.

The amount of space you need is determined by how you plan to use it.
The amount of space you need is determined by how you plan to use it. Photo credit: Getty.

Roberts says the amount of space you need for a scullery is determined by how you plan to use it. 

"If it's a food storage zone and a one-chef situation it can be quite compact. But if it's bake etc. there needs to be ample preparation bench space around, drawers for utensils and shelves for condiments."

When planning a scullery, the key is to consider how exactly you'll use the space, which in turn will dictate how big it has to be and what will go in it. 

But always allow for a natural light source such as a window or a skylight, to reduce the feeling of being tucked away in a dark room. 

How popular are they?

While lots of new builds and renovations are still including sculleries, their popularity might now be on the wane. Rowson has seen demand decrease as homes are being designed "smarter and smaller". Now she often prefers to design working pantries that sit within the main kitchen that can be opened up or closed off when not in use. 

In the last five years, Roberts has also noticed the trend for the scullery area being incorporated into the main kitchen design, so that all the cabinetry is more accessible and people aren't disconnected from family. 

"People were finding doors were being left open anyway and the often-narrow entry point restricted ease of accessing key ingredients when there were more than two home chefs or children under feet." 

Rowson says sculleries are slowly being replaced by 'smarter' kitchens with accessible cabinetry.
Rowson says sculleries are slowly being replaced by 'smarter' kitchens with accessible cabinetry. Photo credit: Getty.

When designing these new generation sculleries that sit within the main kitchen, Rowson has a few must-haves. 

"I always include a sink, dish drawer, drawer storage and shelving above for either crockery or food items stored tidily in jars so when the unit is open it is aesthetically pleasing, with the same kitchen cabinetry/benching & splashbacks for a cohesive look." 

She favours smart hardware like the Hawa Bi-Folding Concepta which both bi-folds and pockets back into the unit, eliminating door swing into the walk space while in use. 

She also likes to include drawers for food storage or the Blum Space Tower pantry: a tall pantry unit with five internal drawers. 

"I find that these two concepts combined save space and still allow the client to feel connected to adjacent living spaces while remaining in the kitchen."

So it seems not every home cook will have a need for a scullery, and, if you're thinking of adding one, it's important to consider how you'll actually use the space and whether it would be better used for something else. 

"They are most desirable for the gourmet cook, the keen baker, the well-stocked isolated rural homes and people who love entertaining," Roberts says. 

"The extra storage capacity is hidden and tucked away zone ready to make their creations."