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Built-in China Cabinets: Back and Better Than Ever

There’s a good chance when you think of china cabinets (whether freestanding or built-in china cabinets), you’re conjuring up a hub where your grandmother’s flowery, outdated porcelain sits, sad and neglected on a shelf collecting dust bunnies. We’re here to tell you that those days are long gone. The popularity of built-in china cabinets is seeing a resurgence. They’re no longer just a display case for fancy or seldom-used tableware and serving pieces, but act as a multi-functional staple in many Charlotte kitchens and dining rooms.

They’re relevant once again, and here’s why.

History of the Built-In China Cabinet

Before we get into the nitty gritty of this fixture and why it’s gaining popularity, it’s time for a brief history lesson so we can all orient ourselves.

The history of the china cabinet dates back to the 17th century in Europe, where it was used to store and display ceramics and other fine dishes. During this time, porcelain from China (hence the name!) and Japan was highly coveted in Europe, and wealthy families collected these items to show off their wealth and impeccable taste. China cabinets provided a safe and elegant way to store and display these valuable items.

built-in china cabinet

In the 18th century, the design of China cabinets evolved, becoming more elaborate and decorative. Many of these cabinets were made from exotic woods and featured intricate carvings, elaborate inlays, and ornate moldings. They were often placed in formal dining rooms, where they added an air of elegance and sophistication.

By the 19th century, china cabinets became a staple in many middle-class homes. They were still used to store and display fine dishes, but they were also used to display other decorative items, such as figurines, vases, and artwork. As the middle class grew, china cabinets became more affordable, and they became a popular way to showcase one’s taste and style.

In the 20th century, the design of china cabinets continued to evolve. In the 1920s and 1930s, Art Deco-style china cabinets became popular, featuring streamlined designs and geometric shapes. In the mid-20th century, china cabinets became more functional, with many featuring built-in lighting and storage for stemware, silver flatware and other dining accessories.

Today, china cabinets continue to be a popular feature in many homes. They come in a wide range of styles and designs, from traditional to modern, and are used to store and display a variety of decorative items. While they have evolved over the centuries, china cabinets, freestanding heirloom versions that have been passed down from generations, or modern built-in china cabinets, continue to be a beautiful and functional addition to any home.

China Cabinet Nicknames

It’s important to note that the china cabinet has a lot of nicknames and alternatives. Although the traditional name is indeed china cabinet, you may also hear these names tossed back and forth depending on the location or particular style of the cabinet. Just something to keep in the back of your mind. Some common alternative names for china cabinets include:

  • Display cabinets
  • Curio cabinets
  • Hutch cabinets
  • Breakfront cabinets
  • Glass cabinets
  • Vitrine cabinets
  • Cupboards with glass doors
  • Bookcase cabinets (when used to display books and other items in addition to china)

Some of these names may refer to specific styles or features of china cabinets, while others are more general terms used to describe any cabinet with glass doors used to display items.

Built-in China Cabinets Vs. Freestanding: What Gives?

built-in china cabinet
This built-in china cabinet was designed to resemble an antique. We used a different wood specie and finish to make it a stand-alone piece. Water glass doors help it feel lighter, while also concealing the contents inside, removing any pressure to keep it perfectly oganized.

This built-in china cabinet was designed to resemble an antique. We used a different wood specie and finish to make it a stand-alone piece. Water glass doors help it feel lighter, while also concealing the contents inside, removing any pressure to keep it perfectly oganized.

From what we’ve experienced, the main differences between freestanding and built-in china cabinets are related to three different criteria: structure, installation, and flexibility.

  1. Structure: Freestanding china cabinets are standalone pieces of furniture that are designed to be moved easily. They have a solid back and are usually supported by legs or a base. In contrast, built-in china cabinets are installed directly into the wall and are designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding cabinetry or decor.
  2. Installation: Freestanding china cabinets are relatively easy to install and can be placed in any room or location that can accommodate their size. They are not fixed to the wall, so they can be moved or repositioned as needed. Built-in china cabinets, on the other hand, require more planning and installation work. They need to be properly integrated into the wall, and often require professional installation.
  3. Flexibility: Freestanding china cabinets offer more flexibility in terms of their placement and use. They can be used in various rooms and can be moved around or repurposed as needed. They also offer more design options in terms of color, style, and material. Built-in china cabinets, on the other hand, are more permanent and are designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding decor and maybe a more suitable option if you are already in the throes of a home remodel. They offer less flexibility in terms of design and placement, but any custom cabinetry maker will still have plenty of ways to create a truly unique piece specific to your needs and aethetic.
built-in china cabinets
Smoke-gray glass doors hide the contrasting interior of this built-in cabinet untilt he integrated interior LED’s are turned on, showcasing this young couples’ stemware collection.

Overall, the choice between a freestanding and a built-in china cabinet depends on personal preferences, space availability, and design needs within your Charlotte home. Freestanding cabinets are more versatile and offer more design options, while built-in cabinets provide a seamless and integrated look that can add value to a home. The choice is yours!

The Pros of a Built-in China Cabinet

built-in china cabinet
Reeded glass doors & interior lights finish this navy blue built-in china cabinet in the bar of this Foxcroft home.

A built-in china cabinet is a popular choice for homeowners in Charlotte who are looking for an elegant and practical way to display their fine china, glassware, and other decorative items. One of the main benefits of a built-in china cabinet is the increased storage it provides. With a built-in cabinet, you can free up space in the kitchen for items used less frequently and reduce clutter.

Another advantage of a built-in china cabinet is the customizable design. You have the flexibility to choose the size, shape, style, and features of the cabinet to suit your space and decor. This allows you to create a unique and personalized storage solution that meets your specific needs and preferences.

In addition to the functional benefits, a built-in china cabinet can also enhance the visual appeal of your home. With the right lighting, glass, and finishing touches, a built-in cabinet can become a focal point of your dining room or living area. It can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to your home and make it feel more inviting and comfortable.

Finally, a built-in china cabinet can add value to your home, especially if it is well-crafted and seamlessly integrated into the surrounding decor. It can be a smart investment if you plan to sell your home in the future.

Customizable Built-In China Cabinet Features

built-in china cabinet
An antique mirrored back inside this china cabinet reflects light from the kitchen island and, when placed between two windows, helps the kitchen feel larger and brighter.

Built-in china cabinets can be customized with a variety of features to suit your specific needs and preferences. Here are some of the features you can add to a built-in china cabinet:

  1. Lighting: Interior lighting highlights your displayed items and create an elegant ambiance. Options include integrated LED light strips, recessed lighting, or even under-shelf lighting.
  2. Glass types: With so many options for glass doors, your cabinets will not be boring. Popular options include clear glass, seeded glass, reeded glass, beveled glass, frosted glass, or smoked glass. This can add a decorative element to your cabinet.
  3. Shelving: Customizing the number and size of shelves to accommodate your collection of china and glassware is helpful. You can also choose from adjustable or fixed shelves, and specify the material – wood in a contrasting color perhaps, or glass if interior lighting has been selected.
  4. Mirrored back: A mirrored back can create a reflective effect that adds depth and enhances the visibility of your displayed items. Antiqued mirror adds even more personality!
  5. Drawers: We highly recommend drawers for the lower part of the cabinet for storing linens, silverware, or placemats if you enjoy formal entertaining.
  6. Finishing touches: You can add decorative moldings, trim, or hardware to the cabinet to enhance its visual appeal.
  7. Hidden compartments: Hidden drawers inside built-in china cabinets are often used to store valuable items such a sterling silver flatware and serving pieces.

These are just a few examples of the features you can add to a built-in china cabinet. Ultimately, the options are endless and can be customized to fit your style, needs, and budget.

In conclusion, if you’re looking to transform your home, our ReVision Design/Remodeling is here to help. We have the experience and expertise to create a custom renovation plan that meets your needs and exceeds your expectations. From built-in china cabinets to kitchen upgrades, bathroom remodels, and beyond, we can help you achieve the home of your dreams. Contact us today to get started.