Why pantries are an increasingly popular add-on for modern kitchens

PUBLISHED: 14:37 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:37 08 August 2019

Pantries are an increasingly-popular add-on for modern kitchens.

Pantries are an increasingly-popular add-on for modern kitchens.

Valerii Honcharuk

It's the new must-have for any designer kitchen - Richard Burton gets into the pantry to find out more...

What would you keep in your pantry?What would you keep in your pantry?

My grandmother had a pantry. Just like she had a coal hole and a room for 'best'. It was years ago before kitchen islands, integrated hobs and wine coolers; a place to hide the tins of spam, slabs of butter and tubs of lard.

These days they hide nothing. They're places of display; more showroom than backroom and the ingredients are just as likely to make statements as a decent meal, thanks to the likes of Nigella Lawson and Gwyneth Paltrow - and instagram

We're living in an age of pantry porn - stick a hashtag in front of that and you'll find more than a thousand Instagram posts that'll tell you why they're they have become not only one of the most sought-after of kitchen accessories but, arguably, the most aspirational of home trends.

There's even a nerdy one called #pantrygoals where nearly 40,000 posts show in the most obsessive detail how much you can neatly cram into your Marie Kondo-inspired space and still have it looking showcase perfect.

Short on space? If your kitchen doesn'’t support a walk-in option, there are plenty of others such as the Felsted Kitchen Pantry Cabinet from Brayer Design with traditional shaker style doors, spice rack storage and automatic led lighting. http://brayerdesign.co.uk/Short on space? If your kitchen doesn'’t support a walk-in option, there are plenty of others such as the Felsted Kitchen Pantry Cabinet from Brayer Design with traditional shaker style doors, spice rack storage and automatic led lighting. http://brayerdesign.co.uk/

Back in the nineties I interviewed a couple of academics who asked me to stay for lunch while I discussed the husband's plans to revitalise the national curriculum. His wife, a scientist, showed me how she'd "organised my kitchen like I do my lab". She was from Malaysia and I remember thinking how striking the vast array of spices looked in flasks and beakers mores suited to something corrosive or explosive.

Back to my granny's house. It was one of those built with a walk-in cupboard, not Downton Abbey roomy, but cavernous enough to stack all those leaky bags of white flour and keep the lardy cake cool for another day.

All that disappeared for a generation as we entered the age of the mod-con; kitchens got a makeover and we stored everything in freezers and fridges, even if they needed neither freezing nor cooling.

Then when we did move the eggs and vegetables out, they were replaced by continence foods that, while nothing like as healthy, did technically have a right to be there.

Organised: careful labelling is crucial if you are to make best use of the space you have, as the Refill Pantry did here. https://www.therefillpantry.co.uk/Organised: careful labelling is crucial if you are to make best use of the space you have, as the Refill Pantry did here. https://www.therefillpantry.co.uk/

These days, we're much more aware of such pecking orders, thanks in part to the influence of interior designers who tend to plan for every eventuality.

Belfast-based designer Sara Thompson told her local paper recently the pantry represents a definite reminder "of years gone by". She noted: "It used to be for the cold storage of a lot of provisions.

"Now, clients like to use perhaps an extra sink or dishwasher in a pantry. The thing about a kitchen island is if you're entertaining guests, it can be unnerving to cook or tidy in front of everyone. The pantry means that most stuff in a kitchen can be done behind the scenes."

Alexis Whiteford, marketing manager at bespoke furniture maker Wilder Creative, agrees that they free up valuable amounts of discreet space. She said: "Kitchen gadgets have become so popular - juicers, blenders, food processors and more - and people use these on a daily basis, so they want easy access without them being on display on their worktops. They are also a fantastic way to hide clutter at short notice, which is perfect for hosts with limited time."

A modern design for a pantry.A modern design for a pantry.

Greg Cox, the East London-based kitchen designer, said: "I think I've done one kitchen without one. I think it's the rise of social media that's bringing it back; most of my clients have Pinterest boards or saved Instagram screenshots for their kitchen's must-have features, and these often centre on the larder."

Without being too trite about the designer element, if you're going to showcase what you eat, it probably helps if it looks good enough to eat. And that means displaying your sustainability credentials.

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So what do we put on those Farrow and Ball reclaimed ash shelves? Probably not Styrofoam and Clingfilm.

Jars filled with lentils and chia beans may be more in keeping and surely those exotic blends of coffee would be more suited behind glass than little packets, even if they do say Whittards of Chelsea.

There's been a sharp rise in awareness of sustainability of late, partly thanks to programmes like the BBC four-parter, War on Plastic.

Céline Mendoza, an early adopter and owner of the Refill Pantry in St Albans, has certainly noticed that. Her London Road shop supplies whole foods straight from container to jar catering for customers who arrive with their own bags to take it away in.

"When we opened a year ago people would arrive and say this is interesting, how does it all work? Now, they just come in and fill up. There's certainly more awareness. People understand that it doesn't make sense to buy, say 500 grams of lentils in a nice package, just to take it home and pour it out into a fancy jar."

Along with the organic staples, her shelves are packed with everything from roasted corn to pasta and porridge oats and chocolate buttons. And, where possible, it's all sourced locally. Her granola comes from Dizzy Bee Kitchen in Spicer Street, St Albans, rapeseed oil from Duchess Farms in Sawbridgeworth and honey from Highfield Park.

"St Albans is the perfect place for a venture like this," she added. "It has a good breadth of people but there's enough of an environmentally conscious community here to make it work."

Her small shop in London Road is testament to the advantages of clever storage. Slightly bigger than a Downton larder, it appears one that would never knowingly allow an inch of wall space to remain visible behind the rows upon rows of neatly-labelled nuts, pulses and grain.

Everyone's thinking organisation. Häfele have created a range of pantry systems with organisers and accessories help "make homes more efficient" by incorporating spice racks, multipurpose baskets, and hook rails.

And you don't have to spend a fortune on those fancy jars you might want to decant everything into and post on Pinterest. Affordable stores such as Dunelm in Hatfield Road have a decent enough range, even if you do have to be tall to reach the shelf where the best ones are.

It may just be me but pantries seem to have been appearing more and more on estate agent details recently, particularly the walk-in varieties.

I did a quick straw poll of designers, architects and general influencers a few weeks back when the subject was raised at magazine conference and asked whether it would swing the balance in favour of a house purchase if the buyer was undecided.

Out of 14 replies, 12 said yes - two definitely - and half of those cited aesthetics as equal to storage in the appeal, even if they were thinking of traditional behind-closed-doors types and not part of an open plan scheme or an alcove.

And when I asked what had inspired them, most gave sensible reasons, such as cleanliness, and accessibility.

Well, they were professionals, so I didn't expect anything too romantic. Only two came back with anything personal.

One cited The Great British Bake-Off and the other a childhood memory of the smell - from her grandmother's larder. Totally got that.

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