Got a china cabinet silently crying out for a makeover? If you’ve barely touched grandma’s heirloom punchbowl or those fancy serving plates wedged back in some dark corner, it’s high time to give this piece of furniture the attention it deserves.
“The china cabinet is your resting place for heirlooms, so keeping these items organized is respecting the memories they bring,” explains Justin Riordan of Spade and Archer Design Agency. Plus rearranging your china, glassware, and serving pieces can highlight the loveliest items, which may entice you to use them more.
And even if your dishware isn’t anything to write home about, the right tweaks to your china cabinet can nonetheless make it the star of your dining area. Here’s how to make that happen.
Pick a bold color
Carole Marcotte of Form & Function recommends a pop of high-gloss lacquer when redoing a china cabinet. “These pieces are often found at garage or estate sales for a bargain, which justifies the lacquer cost,” she notes. Be brave, and pick a bright color or jewel tones. “Paint will hide imperfections in a worn piece of furniture, and changing out the hardware is another easy update,” says Riordan.
Liz Toombs, president of PDR Interiors, had her china cabinet lacquered in a deep blue and added gold hardware. “It serves as a punch of color, and everyone comments on it when they visit,” she says.
Line it with wallpaper
Not a fan of painted furniture? Keep the classic wooden look on the outside and cover the inside bays and walls with wallpaper, to add color, texture, and pattern in a single shot. Be sure to pick a paper you can live with and that complements your china, because removing it can be difficult.
Alternatively, opt for removable wallpaper or use contact paper. “A creative alternative to sticking wallpaper directly on your furniture is to apply it to a false back made of plywood or sturdy cardboard,” suggests Toombs. This way, you can pop it out and try a new pattern anytime you like.
Style with care
Much the way you’d arrange bookshelves, consider the colors and shapes of your china. “Make small group clusters—like still-life compositions,” Riordan suggests. Lean large platters along the back of each bay, store like items together (gravy boat with ladle, salt and pepper shakers in one area) and sort glasses by type, so you can easily see what you need.
Light from within
Sure, you can spy stacks of plates up front, but you’ll never locate that wine coaster without some help. Rather than using your iPhone for illumination, install under-mount cabinet lights or a few strands of tiny twinklers. The added light helps to beautify the cabinet, offering a dazzling sparkle each time you flip the switch.
A china cabinet makeover is a feast for the eyes, which means that you want to add as much visual interest as you can to your plates and cups. To start, stack some plates and saucers, but leave others exposed, either leaning or in a plate stand, so that your china pattern is revealed. Cake stands and candlesticks are other great props for vertical styling here, says Toombs.
You can also suspend tea cups from a stand, or screw in tiny hooks to the top of one bay to hang them. But if your china is somewhat precious, skip it. “This hanging method may actually weaken and break your cup handles, so instead stack cup, saucer, cup, saucer to add height levels to your cabinet,” Riordan says.
Mix up your look
The debate whether to keep knickknacks inside a china cabinet is a heated one, with one side taking the purist approach (just dishes, please) and the other suggesting that you include other items to break up the look. In moderation, a few accessories add character to a hutch and to your room, notes Riordan. Marcotte prefers to mix in other formal items, such as silver or porcelain sculptures. “[Using] books, however, seems contrived and more like a store styled it than a homeowner,” she adds.
Consider the top
Remember, anything you place on top of a china cabinet is likely to be hard to reach—and clean. Save yourself the hassle (and the dusting) and avoid placing items here. If you must fill the space, consider an easy-to-remove faux-flower arrangement, or hurricane lamps with pillar candles.
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