When one kitchen won’t do: Sculleries make comeback in Twin Cities homes

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While the open kitchen shows no signs of losing popularity, homeowners are realizing that dishes pile up, appliances create clutter and baking is fun but sure makes a floury mess.

As a result, the scullery is making a comeback.

Once a feature in grand homes in Great Britain and the United States before the 1920s, the room devoted to washing up is becoming popular in local kitchen design.

It’s also a favorite feature of the new house the Terris family built on Lake Minnewashta in Excelsior.

“Inevitably with a family of six, there’s always a pile of dishes in the sink or on the counter even when we try to stay on it,” Marc Terris said.

When he and his wife, Wendy, were planning to build their home, they knew they wanted maximized lake views, an open concept, a play area for their four kids and a bedroom for each child.

They hired architect James McNeal and builder John Boyer, who suggested some other amenities the Terrises loved, including a catwalk overlooking the great room, a floating stairwell and vaulted ceilings.

When they started talking about the kitchen, the topic of clutter naturally came up. That’s when McNeal threw a curveball.

“He recommended the scullery, this Old English thing. We just weren’t sure,’ ” Marc said. “But then as we learned more about it, we thought ‘Wow, that makes a lot of sense.’ ”

Not a pantry

Boyer, who owns Boyer Building in Minnetonka, said he’s gotten several requests for sculleries, which he describes as “an old concept that’s being rejuvenated.”

“It’s kind of like dividing the kitchen up into two rooms, but both are easily accessible,” he said. “One more open for entertaining and still part of the great room area, one more closed off and where the mess can be.”

Technically, a scullery is distinct from a pantry. While both are typically located off the kitchen, a pantry is a dry area for storing food. A butler’s pantry might take it a step further and include a prep area. Sculleries, on the other hand, have a sink for washing dishes and other cleanup.

But Björn Freudenthal of Twin Cities-based New Spaces said that the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.

“Any secondary kitchen that is more the rough kitchen and utility part of the kitchen space is also being called a secondary or auxiliary kitchen and a butler’s pantry,” he said.

No matter what you call it, McNeal is just glad the overflow kitchens are catching on.

“I’ve been trying to convince more people to do it for years,” said the Minneapolis-based architect. “The kitchen is right on top of the great room. The messes are there. All of a sudden it’s not so ideal, that open concept.”

The modern-day scullery

Modern sculleries are more than a tiny room for washing dishes.

“Ideally, a scullery today would be a place where you would have a lot of areas to put your dishes, with cabinets and things like that. You’d have a sink. You would have counter space,” McNeal said. “You could use the room for appliances like a microwave that you don’t want to stick in front of your guests because a lot of that is just clutter.”

From there, clients tend to curate according to their wants and needs. A scullery might include a dishwasher, a pantry, smaller appliances, even an oven. One scullery McNeal designed functioned as a baking kitchen.

“Baking is a very messy process and keeping it tucked in the back area is a way to keep the open kitchen part of the home clean,” he said.

Trending upward

Amy Hendel of Hendel Homes in Wayzata said that sculleries have almost become a requirement in higher-end homes.

“Five years ago we maybe had two. Now every home has it,” she said.

One factor driving the scullery is that new homes tend to have fewer upper cabinets. As a result, homeowners are in search of more space to store items and that second kitchen is an ideal solution.

“Now people are including beverage bar areas or adding an extra oven,” Hendel said. “It can be a place for the microwave or all those extra appliances that don’t find a home in the main part of the kitchen or things that you want out of sight. It could be the overflow for Costco runs.”

Freudenthal sees sculleries as less of a trend and more of a lifestyle change brought about, in part, by the pandemic.

“What happened in March of 2020 was it changed people’s cooking habits. There was less eating out and more taking in the little everyday joys of cooking,” he said. “People weren’t only cooking more, but more people were doing vegetable gardens and prepping in the house. So the whole kitchen piece became more important.”

The accidental showpiece

While the Terrises liked the idea of a scullery, they’ve discovered they use it even more than they thought they would.

With its large farmhouse sink, dishwasher, icemaker and cabinets galore, it’s where some, if not all, of the food preparation is done. And, because it’s near the dining room and kitchen, it’s where the dirty dishes get bused to after dinner.

Marc is particularly happy about the decision to place an exterior door in the scullery leading to outdoor living areas.

“With lake living there’s a lot of traffic in and out,” he said. “There’s a straight path to the scullery where you can make drinks or prep hors d’oeuvres or get steaks ready to grill.”

Now when having guests over, or just wanting to do puzzles on the kitchen island as a family, it’s nice to gather and have the main kitchen clutter-free.

And while the scullery is tucked behind the main kitchen, a large window is designed to make the scullery a part of the house.

“We absolutely love it,” Marc said. “And when we have people over, they say they weren’t expecting it, but it’s one of their favorite things about this house.”

Nancy Ngo • 612-673-4892

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