When I visit my friend’s house in the Scottish Highlands, one of the great pleasures is the kitchen with its views on to the hills, rolling garden and loch beyond. Just behind the kitchen table there’s a pair of doors leading to a walk-in pantry, chock-a-block with spices, nuts, jams, breakfast cereals, assorted tins, pasta, coffee and teas on old wood shelving. This pantry is a scented luxury I covet and intend to incorporate into the kitchen area of my new home. Jane Stewart, Design Director, of Mowlem & Co, London, has provided this informative blog in response to our questions about how to design a walk-in pantry, its benefits and how a pantry harmonises with the way we live now.
What is a walk-in pantry?
Traditionally, before refrigeration, integrated appliances and open plan living, kitchens were much more distinct, with a variety of separate small rooms (or even outhouses) for storage, preparation and clean up tasks. These took the form of pantries for dry goods and special equipment, larders for meat and dairy, sculleries for washing up, cellars for wine and barrelled goods, while only actual cooking took place in the kitchen.
In the contemporary kitchen, the walk-in pantry has made a comeback for a number of reasons. With the increase in more open and informal living, clutter-free tidiness has become key, while the capacity for extra food and dry goods storage was on the agenda even before the pandemic.
What’s more, with the resurgent popularity of home baking, the importance (and often chaos) of family breakfasts, storage spaces that can double as preparation areas have become a modern must-have. Even better if small appliances can be housed and operated discreetly in such spaces, or pastry and dough kneaded on their own dedicated cold surfaces.
A space that is large enough to walk into and have a good look around in, or with elbow room for working in, is the ideal whenever possible; but if not, then a spacious fitted ‘breakfast’ or ‘baking’ cupboard with folding pocket doors is a fantastic alternative. This kind of storage is also ideal when unloading a large grocery shop or delivery. Dry goods can rest on an inner countertop, the door closed if needed, and then everything can be stashed away at leisure.
It may actually be easier than imagined to create such a closed off room, with the clever rethinking of space, entrances, exits and staircases and with the wonder of stud walls and architectural glass. It is also important to consider proper air flow and ventilation.
Which items would ideally be included in the pantry apart from shelving and drawers?
Properly customised shelving to suit your typical products and lifestyle is important; that’s why bespoke design matters. But it’s also worth incorporating a workspace of some kind (with a cool surface) and under that, easy access to pull-out storage, such as baskets.
If you can fit in a small sink too, that can be very useful. If you are using your pantry as a breakfast cupboard or specialist prep room, consider wall-mounting certain appliances in order to maximise space. Also, design in sufficient, easily accessed power points and proper task lighting. The key thing about a pantry is being able to easily see and identify what you need or to assess your stock.
How does the design of the pantry relate to the design of the kitchen?
The pantry should harmonise with the overall aesthetic of the kitchen, especially if it is visually connected, but it doesn’t have to completely blend. You can choose to make a design feature out of it with Crittall™, fluted or decorative glass, or reveal a vibrant colour-pop when the doors are opened.
Are there any money-saving tips for designing a pantry?
The main thing is to make sure it works for you, so that the investment, whatever it may be, will be worthwhile! Really think about and communicate to your designer how you will use the space. Function is everything, so if you save anywhere, do it with finishes. If you have a contractor building other specialised areas of the house you could ask them to fit ‘off the peg’ shelving, but make sure this can be easily adjusted if you find it’s not quite right. Ideally, make the wise choice of the right designer.
Are there any space-saving tips for designing a pantry?
Figure out your doors early on. Sliding, pocket, folding? Opening in or out? Take the time to measure your key appliances – and the space their leads and plugs will take up (ice cream and bread makers are often bigger than you think they are) and all the favourite storage vessels you will be keeping there so you can maximise the available space accordingly. Use every inch. Get a sliding ladder fitted on rails if much of your storage is above head height.
Why plan for a walk-in pantry?
It will be harder to incorporate after the build, and if considered right from renovation / floor plan stage you can make a walk-in pantry work as part of the overall design, either as a hidden wonder or as a stand-out, talking-point or feature.
The trend for open-plan living can present challenges to maintaining a tidy kitchen and living area. The walk-in pantry offers a perfect storage solution – a room within a room – that can be used as a prep zone, an area to unpack groceries, to select and store a stock of non-perishable goods and small appliances. Pantries can mirror the design of the kitchen or have their own unique features with a choice of decorative glass doors – or more contemporary handle-less pocket or folding doors. Bold colour and distinctive lighting can bring the inner reaches of a walk-in pantry to life. For interior designers, the key is to incorporate the design of the pantry into the initial planning stages of the project. When it comes to how to design a walk-in pantry, could Mowlem & Co be your first port of call?
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