From the beautiful classic lines of the Hepplewhite style complete with gorgeous inlays to the stunning look of Victorian tiger oak with curved glass sides, antique china cabinets are as diverse as the things they display.
The First China Cabinet
Through the years the china cabinet evolved from simple early open cupboard side tables. The cupboards generally had two or three shelves that held the families' dinnerware.
The first china cabinet was crafted by Dutch cabinet makers brought to England by King William III and Queen Mary II during their reign which began in 1689 and ended in 1702. However, the cabinet was commissioned in the earlier years as Queen Mary died in 1694.
The special cabinet was built to store and display pieces of Queen Mary II's vast collection of blue and white porcelain pieces. The Queen's collection of blue and white pieces, including both imported Chinese wares and Delftware, is believed to be the most spectacular collection ever amassed. Many pieces of Queen Mary II's magnificent collection are on display in London's Hampton Court Palace.
Early China Cabinets
In England during the first half of the 1700s, craftsman began making cabinets for storing and displaying the fine objects and books collected by the wealthy. These beautifully designed cabinets were glazed to keep the valuables protected from dust and dirt. The glazed cabinets were built as:
- China cabinets
- Display cases
The china cabinets of the times were magnificent pieces made of beautiful fine woods such as oak, mahogany and walnut. Many had mirrored backs to reflect the beauty of the items they held.
In the 1800s, china cabinets were built in styles from the past including:
Many of these styles of antique cabinets have glass on three sides and stand raised from the floor on narrow legs that are tall and straight.
Characteristics of Antique and Vintage China Cabinets
Just as there are different styles of china cabinets, there are numerous differences in characteristics including:
- The shape of the molding
- The shape of the crown
- Whether there is inlay work
- The degree and type of carving
- Whether the glass is straight or beveled
- The style and embellishments on the door panel
Uses for Antique China Cabinets
Each antique and vintage china cabinet is a beautiful display piece that can serve many different purposes in your home. They can be used to display your elegant sets of china and stem ware, a collection of family treasures gathered through the years, or a collection of novelty teapots. In fact, most china cabinets make great display cases or just about any kind of collection and they also make great bookcases.Some styles of china cabinets also have a drawer which is the perfect place to store pictures, documents and other small valuables.
Unusual Antique and Vintage China Cabinets
The following are several examples of unique china cabinets.
- An absolutely gorgeous piece, this china buffet dates from the late 1800s. This dual purpose Victorian piece consists of a full length china cabinet with curved glass on one side and a serving buffet on the other. Special features of this beautiful antique include:
- Highly grained quarter sawn oak
- Beautifully detailed carving
- Locking china cabinet door
- A face, perhaps of a lion, supports the candle shelf and is repeated above the mirror
- Felt lined drawer
- A beautiful hanging wall china cabinet, or curio cabinet, from the late 1800s is designed in the stick and ball motif. The piece has two delicate glass doors and curved glass sides.
Where to Find Antique and Vintage China Cabinets
Antique china cabinets look wonderful in almost any room of a house and fit in with most types of decor.