We meet there, we make there – a kitchen is one room in the house that’s always on the boil
Neale Whitaker on the joys of a butler’s pantry.
I “t’s a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a butler’s pantry.” Students of literature and Netflix will, of course, recognise those as words Jane Austen never wrote. But the famous author and chronicler of early 19th-century society might have been amused by our early 21st-century obsession with kitchens.
Kitchens certainly loom large in my life. My roles on two renovation-based television shows ensure that I’m either installing kitchens or judging them. And at home – like most of us – my life revolves around the kitchen bench, whether I’m eating, chatting, enjoying a glass of wine, surfing the net or paying bills.
Another universal truism is that kitchens sell houses. Real-estate experts have been telling us that for years, but the goalposts are constantly moving. The kitchen that might have sold an apartment or house back in 2008 would barely cut it in 2018.
Take butler’s pantries. Just a few years ago they were considered an enviable luxury where space and budget permitted. Now they’re an essential – and the question is not whether to include a butler’s pantry, but how big it should be and which gadgets it should house. Where once no more than convenient extra storage, modern butler’s pantries are becoming the engine rooms, with the main, frontof-house kitchen kept free to exhibit highly desirable (yet rarely used) appliances, cabinetry and benchtops.
As the editor of interior-design magazines – and long before my TV days – I was aware of the alchemy of good kitchen design. At one time, the room’s functionality was limited to the “kitchen triangle”, the all-important proximity of cooktop, fridge and sink.
The triangle has since morphed into something more closely resembling an octagon, taking into consideration our appetite for at least two sinks and twin dishwashers; wall-mounted steam and combi ovens ( sous vide function, please); induction cooktops and gas hobs; integrated garbage bins; coffee makers and ice dispensers; wine fridges; teppanyaki and robata grills. And when an interior-designer friend described downdraft rangehoods as kitchen “nostrils”, I laughed.
But nostril or not, the work top-integrated downdraft system is a sine qua non in the contemporary kitchen, along with contrast cabinetry ( dix points for matte black), and freestanding benches that are more continent than island. Oh, and any device that allows you to bark commands at it. That would once have been a butler, but today it’s Google.
“The question is not whether to include a butler’s pantry, but how big it should be”
EATING IN (clockwise from top) Kitchens still sell houses and need to be more design savvy than ever, such as this one with bronze sink and tap; “front-of-house” kitchens are kept minimal; butler’s pantries have become the home’s main engine room, a...