It’s not hi-tech but it is highly desirable. Sophie Morris explains how the pantry became lust-worthy
A contemporary kitchen with a built-in larder by Wilder Creative
The most lusted-after kitchen accessories of the moment aren’t cutting-edge islands, vast range ovens or fancy appliances (Bluetooth toaster, anyone?) - instead, they hark back to the upstairs-downstairs days of Downton Abbey. This is #pantryporn, the aspirational kitchen trend dominating social media - and our kitchens.
The sweet spot of a pantry has long been publicised by Nigella, who has chilli-shaped fairy lights in hers, but according to a kitchen trends study by Houzz, 30 per cent of UK homeowners are installing pantry cupboards, while one in 10 are updating the layout of their kitchens to make space for a walk-in pantry.
Currently the third, eighth and tenth most popular photos in the UK are of pantries, with one saved over 370,000 times. And it’s not just the Domestic Goddess who has waxed lyrical about the joys of pantries - in her book Cordially Invited, Zoella, aka Zoe Sugg, introduced her young readers to the joys of a jolly good kitchen cupboard: “I am aware that most people who have a pantry use it for housing all their tins and long-lasting goods such as pasta and rice, which I do have on the shelves, but mostly I like to keep things like cake stands, large serving dishes, jugs, teapots, champagne glasses and my everyday plates and bowls on display.”
Back in the days of Downton, many houses, not only stately homes, were designed and built with a pantry or larder. These were large, typically walk-in, food cupboards where perishables could be kept cool and fresh as well as organised.
We moved away from this approach as kitchens modernised, but we also began to store so much food in the fridge that doesn’t need refrigerating - like eggs, lots of cheeses, potatoes and fruit - that the need for large larders seemed to disappear. We were also packing our fridges and freezers with convenience foods, and cooking less.
“I call them party larders,” says Greg Cox, who designs and makes bespoke furniture in London, “because in a kitchen we did a couple of years ago the clients kept their alcohol and coffee in the larder, which also had LED lighting and pivot slide pocket doors, and that’s what they named it.”
“Nearly all of my clients want them - 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 around the larder.
“I always have a larder cabinet in the back of my mind if a client hasn’t requested it, although usually they are a prerequisite. Typically for me the client has a function in mind, be it the party larder booze cabinet, or for the next kitchen we’re doing the husband is a keen baker so it must accommodate all his baking needs.” Alexis Whiteford, marketing manager at bespoke furniture maker Wilder Creative, agrees. “I think most people who are planning a new kitchen, whether bespoke or from a kitchen retailer, love the idea of a pantry. 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.”
She adds: “In London, our clients are generally more restricted in layout options due to kitchens being smaller in size. When this is an issue we like to make the most of kitchen corners, but rather than having pull-out cupboard corner mechanisms, which can be dated and clunky, we like to put a full-height cabinet here with no base, which clients can open and step into. This is our take on a contemporary pantry.”
Sam Scott, director of cabinet makers Constructive & Co, also says that pantries can be effective space savers. “You’re packing a lot of functionality into a small space, so by a linear metre rate they’re quite expensive. However, they work really hard. They’re also something you can tailor to the individual, and create a space to suit a particular aspect of cooking they like.”
Now, ready to spark some joy? Meet #pantrygoals, the Marie Kondo-inspired offshoot of #pantryporn, which is basically an extreme version of pantryowning: not only do you have a thoughtfully-designed space to keep your food in, you’ve Kon-Maried the chickpeas out of every last can, packet and carton. There are almost 23,000 #pantrygoals posts on Instagram, many of them inspired by the pantries of Hollywood actresses such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Busy Philipps and Mandy Moore, who have organised (or hired The Home Edit to organise) their pantries with obsessive attention to detail. Instagram is in mind, obviously - grains, nuts and spices are all decanted into handlabelled glass jars, gathered by type and colour-coded.
If your goals and your home are more modest, you can still join in by organising your food storage cupboards to make them work for you. Pantries are popular because they make your life easier: no more rooting around at the back of a cupboard or the bottom of a deep drawer, and more time to make something delicious from its contents. Nigella would approve.