Our love of baking, combined with a lack of storage thanks to open-plan living has led to a resurgence of the traditional pantry
This weekend is Stir-up Sunday, when it is tradition to make your Christmas Pudding – and let each member of the family have a stir and make a wish. Organised bakers will already have their Christmas cake made and be storing it somewhere dry and cool until the big day. If, like me, you have a modern kitchen with very little storage space you might want to wish for a pantry while you’re stirring that pudding, in which to keep your festive creations.
In the days before fridges, nearly all homes had a larder, but today it’s something of a luxury – where they did exit they have been largely ripped out to create open-plan kitchens. And while few of us can afford the space for a walk-in pantry on the scale of Nigella Lawson’s, sales of standalone pantries are on the rise.
Whether it’s down to the craze for baking that means we all have a lot more ingredients and paraphernalia or simply because of the compact size of modern fitted kitchens (few seem to cover more than one wall in new open-plan homes), the pantry is having a comeback.
“There’s something really nostalgic about a kitchen larder, stashed full of homemade jams, pickles, spices and biscuits,” explains Charlie Marshall, the founder of Loaf, which has just introduced its Rhubarb Larder Cupboard (£695, loaf.com) this month as a response to requests from customers. “They’re really handy for extra storage – especially as there’s a trend for low kitchen units at the moment, which look nice but lack space.”
Loaf’s larder cupboard is perfect for storing away biscuits, caster sugar, baking powder, vanilla pods and spices… and other dry ingredients that need a good, cool, dry home. With a vintage feel and matt paint, it will suit new or old homes and is pretty versatile – as well as food you can stack crockery or baking equipment in it.
For the storage poor, a pantry is a modern alternative to a dresser, which can look a bit too “country” for urban homes, and also has the advantage that you can get a lot more in it.
“Traditionally the pantry would be on an outside wall with an open air brick supplying naturally cool air up underneath the traditional marble cold shelf to keep everything on it below room temperature,” says Richard Davonport, Managing Director of Davonport, which specialises in building bespoke stand-alone and walk-in pantries – the Davonport butler’s pantry comes with dovetailed walnut wood drawers and storage compartments, fruit and vegetable crates and a Carrera marble cold shelf (from £4,000, davonport.com).
“We’ve definitely see a rise in sales over the past few years. In part it’s because our clients are opening their rooms up for open-plan living. This allows more space to place a large pantry cupboard, which can retain most of a family’s food storage in one space. But I think it is also because people are cooking more and living more healthily, so they need more space to store dry foods and fresh fruit and vegetables.”
For those lucky enough to have a pantry in their homes, they wouldn’t be without it. “It’s essential,” says David Foubister from Huntly in Aberdeenshire who grows his own fruit and vegetables. “I need my pantry to store the vast amount of homemade pickles, chutneys and jams that I make from home-grown food. Often, normal kitchen cupboards are too warm.”
They’re also increasingly a great selling point for properties, as more of us want room to store food and our kitchen gadgets.
“I grew up with one and been without for years until we moved into our new house two weeks ago – as soon as I saw the pantry in the kitchen when we looked around my mind was made up about wanting the house,” explains Hazel Newhouse from Biggleswade in Bedfordshire. “I cook and bake every day and I wanted the space as I have a lot of baking materials that I’ve collected. It’s ideal for us as a growing family and I love that it makes the space feel quite retro and nostalgic.”
A walk-in pantry does mean sacrificing floor space in your kitchen or home, but it can also be used as a prep area for measuring out ingredients, and also as a store for the plethora of kitchen gadgetry that now clutters most kitchen worktops.
For a custom solution, Birmingham’s Kitchen Restoration Company (kitchenrestoration.co.uk) can design a larder to fit your space, whether it’s adding doors to an alcove with shelving or creating a unit with glass shelving for storage jars and pull-out wire baskets for fresh veg.
It’s little wonder that the high street has picked up on the trend, too. Marks and Spencer has stocked its chunky Padstow larder unit (£1599, marksandspencer.com) for three years. “We know that people want more kitchen storage space,” says Furniture Buyer Paul Tanner, “but a country dresser doesn’t suit every home.”
In fact, demand for the contemporary New England-style pantry, with its built-in wine and spice racks, large vegetable drawers and shelving, has been so strong that this season the brand has introduced three new colours this season, green grey and putty. John Lewis has also begun stocking its Lomond larder unit (£2250, johnlewis.com) for the first time this autumn.
As Pip Prinsloo, John Lewis’ Design Manager Homeware notes, “people are looking for new kitchen storage options. Larders were once commonplace and we think that they will become an important feature in homes again.”