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Creating an Antique Kitchen Pantry for Efficient Storage

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

One of the benefits and charms of living in a vintage home is having an antique kitchen pantry. More than a walk in closet, an old fashioned pantry is large enough to hold everything from food to pots and pans.

The Pantry in History

Pantries have been around for a long time. During the Middle Ages castles had separate rooms to store supplies. Meat was stored in a larder, while breadstuff was stored in the pantry, which comes from the Old French word, paneterie. Panterie comes from the French word for bread, pain.

Pantries didn't change much over the years, being made mostly of storage shelves in a small room. As the middle class grew during the Industrial Revolution, and the houses got bigger, pantries became larger and more distinct. May Victorian homes added a butler's pantry between the kitchen and the dining room. This was usually a long, narrow room which housed the silver as well as china and serving platters. The food was plated and readied for serving in this area.

In some wealthy households the butler slept in an alcove off the butler's pantry to protect the silver from theft. Butler's pantries were a standard part of many homes throughout the 1920s and into the 1930s.

As Victorian and Foursquare style homes were modernized in the post war economy in the 1950s butler's pantries as well as pantries often had walls removed to enlarge kitchen space. Sometimes the pantries were repurposed and became bathrooms and laundry rooms.

1890s farmhouse pantry
1890s farmhouse pantry | Source

Hoosier Cabinets

Hoosier cabinets are sometimes referred to as antique kitchen pantries. Although they were not pantries in the normal sense Hoosiers, and cabinets like them, were designed to hold baking supplies, utensils, and to provide a work surface for the cook.

Hoosiers were one of the most common types of kitchen furniture prior to built in cabinets coming into common use.

Adding a Pantry for Less

Whether you want to add an old fashioned pantry to your new home or update an existing pantry, it is important to decide on fitting your needs to your budget. A great way to do that is to look for vintage fixtures that you can use.

Make a list of the things that you will definitely want in the pantry. Sometimes all that is needed is a fresh coat of paint and some new flooring. Other homeowners may need to replace walls that have been removed. Keeping an eye on cost, choosing architectural salvage, and making concessions to your checkbook are important ways to get what you need and still save money.

Designing an Antique Kitchen Pantry

Shelving was usually wood however today's pantry shelves can be made of vinyl covered wire. This keeps things much cleaner and helps with ventilation.

Glass apothecary jars, Mason jars, and other glass storage containers allow you to see the contents of the pantry easily and look clean.

Flooring should be something that is easy to care for. Marmoleum or linoleum flooring is a great, authentic and easy care choice.

Most lighting in antique kitchen pantries was nothing more than a bare bulb in a ceiling after electricity was common. Prior to that the pantry might have had a window in a very wealthy home, or would have been light with an oil lamp. The lighting needs to be bright so plan accordingly.

If the area is big enough it is nice to add at least one counter top that you can use as needed. Drawers for linens and utensils are a helpful addition.

Adding a vintage door, available at many architectural salvage companies, can be a whimsical way to celebrate the history of the pantry. Be sure to take accurate measurements.

Benefits of a Pantry

There are many benefits to owning a kitchen pantry. The ability to store items out of the way makes the actual kitchen area more efficient. The size of the pantry allows for a greater amount of storage than in the ordinary kitchen as well. Finally, if you are restoring a historic home an antique kitchen pantry will give it the authentic historic look that you may be trying to achieve.

No matter how much money you have to remodel your pantry you can make improvements and add an efficient, clean space.


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    • Coach Grandpa profile image

      Bill 5 years ago from Riverview, Florida

      I am drafting a plan to convert part of my garage into a storage pantry. Very helpful article, although I will be more focused on functionality and space utilization versus style. Enjoyed reading your success story. I am new on HUB and your story is inspirational.

    • Marye Audet profile image

      Marye Audet 5 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

      Good luck.

    • Ephemerania profile image

      Ephemerania 5 years ago from San Diego

      I'm writing a hub on Hoosier cabinets. Thanks for this !

    • ChristineVianello profile image

      ChristineVianello 6 years ago from Philadelphia

      I love antiques, and victorian homes. It brings you back to how simple yet eligant homes were.

    • agusfanani profile image

      agusfanani 6 years ago from Indonesia

      Thank for this informative hub. Those beautiful antique pantries are sometimes as costly as, or even more than, the new models due to their antiquity.

    • F. K. Isley profile image

      F. K. Isley 6 years ago from Missouri

      W.B. And I are building our house from the ground up and one of our requirements was a walk-in pantry. W.B. Is standing in the doorway in his profile pic.

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I used to have an older victorian home with a dream of a pantry. I loved that house but I miss the pantry most.

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 6 years ago from Oregon

      Great comprehensive guide! I loved touring the pantries and meat larders in Hampton Court, England. They had the typical black and white checkered tile floor patterns, and than many, many shelves for all the food (they could feed hundreds on the days when they had a large hunting party there!). Thanks-- I enjoyed this.

    • Cheryl LeKane profile image

      Cheryl LeKane 6 years ago

      Thank you Mayre. Actually we are putting together our house down in the southern part of Spain and our pantry looks pretty much like the one you have on the photo but in white! Thank you for the interesting hub!

    • Athlyn Green profile image

      Athlyn Green 6 years ago from West Kootenays

      I live in a large Victorian home and it is the first house that really works, space-wise. I have a large laundry/pantry room that I appreciate very much.