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What are China Cabinets?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 16, 2024
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China cabinets are tall furniture pieces used for storing dishes. Often, they are formal pieces crafted from fine wood and are used in dining rooms along with table and chair sets. A china cabinet usually has two separate parts. The upper sections of dining room cabinets are called hutches; they feature shelves and glass panels on the cabinet doors. The lower part of china cabinets usually has solid door cabinets with drawers above to hold items such as silverware and table linens.

China cabinets keep dishware from being chipped or scratched. Dishes may be stacked carefully on the shelves or placed individually on plate stands. Plate stands hold plates at the bottom so they stand upright and can be displayed through the glass fronts on a china cabinet. A china cabinet may be sold individually or as part of a dining room set with a matching table and chairs.

China cabinet shelves may be wood or glass. Glass shelves can allow dishes to appear almost as if they're floating. As an alternative to glass shelves, each wooden shelf can be lined with mirrored sections.

Dark dining room cabinets such as those made from mahogany can look striking against a lighter background color of paint or wallpaper. Dark cherry is an especially popular elegant hardwood used for china cabinets, as it only gets darker with age. There are also light cherry dining cabinets available that tend to have a more modern, less formal style to them. Oak is another popular light wood used for dining room cabinets.

Pine is not used for dining room china cabinets as it's a soft wood that tends to get easily dented and scratched. Modern styles of dining cabinets may be made of glass cubes in a metal frame for an airy, industrial approach. Generally though, a china cabinet is purchased as a quality piece of wood furniture made to last for many years.

China cabinets were named for the dishware they store. Special occasion dishes were once often referred to as the "good china." Traditionally, these dishes were used only for special occasions such as holidays, birthdays and family dinners. Many people today still save their dining room furniture and dishware to use only on special occasions, at least if they also have an eat-in kitchen.

A corner type of china cabinet is perfect for smaller homes. Since they angle across the corners of two walls, corner china cabinets save space in small dining rooms. Some people use corner as well as other types of dining room cabinets to display collectibles or photographs in other rooms in a home.

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