Think the concept of pantries in the kitchen is as outdated as the 20th century pantries of old? Think again. Contemporary aesthetics and functional design innovations are changing how and when tall storage cabinetry is being specified in residential kitchen planning.
The reasons for this are simple. First, as elaborate vintage Old World rooms become more streamlined and tailored in design detailing over the next few years, designers will find that varying the types, shapes and sizes of the storage components in the room will provide greater visual interest.
Additionally, as the consumer's kitchen planning priorities continue to focus on both a work and socializing component in the room, the resulting large gathering spaces (where the kitchen workers interact with other family members) may be enhanced by replacing "view blocking" wall cabinets with an idea from the past a built-in storage closet, or a newly outfitted "pantry."
Some of the following ideas work best for design firms that specialize in creating kitchens. The specialist who concentrates solely on the cabinet sale will not profit as much. Why? Because the first design ideas require a site-built storage area.
Many excellent pantry or tall cabinet designs today are best constructed as part of the shell of the space (therefore, their creation is part of the carpentry aspect of the project), as opposed to organizing the area with a system created out of purchased cabinetry.
So, why focus on such a large closet-type space? Because it's the most efficient storage system around. For a family trying to organize its belongings, the easiest way to search for food stuffs or cooking/serving items is to see everything at once. This is easy to do in a specialized storage area without doors.
To begin at the beginning, let's stop calling these tall cabinets "pantries." The name should be based on what the area will store. For me, the first rule in tall cabinet design planning is knowing what my client is going to keep in it. I don't assume; I ask questions.
Consider the following:
- A cleaning closet typically has tall doors below a smaller set of doors (ideally, the upper compartment sizing should line up with other cabinet configurations used above a free-standing refrigerator or an oven case).
- A food pantry can be of a similar configuration, or one can re-orient the doors, splitting them at the countertop height.
- A butler's wall (an elongated storage system spread along one wall) can take the place of the 20th Century butler's pantry. At that time (when household help was the norm), the butler's pantry not only provided a facility to store the family's dinnerware, flatware and glassware, but also provided a visual and sound barrier between the elegant meals being enjoyed in the dining room from the chaos in the working kitchen. A "butler's wall" is very appropriate today because of the increased amount of equipment being stored even in a kitchen where little cooking takes place.
- A special purpose tall cabinet (think of the Hoosier's cabinet from the 1920s with its pull-out top and built-in flour sifting system) is also appropriate today. The wine connoisseur's bar, and the breakfast/coffee kitchen section concealed behind pocket or captured bi-fold doors are just two examples of such a designated purpose.
To begin planning a tall storage arrangement within a space, consider alternative locations during the initial "zoning" part of your conceptual planning. "Zoning" a room means blocking out major centers of activity in the room before beginning the cabinet layout. Creating scaled templates of various storage room shapes can save you time during this concentrated design exercise.
In a recent project, a client wanted a very large "walk-in" storage center. Three alternatives were presented to the client. To expedite the planning process, the various configurations of this storage area were templated in 1/2" scale. The kitchen was organized around each concept idea before presentation to the client.