Top Tier Household Staff Hierarchy

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Top Tier Household Staff Hierarchy

Estate manager giving direction to a live in housekeeper of a luxury home

Today’s luxury residences employ varying numbers and types of household staff; however, regardless of the size of a home, staff must be managed. These professionals occupy the top tier of house staff positions. Roles and interrelationships are detailed below.

Director of Residences

At the top of the household staff hierarchy is the Director of Residences. These professionals oversee the day-to-day operation of multiple properties, which may be located in other countries. They typically oversee Estate Managers and assume some of their roles.

Directors of Residences ensure that all residences under the Principal’s ownership maintain consistency in their operation and services they provide, and adhere to the standards set forth by the Principal.

In addition to the above, Directors of Residences must represent their Principal, which can mean anything from contract negotiation to meeting attendances on behalf of the Principal. Directors of Residence are typically bilingual and partner with their Principal to create policies, budgets, and other aspects of multiple estate operations.

Estate Manager 

Estate Managers oversee the daily operation of large and sprawling estate properties. These professionals are charged with the interviewing and training of all of the staff working on a property. This includes household staff, as well as those working in the gardens, stables, yachts, aircraft crews and personnel.

The Estate Manager creates and oversees all staff scheduling and is in charge of evaluating and overseeing any outside employees who arrive at the residence, such as vendors and contractors.

Much larger estates with extensive grounds and multiple buildings will employ an Estate Manager. The Estate Manager’s role is to oversee the maintenance and upkeep of the grounds and buildings. Therefore, their role will include the hiring of groundskeepers, landscapers, and contractors.

In addition to the above, Estate Managers are skilled in the care, presentation, and storage of antique, vehicle, and fine art collections the Principal may own.

When the Principal’s family or guests are scheduled to arrive, the Estate Manager ensures that the property has been cleaned, prepared, and stocked with everything they will need during their visit.

House Manager

After the Director of Residences and Estate Manager, the House Manager is the third professional in the hierarchy of household staff. House Managers oversee all of the other staff in a household. They are responsible for staff scheduling, including PTO.

The House Manager’s role includes financial responsibilities, including staff payroll, along with ensuring that all staff are working well, both individually and as a team. These professionals can also advise the Principal on any additional hiring needed.

House Manager’s can also take on duties such as vendor management, errands, procurement of household goods, organizing events and vehicle maintenance.


The Butler is at the top of the staff hierarchy in homes without a House Manager. Otherwise, the Butler’s place is directly beneath the House Manager, to whom they report.

A Butler’s responsibilities include answering phone calls and greeting and serving a family and their guests, as well as overseeing a family’s schedule. They are also tasked with the management of housekeeping and other support staff, including Gardeners and Chauffeurs.

A Head Butler’s role in a larger estate is to oversee the dining room, wine cellar, pantry and the staff working in these environments. In smaller residences, the Principal is served by the Butler.

Today’s households may also employ a female Butler, whose formal name is the Lady’s Maid. The Lady’s Maid serves the lady of the house, attending to her needs and requirements. Many Ladies’ Maids specialize in caring for their female Principal’s clothing and wardrobe, also known as a Laundress. This role may be combined with Housekeeper or Personal Assistant duties.

Executive Housekeeper

Next in the hierarchy of household staff is the Executive Housekeeper. This professional is usually present in households with multiple housekeeping staff. The Executive Housekeeper’s role in a residence is to oversee the cleaning and housekeeping staff and ensure they are performing consistently to the standards set by the Principal.

The Executive Housekeeper is also responsible for the training of housekeeping staff to meet the standards of the Principal. Like the Butler, the Executive Housekeeper reports to the House Manager.

Private Chef

Depending on the size of a household, a Chef may work alone or with a second Chef to create and schedule menus, source top-quality ingredients, and prepare meals and snacks.

A Private Chef working in a large Estate may also be responsible for overseeing kitchen personnel. It is common for modern Chefs to work side by side with a member of the housekeeping staff to complete kitchen and shopping duties. When a Butler is not present, a modern Chef’s role may include table setting and serving.

Determining Your Needs

Residences with House Managers will benefit from having professional assistance with determining their staffing needs. Those who are exploring their needs independently will benefit from the assistance that an experienced Domestic Staffing Agency provides.


It’s certainly true that many formal estates, palaces, and mansions still require a full hierarchy of formal household staff. However, most of today’s households employ staff in smaller numbers.

This can be attributed to the use of modern technology, which helps to streamline various tasks and reduce the number of needed staff. Therefore, when determining your staffing needs, it’s important to also consider the above factors.

Your Full House Staffing Solution

Household manager examining glassware with a professional housekeeper

Together, the top tier staff of a household keeps its daily operations in order and ensures that all household members and their guests are well taken care of.

Whether you are a Principal or an Estate Manager seeking additional members of staff or an industry professional in search of the perfect placement, Staffing at Tiffanie’s is a Premier Staffing Agency that is able to assist you.

We are uniquely positioned to support Principals and Candidates alike, due to decades of assisting high-profile clients locate staff.

Visit us to hire household staff or to apply for your next placement. We look forward to assisting you!