New Uses for Old China Cabinets

China cabinets have been a subject in my column before, I know, but this topic has a new twist.  Most china cabinets new and old come in two pieces; that is, the top or glass portion is usually a bit narrower than its base and secured by screws and possibly a bracket to hold it all together as one piece.  Years ago, I had a friend ask me what she could do with a piece she had inherited from her mother, a piece she really didn’t want, or need, but “Mother wanted me to have it”; so the need to keep and use it was strong.

My immediate idea was to take the top off (storing it until a use could be found for it) and to just use the base as a buffet, which is what my friend did.  The buffet sits in the dining room with the matching table, and the room is no longer overwhelmed with too much furniture.  I had suggested that if they had space in a bathroom, a metal base frame could be made for the glass portion and the piece could be painted and used to store pretty towels and toiletries.   The base being open, would not overpower a small room.  However the home really did not have space for.  Oftentimes, an older home ( 60 years or more) might accommodate such a piece.

Now, this friend is refurbishing a home that is from the turn of the last century, and I got to thinking about the upper cabinet piece that  hopefully being stored.  The piece might be a perfect solution to furnishing a century-old home, in either the kitchen or bathroom.

In the kitchen, it could easily sit on a counter top, making it look somewhat built-in, painted to match the base cabinet.  This situation would not have been out of the ordinary in those days, as pioneer folks really did use what they had or could find in a neighboring farmhouse.  Mix and match became a design trend; but back in the day, it was simply a way to make ends meet.  It’s funny, how somethings come full circle.

Alternately, this upper cabinet piece could be a great linen cabinet upstairs in the bathroom or hallway near the bath.  Again, it could be placed on top of an old dresser and secured to the dresser with brackets, or fastened to the wall as a permanent piece.   Depending on the decor sensibilities of the room, the pieces can be painted a fun color to enhance the bathroom, as an accent piece or painted to blend into the walls.  Bright colored towels can provide the accent color.  

If the glass has broken in the storage or transportation, a mesh or chicken wire can replace the glass.  Painted a silver, gold or black to match the other fixtures in the bathroom or kitchen to give it a true “farmhouse” feel, along with new handles or cabinet pulls.

Of course, both pieces could be re-united and painted and placed in the old farmhouse and given new life in a new space with a outlook for another hundred years.

There is usually a solution, if you can keep an open mind and are not in too much of a hurry for the finish line.   Remember that decorating is a journey; have fun along the way.