How to turn a closet into a butler pantry, with a (real) penny backsplash

By Elle

I still can’t get over the transformation of this room — from a country-style family room to a dining room that I like to think has a European vibe.  The photo below is from when the prior owners still lived in the house, and the one below that is how the room looks currently, though taken from an opposite angle. The thing to remember, however, is that we’re not 100 percent done with the renovation just yet!

One of the major components of the renovation was tearing apart the louvered-door closet that you can see prominently in the “before” photo at the top and turning it into a built-in butler pantry, a place where we can store wine glasses and many of our dishes for entertaining.

So the first order of business was removing the doors (which found a new home in my mom’s quarters), cutting out the top of the wall because we wanted the pantry to be as high as possible, and adding an electric outlet and light switch.

Notice the structure that is holding the temporary outlet in the above photo; it’s the back and side of a spice rack that we purchased from the KraftMaid outlet. Below you can see how nicely the spice rack (on the left) and the finished butler pantry (on the right) co-exist.

Anyway, back to the butler pantry. We trekked down to the KraftMaid outlet and found matching top and bottom cabinets, which were nearly perfect. The bottom cabinet fit just fine, but the catch (and there’s almost always a catch with these outlet purchases) was that the top cabinet was only 24 inches wide, which was 6 inches shy of the opening, so we bought some trim pieces at the same time to trim it out — a lot of extra work, but we really loved the style of the cabinets and, frankly, we were tired of looking.

At the same time, we were experimenting with several wall colors, which I’ll detail in another post. By sheer luck, a piece of granite that we’d bought on Craigslist for a song turned out to be the perfect size, shape and color for the butler pantry — no catch there!
Aside from the trim pieces, the only component missing was the backsplash. We had several ideas, but then my beloved, because he is so creative, decided we should use pennies.  Because I possess a generous dose of OCD, I immediately gasped, thinking that all the pennies would have to be bright and shiny, and that we would have to install them face up in perfect position. Thankfully he looked at me like I was mad. Then we dug into my old coin collection and picked out some pretty cool ones, including a war penny from the 1940s and a good amount of wheat pennies.

We affixed all 1,400 (yes, you read that right) of the pennies with glue to backer board and then covered them with a two-part epoxy resin. Once it was dry, we affixed it to the back of the butler pantry and added the trim. Nice!
A light mounted on the underside of the upper cabinet illuminates the space nicely.

The photo below shows the final paint colors, and notice that we painted the fireplace copper to match the pennies, of course! I’ll share details in another post because the fireplace is still under renovation. Ugh.
I absolutely adore my spice rack, and the top serves as a liquor cabinet. Well, after all this work, I’m so in the mood to Tanqueray. You?

Stay tuned for more photos of the dining-room-that-will-never-be-finished, and if you have any questions about anything we did, please leave us a comment!

2 thoughts on “How to turn a closet into a butler pantry, with a (real) penny backsplash

    • Thanks, Maria! Surprisingly, it was fairly easy and quick to do. Of course, it’s a small space. Imagine doing an entire wall or floor, which some people have done!

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