Butlers Pantry vs Walk In Pantry

Recent world events have many of us looking for a spot to store up on sale items. Adding a walk-in pantry will increase your storage space and can add value to your home.

If you own an older home, you may already have a butler’s pantry, which offers both storage and a workspace.

butlers pantry vs walk in pantry infographic

Key takeaways

  • A butler’s pantry is used for storage and prep.
  • A walk-in pantry is an open space designed for food storage.
  • A butler’s pantry may or may not have a door.
  • A walk-in pantry does not have a door.
  • A butler’s pantry may be plumbed with a sink.
  • A butler’s pantry is used for storage other than food.
  • A walk-in pantry has shelves and is normally a dark space with an overhead bulb.

butler's pantry and walk-in pantry
butler’s pantry and walk-in pantry

Butler’s Pantry: Storage and Work

The butler’s pantry is both a storage space and a spot for some prep work. For example, if you’re working on a special presentation for a big dinner, the butler’s pantry is where you would add sauce or a sprig of parsley. It’s away from the kitchen and a bit cooler.

It should be noted that a butler’s pantry can also be plumbed. Generally, this is a much more utilitarian washtub type of sink than the one in the kitchen; if you need to wash up a huge stock pot or soak linens, you can do it in this sink.

Of course, if space is limited or if drain access will be difficult to manage, you can just put in a countertop for a workspace.

modern butler's pantry with sink
modern butler’s pantry with sink

While a walk-in pantry focuses on food, a butler’s pantry will have room for more. You may find that you have space for precious items, such as Grandma’s china or your antique collection of lace tablecloths.

If you’re considering adding a butler’s pantry to your home or updating the one you have, take a look at available soft-close hinges and drawers to lower the risk to such stored items.

The old butler’s pantry may have had an overhead bulb; depending on the vintage of your home, there may have been a hook a servant could use to hang an oil lantern.

Because a butler’s pantry includes both a counter and storage shelves or cabinets, consider also adding under-cabinet lighting to make tasks a bit easier.

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Another modern boost to the butler’s pantry is increased ventilation. If you have silver or gold cutlery or serving pieces that need polished, the butler’s pantry could be a good spot to do the work and capture the fumes.

pantry staples infographic

If you can find a way to ventilate the pantry, such as a window and a draw fan, add it. Every cook knows that odors, steam, and a little smoke can make a kitchen smell dirty. Ventilate every way that you can.

Another modern touch in your butler’s pantry must be airtight bins. Storing up on dried foods when you find a sale is becoming more important, no matter your income.

Your butler’s pantry likely has room for food. Avoid putting away foods in the original bags and boxes. Invest in food-grade plastic storage containers to store

  • pasta
  • rice and other grains
  • sugar, both brown and white

If your house is older, keeping mice out may be nearly impossible. This challenge will be even worse if you have pets who need access to food all day or a dog door that allows them in and out as needed.

Because you really can’t use poison in any pantry, keeping your food organized and sealed is critical.

butler's pantry with counter
butler’s pantry with counter

Walk In Pantry: Loads of Storage Out of Sight

While a butler’s pantry is a separate room with a door that may or may not be open, a walk-in pantry is designed to store food out of sight.

Often these spaces are just off the kitchen and have shelving from floor to ceiling or a bank of drawers. Most walk-in pantries don’t have cabinetry because the space is too small for that swinging cabinet door.

walk-in pantry with food on wooden shelves
walk-in pantry

Pantries are generally dark and have one overhead light. While running under cabinet lighting on the bottom of the shelves can be helpful, another nifty option for a walk-in pantry is to add motion detector lights under the bottom set of shelves. This configuration will

  • offer a bit of light each time you enter the space
  • remind you not to store anything along the floor; mice love clutter
  • let you know if there is a critter running along the baseboard
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One walk-in pantry can provide you with a huge amount of storage space. You can also customize it to your height and lifting ability.

For example, you may have young children who can manage their own breakfast if they can reach the cereal.

Put the cereal on the bottom shelf in an airtight plastic container that your little one can open and pour from, or just use the box if you go through it quickly enough.

Because a butler’s pantry includes both a counter and storage shelves or cabinets, consider also adding under-cabinet lighting to make tasks a bit easier.


Open shelving can also be customized. For example, you may like to stock up on canned goods when the price is right.

Over time, cans can bow a particle board shelf. If you can keep your cans to just one shelf, replacing that one board with something sturdier can be a simple, cost-effective option.

Clear plastic tubs can serve as drawers on some of the taller shelves. If you store treats in the pantry, either keep them in an opaque tub or store them at child-friendly heights.

Shelves can be used as a ladder by a determined child and a fall from a high shelf can be devastating. Another simple option for snacks in your pantry is to hang a shoe rack with clear plastic pockets on the door.

Load the pockets with approved snacks so your children can grab something quickly without scaling the shelves.

Obviously, you will want to keep lighter foodstuffs up high; every family will need to figure out their own configuration for the best results.

Do take the time to date bins that need to be addressed soon. While some dried foods have a nearly limitless shelf life, products such as peanut butter will need to be used up sooner.

Create a map so you can easily find things and consider adding chalkboard labels that you can change when you add to the contents of your pantry.

pickle jars on pantry shelves
pickle jars on pantry shelves

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