EASY FUNCTIONAL BUTLERS PANTRY DIY

blue and white dishes stacked on a table

Do you need a place to stash your dish addiction? Today I’m sharing an easy butlers pantry I created because I needed a consolidated place to gather my plates and dishes and other dishware I love! And you can have a butlers pantry too! Come on and see how easy it was to make…

If you have been a part of the StoneGable family of readers for any time then you know love dishes to the point of obsession. I really love all styles and kinds but I have a special affinity for white dishes.

Recently, I cleaned out and gave away hundreds and hundreds of dishes! It was hard to let them go but I really needed to cull down my stash to just the things I love the most and use.

I can’t say there wasn’t a few tears shed and a bit of tugging at my heart strings when I let go my grandmother’s peach luster Fire King.

blue and white sugar bowl on blue and white flowered plate

So where do I keep the “chosen few (many) still part of my collection? Recently I received this email about where I keep my dishes…

I love your tablescapes. Simply beautiful. I am wondering where and how you store all these beautiful dishes. Do you have a system? Also, do you purchase enough dishes to set a full (8-10) table? I can’t imagine where I could store so many pretty things. Love your blog! Debbie

Great question, Debby! I get questions so often about where I store my dishware.

So today I’m sharing my butlers pantry and how to make one yourself!

For years I kept my dishes crammed in my kitchen cabinets and on shelves down in my basement. Believe me, a basement is not a very practical place to keep heavy dishes, right?

So I converted one of the closets in our foyer into a simple butlers pantry now lovingly known as THE DISH CLOSET!

HOW WE MADE OUR BUTLERS PANTRY

closet turned butlers pantry near the dining room

We (and when I say “we” I mean Bobby) converted the closet into a great dish closet for storing most of my beloved dishes in just a couple hours.

Here’s how we did it…

We fitted a foyer coat closet with shelves 15 inches high by screwing 1 x 2-inch pine boards into the sides and back of the closet, along the studs, making a little shelf for a 12 x 2-inch board to sit on.

inside of butlers pantry

So easy to make and very functional!

We also made the same kind of shelves in a small closet in a guest bedroom for my pillow stash.

WHAT I KEPT

stacks of white dishes

Winnowing out the decades of plates, cups, saucers, mugs, bowls, soup tureens, cake plates, flatware, napkin rings, napkins and more was a horrendous task! My mantra in this huge purge was…

BE RUTHLESS!

Which happens to be my mantra whenever I do a big clean-up of just about anything! I only wanted what I could not live without and truly used and loved.

So I decide my butlers pantry would only hold dishes of certain colors (for the most part)! And of those colors, I would only keep dishware I used over the last 18 months.

With the exception of my wedding china!

Anyone who loves dishes knows the angst I felt parting with so many really beautiful things!

But the freedom of letting go was also exhilarating!

CHOOSING A DISH COLOR PALETTE

I kept most of my white dishes. That was a no-brainer. I most often use them when I set a table no matter the occasion or season.

Some of my white dishes are kept in glass front cabinets in my kitchen and a built-in in my dining room.

white dishes with scrolled edges with a bundle of lily of the valley on top

The rest of my white collection went into the dish closet.

Blue and white were my next colors of choice. However, I really weeded out a lot of blue and white dishes, keeping ones that I could dress up and down on a table.

I also chose to keep some red dishes because they work with blue and white for summer and are a pretty addition at Christmastime.

I let go of a few sets of china only keeping my wedding china.

Do you have wedding china? I still LOVE my WHITE NILE by Noritake! Right now it has not made its way to the butlers pantry. But I have all good intentions of getting it out of the basement and on the empty shelf soon.

BEST TIP FOR ADDING COLOR TO YOUR COLLECTION

Collect small dessert/salad plates and small bowl in all sorts of colors and patterns. They don’t take up lots of room and when they are added to a white table they totally change its look!

This has become my signature look! Simple, right?

WHAT DISHES TO COLLECT

Okay, Debby! Let’s talk about how many dishes you should have of one kind. Believe me, I am not THE authority AT ALL! But I am a bit of an authority because of decades of loving dishes and setting tables!

So here’s my two cents…

  • collect what you love
  • keep what you love
  • edit what is not in good repair
  • if you haven’t used it in a couple years, think about letting it go
  • buy or keep dinner plates 4 or more of the same pattern
  • buy or keep accent dishes and bowls in quantities of 2 or more
  • keep or buy cups and saucers, even if they don’t match (you can mix and match them beautifully)

For me, it’s more important to collect dishes in “color palettes” than a certain number of the same dishes.

Magic happens when a table is set with mismatched (but coordinated) dishes.

Every place setting does not need to be the same. Mix and match your tableware for a beautiful, interesting look!

Did you notice the white dinner plates above? They are different and so are the blue and white salad plates as well as the cups and saucers. Mix and matching the dinnerware makes this bright fall table extra pretty!

Debby, I hope I’ve answered your question and inspired you to keep collecting what you love!

I’m thinking about making a printable with what you should keep, throw away and give away when it comes to all dishes.

If you would use a printable like this leave a comment. If enough of you want a printable I’ll work on one this weekend.

stack of blue and white dishes on a blue and white tablecloth

70 Comments

  1. Thank you, thank you , thank you!!
    I have loved your blog for years, and particularly your tablescapes, yet I wondered how, where, you could possibly store and then find all your various dishes 🙁

    Your information today was so helpful and yes, yes please, I would love a printable on what I should keep. Over the years I have collected what I love, then inherited dishes from my Mom and my husband’s Mom and other relatives, and I need help!

    I do love to entertain now, (for years I was too intimidated) and my friends cannot believe that, they insist I am so talented. It is because of you and a few other bloggers who have helped me build my confidence.
    THANK YOU !!!!!

  2. Yvonne…I am a also china addict AND a Lancaster Gal. Enjoyed your blog post today as I also am planning to do a purge.
    My question to you is what did you do with the dishes. We have one daughter who is not interested. So many of my collection
    are “too good” for donating. What to do? Did you sell any and if so how. Since we are in the same area, any local information
    would be much appreciated.
    Lynette

    1. Hi Lynette. You are right! Most of us don’t have family who are interested in our good china and other dishes. I did not sell mine and I am so okay with that! Nothing is to good to give to someone who will enjoy them or need them. Donate them and right them off!

  3. Yvonne, I also love white dishes. I have two sets of Johnson Brothers ironstone in the Regency and Althea patterns. Recently, I purchased a set of “Give Thanks” salad plates for Thanksgiving that looked wonderful with the white dishes. I want to do something similar for Easter and Christmas. I decided that I am going to sell my Christmas dishes this year. I don’t really love them anymore. I would be happier with just adding a Christmas salad plate to my table. I also sold off a set pink and cream ironstone too. Like you, I have decided to purge the things I no longer love or use.

  4. I needed this! I have recently started going through all of my dishes, I am selling or giving away (to family) the ones I no longer need. I have a dish addiction as well, including serving pieces (platters, bowls, etc…) I have a hard time resisting. I mainly collect white, which I love because it’s clean and pretty and goes with anything. I love the storage closet you guys made! What a great idea!

  5. Just brought my extensive set of Naturewood by Pl azcraft ( never sure how to spell this)to a consignment shop. Hard to do it just too much and very heavy. I love dishes but like your idea of smaller plates mixed with basic white. So much easier.this year I baought some very inexpensive lemon salad plates at a dollar store. So cute with square white plates and lemon themed napkins and glasses.Next I have to purge my red Christmas dinnerwear. Never thought I would do this but there is a time for everything. Happy Summer.

  6. Yvonne, after living in the same house for 26 years, and collecting a lot of things – including tableware – we are preparing to move to another state. Your post could not be more timely for me, and YES, a printable about what to keep and what to get rid of would be EXTREMELY helpful.

    You create the most beautiful tablescapes. I would love to have the materials I need to try my hand at making tablescapes, without keeping more than I actually need. Help!

  7. Well first, we need a coat closet! Ha ha ha I got so excited about the subject, then went ‘Wait a second…’ So, I guess this means I need to be even more ruthless. Loved your idea, Yvonne!

  8. Found the perfect spot and has enough room for all my linens too….not sure how my husband will feel about not having a closet……

  9. Yvonne, I am also going through china withdrawal. A couple of weeks ago, I counted and realized that 25 sets of china (and that’s after giving some sets to the kiddos and friends)) was just crazy for the life my hubby and I now lead– with our children living in other states and many family members and friends that have retired to other places, we don’t entertain the way we once did. It was difficult deciding what to let go, as I only purchase things I truly love, but ruthless is what one needs to be if you really wish to simplify your life. Because most of our sets serve 12, I decided to keep 6 of some of those sets, which still allows me to have pieces I love the most, and keep 12 of a couple sets to use when everyone comes to visit. Purging can be freeing, plus I won’t need to do it when we are in the process of building our retirement home–don’t even want to think about having to pack up that much china at such a busy time! Thanks for always posting such great advice.

  10. Thank you, Yvonne, for sharing all your great ideas and projects. I don’t follow anyone else’s blog, only yours. I’ve become an avid table scaper and have recently gathered an eclectic set of white dishes. I spend my spare time on Pinterest which gives me so many beautiful ideas. I’ve scoured eBay, Etsy and HomeGoods finding some wonderful accent dishes along the way. I have reined it in as of late and am spending more time organizing. I do not have a closet on the ground floor where my kitchen is, so I keep what I use in my cupboards and display case with the extras boxed and put away. I love the inventory list, that will be my next project.

    1. Hi Linda, it is hard for those of us who love dishes to not purchase pretty ones when we see them. I haven’t visited HomeGood’s dish section in over a year. That place does me in!

      1. Gosh, I didn’t know there were so many dish holics out there! I have to slap my hands when I visit a re-sale shop. Taking a picture of the dishes helps me to not buy…and staying away for a while,too. When I see a piece of particular interest,I take a pic with my phone & keep it in an album.
        Great ideas on how to store it all. We are just beginning to go through my mom’s dishes & glassware….oh my. She once had a friend who bought several sets of dishes she loved, friend had a set for each grandchild….guessing several, and she used when family gathered so grandkids could each say they were grands china. My FIL has 3 sets of china….3 granddaughters, the first holiday after MIL gone,I emphasized using the china so they could choose a set one day.

  11. Thank you for your great article! I was wondering as others were, what did you do with the dishes you got rid of? That’s what stumps me and keeps me frozen from doing this needed chore.

  12. Oh…I only got as far as “gave away hundreds and hundreds of dishes” and my heart stopped and my stomach made a very unpleasant lurch. I don’t have nearly that many but I do have way too many and cannot even contemplate getting rid of any of it. Good for you for making that hard decision and sharing with those of us less brave…lol.

  13. I think I could use a printout. I just started tablescaping about 5 years ago. I am no where near ready to purge anything but you never know.

  14. Hello Yvonne,
    I did this very thing last year…purged some dishes and turned a hall closet into a dish pantry.
    My kitchen is very small so I really only have room for daily dishes, glasses and cups and a cupboard type pantry that holds all the pots, pans, appliances, baking pans and steets..etc. I still have 2 buffets one has a set of Christmas dishes in it and a few Fall dishes….my heart just won’t let me get rid of them. So…as long as I have the space…I will hold on to them. The other buffet holds some larger serving pieces and family heirloom dishes. I still have PLENTY of dishes but way less than I did have. Now my issue is —-how many placemats to keep!? I have sooooo many…cumbersome to store (in the basement). I have different colors to go with different seasons and a few sets decorative for specific holidays. Add table cloths and runners…uhg….lots to store!!!

    1. Table lines are hard to store! And they can get discolored etc if not cared for properly. I only have a few sets of placemats and a few handfuls of napkins now. I have really purged them too!

  15. I would love a printable, I also have collected dishes for years and did a big purge a couple of years ago. But as many of us know I have since been picking up more beautiful dishes. My daughters are just about ready to help purge again, but are afraid I will just go out and buy more. Maybe a list of what to keep will help.

  16. Yvonne, your ideas and talent are incredible! I’ve followed StoneGable for many years, off and on and when I return – your posts are so refreshing! I really enjoy your style and website! Thank you for sharing yourself with all of us.
    I just finished looking at your fall tablescape (beautiful) and I was reminded of THE BEST pumpkin and chocolate marble cheesecake I have ever made and eaten!! I’m guilty of eating it right out of the refrigerator with a fork in hand. I couldn’t help myself. The gram cracker crust covered with mini chocolate chips and the glorious layer of pumpkin cream filling that created a beautiful chocolate marble finish by dragging a butter knife across the top.. You get the idea. Delicious!! To my dismay – the recipe was lost in a house fire! It was a recipe from the beautiful magazine “Victoria” back in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s – probably the October or November issue. (I had kept all my copies of Victoria Magazine because of the timeless beauty you could find inside each issue) I tried contacting the magazine to no avail. Can anyone help me (us) get our hands on that recipe? Well worth the effort. I’m sure you would just LOVE the recipe for this cheesecake! Thank you in advance.

  17. I have a story I think you will enjoy. On a freezing cold morning(4 am) in February 2018 my house burned to the ground…as my hubby, my son and I stood there waiting for the fire trucks all I could think was “thank God we are all okay but my china!” Yup we lost pretty much everything but it was my dishes and tableware that I was devastate about so imagine my joy when my hubby crawled into the rubble of what had been a two story house a few days later and handed out bin after bin of all my dishes! I’m not sure how they survived but all but the ones that were in the kitchen cabinet did! whenever I was overwhelmed or upset during our building a new house I would close my eyes and picture our family around a new table set with my Nanas Christmas China. (Even my builder knew I needed to be in the new house by Christmas) and yes we were in before Christmas and it was even sweeter than I had hoped.

  18. Yes please do a print out on what dishes to keep, pitch , etc. I am also a “dish crazy” lady! I just had to get rid of many dishes since we are downsizing and still have many more to decide about!

  19. I love the way you display multiple, varied size plates at each table setting. My question is this: do you remove some of the layered plates at each setting and just set them aside? We have a dining table that is not real wide and there is no room for all the extra dishes.

  20. Just found you! Love your table settings. I’m very interested in what dishes to keep as I am downsizing. Did you make a printable?
    Thank you!

  21. I discovered my passion for plates and dishes when I was very little. I had tons of tea sets that I really love. I grew up and got married. I collected plates, dishes, and other dishware for 18 years! Unfortunately, I divorced and left everything behind. It was so hard to leave my china collection. I had to move back with my parents that love estate sales, garage sales, and shopping! It was painful not able to buy “unnecessary stuff” for several years. Three years ago I bought a new home! One the first things I did was shopping plates and dishes lol! I started my new collection 3 years ago. It’s almost an obsession but I love it! I use 2 buffet cabinets to keep them but your idea is wonderful! Well, I may ended up with 2 buffet cabinets and a butler pantry full of china lol!!!

  22. Yvonne, any printables you do for us are always welcome! You are such a help and I sure do appreciate all your posts. I thank you for putting all this helpful info into your posts. You are always so willing to share your home and your heart with all of us. Bless you for being such a special gal!

  23. Hi Yvonne, Did you keep any crystal? We have quite a few pieces we received as wedding gifts but never use! I’m thinking of purging them but feeling guilty.

    1. I’ve purged crystal for years. I did keep my Waterford wine and water goblets and my grandmother’s wedding goblets but the rest are gone! Yesterday I gave away a Waterford biscuit jar that has been collecting dust.
      USE your good crystal. It gets chipped, so what! Why have something you don’t use, right?

  24. That would be so useful to have a work sheet on what dishes to keep, throw away, and give away! I always look forward to your blog.

  25. HI!
    I love setting a pretty table with different plates.
    For Christmas we use our Spode Christmas tree
    Sets
    My husband and I Love Shelley bone China and have a beautiful collection of different colors same pattern. All works well with our Shelley white dinner plates.
    Love your butler pantry closet. If I needed more
    Storage I would jump on that project. Thank you for sharing. ENJOY YOUR DAY

  26. Your blog was the very first one I have ever followed (for years!). This post has been so helpful to me because I never knew how to mix and match dishes. I love the way you bring just the right colors to the white dishes. I love white dishes too but you have really made some absolutely stunning tablescapes with the pops of color. I can’t wait to try this in my own home.
    Oh….and please post more videos! They are so wonderful and so informative.

  27. Wonderful post, Yvonne! Looking forward to the worksheet…generations of china to organize.

    Can you share a source for the beautiful blue and white tablecloth in the first tablescape picture? Many thanks!

  28. Yes, I would LOVE a printable! I plan to tackle this project this weekend before schools, autumn and the holidays descend on all of us! I have just the perfect little niche closet in the laundry room picked out for my goodies. Thank you so much!!!

  29. Is I read your article above I can totally relate because I am a dish collector! It’s a terrible habit I just love China and always have but when you said you had White Nile China I had to smile! that was the first dishes that I ever bought from John Wanamaker’s in Philadelphia on layaway I put them on I was in 12th grade in 1982!

    Thanks for sharing I found your website really enjoyable.

  30. Great post, Yvonne! Love how easy it is to convert a closet into a pantry! This looks like it was at SG… are you going to do the same at TW?

  31. I so enjoy reading your posts! Yes, I would love a printout for keeping my dish inventory. Thank you!

  32. I loved the comments you made about letting go of some of your china. I recently did this. However, I think that a printed sheet of what to keep and what to let go would be a big help. I am moving from a house that I have been ‘
    in for almost 30 years. Believe me when I say that you need to purge at least every two years. I had 4 sets of dishes.
    I had things in cabinets that I had not used in years. So, please come up with a list of things to think about and then
    send it out so I can print it. Thanks so much, Debbie P

    1. In the Ultimate Guide post, you will find a declutter guide. I hope this helps! We went through what you are going through now. Belive me it will get better. Happy new home!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *