How To Decorate A China Cabinet

Have you recently discovered a dated china cabinet in the basement and want to upcycle it? Or, perhaps, you own a piece packed with granny's tableware, and it's neither stylish nor practical. If one of these scenarios looks familiar, you're at the right spot. Let's start by explaining what china cabinets are. According to Homemade Ginger, these one-piece items feature glass doors and are more formal and ornate variants. Their primary purpose is to display and protect china and glassware on multiple shelves and glass panels.

As for styling, your antique teacup or crockery collection isn't the only decor worthy of display. Thanks to their growing popularity among contemporary designers, cabinets can serve many functions today. You might want to use yours to display souvenirs, trophies, art, or books. Whatever your choice, china cabinets offer you a rare chance to show off your belongings without dusting them every other day. And they don't have to be in the dining room but can fit in any corner of the house. This article will teach you how to transform that old-fashioned china cabinet into a lovely display of tableware and décor. We'll go to such lengths that you will probably come off with a unique mix of color, texture, and shape. Keep reading to find out how to decorate a china cabinet in 14 feasible steps.

Apply a few coats to the exterior

Cabinets don't have to be dreaded brown pieces of wood that resonate with monotony. Instead, you can brighten the room by painting the exterior with a bolder color. All you need for a makeover is a scrappy cabinet, a few tools, and a will to remodel from scratch. The procedure doesn't require you to be a professional, but it takes time and patience. Suppose you have an old piece you want to restore. Dimples and Tangles suggest sanding, filling grooves, and priming the wood before coating with paint or lacquer. You might have to apply a few licks to achieve the desired effect. Repeat the same procedure with the shelves.

Another ingenious tip shared by A Hosting Home is to use chalk paint. There's no preparation needed, and you only need to wipe the cabinet for dust, dirt, and mold. However, prior sanding is critical if you want to get smooth finishes. Back to the chalk paint, you can forget about primers and long waiting hours for it to dry. Yet, ensure you have a dense brush or foam roller and apply long strokes in each coat.

Use a bolder pattern for the background

Once you give the exterior a brand new appearance, you need to refurbish the interior, too. Here, you might choose between two plausible solutions that look equally stunning. You could either go with a plain background in a complementary color or a patterned wallpaper. If your interior design is less dynamic, choose a patterned background. According to HGTV, you'll need a paint roller, glue, and a smoothing tool for this feat. Remember to start affixing the wallpaper in the center and then move on to the ends. Once you finish, wipe off the excess paste and trim edges if necessary.

For those not very fond of experimenting, A Hosting Home recommends a peel and stick wallpaper. But, again, you'll need to smooth the surface as you go to avoid air bubbles. Alternatively, the background can be in a solid neutral color. In this case, you could either paint the surface or apply a light tone such as beige or mint.

Don't forget to add metallic touches

You need one last bit to complete the exterior look: choosing your knobs, handles, and hinges. Regardless of the selected tones for the wood, polished and shiny parts are an inevitable element needed to achieve an elegant yet rustic feel. Hence, consider searching for impressive pieces at garage sales or thrift stores.

If you lack inspiration, consider what Jenna Burger Design did to update her long-forgotten cabinet. Octagonal brass knobs are a superior choice since they deliver a traditional yet modern touch. Still, you'll need to use some paint to give the hardware a fresh pop of color. Liquid brass gilding or spray paint works best for this purpose. Silver and gold hues are ideal for handles as they infuse the place with an elegant feel. Similarly, you might go for glass or crystal knobs in round or oval shapes (via Dimples and Tangles). A golden backplate for the knobs is another ingenious hack you can copy from this design.

Set heavier items at the bottom

Some china cabinets feature a bottom part with drawers or doors ideal for storing more bulky items. So, if you have some pots or utilitarian serving ware you don't want to unveil, this is the place to keep them. Plus, placing heavier things in the bottom will give your cabinet stability, especially if you haven't anchored it to the wall. Logically, balancing whatever you stack in the upper section is of the utmost importance. According to Hunker, the visible part must look well-ordered and arranged by size and color. Hence, ensure you place massive and heavy items on the bottom shelf. Lighter décor and glassware go on the top shelves, making the bulky piece of furniture feel airier.

Besides avoiding a top-heavy approach, you'll find it easier to access bulkier dinnerware without reaching high and risking severe damage. Remember, dominant pieces must take a central, stable position.

Opt for a rustic style

Did you instantly think of a mesmerizing china cabinet with curvy edges and a weathered look? Well, you pictured that perfectly. Rustic-style cabinets are timeless pieces of furniture that match various interior designs. To this end, a multi-tiered cabinet with white dishes might do wonders for your place, especially if you like a shabby-chic aesthetic. The distressed look proposed by Foter will make any country house feel clean, classy, and charming. You only need a rough wood dining table for the ultimate impression.

Undoubtedly, a vintage design is the safest solution for china cabinets and hutches. Even if you prefer a farmhouse look, gold hardware elements, curved edges, and antique legs deliver a charming rustic vibe (via Jenna Burger Design). If you want to add more texture to the wood and achieve a weathered look, use a wire brush after the sanding procedure to give it that scuffed look. The distressed wood becomes more pronounced with a lighter stain.

Get patterned crockery

Now, let's transition to the second leg of our china cabinet decorating journey. Interior styling is equally critical for the ultimate look. Although you could always go with all-white dishes and plates, there are more creative ways to organize your cabinet. Most modern designs today feature classic blue and white china. According to Elle Décor, this combination has a long history and hasn't lost its shine throughout the centuries. Blue-white crockery best fits vintage, coastal, and rustic homes but can also adorn contemporary settings.

For a more elegant look, Randi Garrett Design suggests exhibiting gold-rimmed plates. When combined with a set of golden silverware, your cabinet will become a sparkling statement. To this end, lean the dishes against the background and arrange the cutlery in front of them. White is ideal for pitchers, cake plates, and serving platters. These pieces can serve multiple purposes, such as to hold décor or flowers, so a non-patterned variant works best.

Group items or go symmetrical

Arranging plates, cups, glasses, and other kitchen essentials inside the cabinet can be challenging. Of course, you don't want your display to look cluttered or dowdy. Typically, you can choose between a symmetrical pattern or dividing crockery and glassware into separate collections. For symmetrical designs, use the provided ridge along the shelf. If your cabinet doesn't have any, purchase plate holders to achieve the impression of leaning dishes. In front of the two layers of plates, place teacups and saucers. Finally, add pairs of glasses among each porcelain set, as shown by Dimples and Tangles.

Alternatively, you may group tableware in the cabinet. This approach is particularly suitable when you have many dishes and glasses to store. Grouping sets give the display flow, and finding items becomes more convenient. Check how Randi Garrett Design solved this challenge and achieved a neat and sophisticated look. Last, consider standing one plate of each set upright and then stacking the rest in front of it. Though this idea might seem old-fashioned, it is attention-grabbing and balanced. Plus, you will always know where to find specific dish stacks. 

Go green inside

Plants and flowers are omnipresent decorating tools, so why not use them in your china cabinet? Greenery goes well with any style and will breathe life into your display. Even if the spot doesn't get much daylight, you can pick plants that thrive in less favorable conditions. Whether you prefer potted plants, vases with flowers, or greenery, you can't go wrong. Succulents, ivy, and pothos are ideal as they can survive with almost no light. Fake plants are another solid option, as shown by Simply2moms. To do so, pick artificial flowers and greenery to place in bowls or hang from teacups.

Another idea you might incorporate into your cabinet is the one shared by A Hosting Home. First, arrange a bouquet of freshly picked wildflowers in a vase on the upper shelf. Then, add some white-yellow blooms and leafy branches to the middle one. Finish the look with a few lemons in a bowl in the bottom section.

Decorate with bottles and candles

Do you find it impossible to store all your beverages around the house? In that case, line up bottled drinks in the cabinet or place them on bottle holders behind the stacked plates. Alternatively, dedicate an entire bottom shelf for beverages in green and blue crystal bottles.

Suppose you have a collection of wines and whiskeys. Then, why not turn your glassed-door cabinet into a home drink bar? Celebrations At Home shares excellent ideas about arranging bottled beverages on built-in shelves, whether decorating with fancy glassware or organizing the bottles on pretty trays. Just remember that bundling similar bottles is vital for the aesthetics of your bar assortment.

Candles are another ingenious hack to elevate the look. Homebnc abounds with decoration ideas that feature various-sized candles and stands. You can place them in sets, inside bell jars, or lanterns. If you want a more dramatic but practical combo, put candles on bar glasses turned upside-down.

Glass is a must

What would a proper china cabinet be without some delicate crystal glassware? However, you need to follow a few simple rules when organizing glasses into the display. Typically, you'd arrange them by type and into sections for a crisp look. Fans of sparkling glassware that gives even ordinary cabinets a new shine can check the decorating idea of Randi Garrett Design. Crystals and glasses should go on the top shelf if the cabinet features interior lighting. This way, light reflects and adds to the overall glimmer.

Heavier glass pieces, such as pitchers, etched trays, or decorative vases should take a central position. Lighter glassware goes on the sides, and taller pieces flank the centerpiece. Finally, position any specialty hand-blown bowls or hand-cut crystals you might possess in prominent positions. SFGate believes cabinets are perfect for safekeeping rare items you use for formal dinners since they keep those sets away from the high traffic of regular kitchen cabinets.

Give lights a try

Illuminated cabinets will give the whole place a relaxed and welcoming vibe. Moreover, accent lighting ensures you can find what you're looking for in a second. So, whether you want to showcase stemware, provide a backdrop, or achieve a soothing atmosphere, use LED lights. One way to brighten the room is to install lighting on every shelf. Homebuilding & Renovating claims this is the ideal approach for an even, highly efficient lighting scheme. For a more ambient feel, place lights at the bottom or the back of the shelf. As for the power source, choose between rechargeable batteries, Wi-Fi connectivity, or motion-operated sensors.

Similarly, experts from Homes & Gardens suggest adjustable LED lighting systems that set the mood for every occasion. Illumination will also expand your unit visually and give the room depth. Puck lights or LED light strips are excellent choices for the cabinet interior. Another plausible idea for dark spaces is installing a mirrored backboard to reflect light into the room and enlarge the place visually.

Use complementary tones

No cabinet will look cohesive if the items inside have mismatched patterns and hues. Random colors will make the exhibit look disorganized. Instead, pick complementary hues to achieve an aesthetic display. On top of that, the color scheme can set the house's mood, be it vintage, elegant, or trendy. According to The Spruce, vivid blue and green tableware hues make the ideal statement piece. Likewise, a colorful display will fit a home with predominantly neutral tones and patterns. For example, if the interior is beige, white, or gray, colorful ceramics peeking through the glass will invigorate the place.

Conversely, subtle white crockery is best for brightly-colored cabinetry. Elle Décor reports blue cabinets with gold knobs or brass fixtures give your dining room a sophisticated, artsy impact. If you match these settings with all-white dinnerware, you'll get a practical and elegant look.

Add height and texture for contrast

Who wants their longed-for cabinet arrangement to be dull and soulless? Not you, of course. Contrast is an all-in-one solution for a lavish display. To this end, you'll need to apply a few hacks such as positioning plates upright, stacking dinnerware, and using risers. Candlesticks, pedestals, and pillars are ideal props for vertical styling that give the arrangement height. On top of that, Hunker recommends stacking dishes and bowls since the primary purpose of china cabinets is to provide storage. Plus, you can use this strategy to play with height. However, it's essential to disperse items evenly and repeat patterns for a balanced presentation.

Lastly, use different textures as Simply2moms did in their design to avoid one-dimensional displays. They used a wire basket to fit mugs in the bottom of the cabinet and style groups of identical items. Another décor item that boosts contrast with the white pottery is a wood cutting board. Also, think wood beads to deliver the final visual blow and create a coherent appearance.

Exhibit precious trinkets

As discussed, china cabinets don't have to adorn dining rooms only. Plus, they can fit many ceramic and glass collections, so there is no reason to leave them abandoned in the garage. You can consider the glass doors an opportunity to showcase all the trinkets and souvenirs you hold dear. First, decide which items you want to display and arrange them by color, material, or texture. Most of you would choose to exhibit a precious collection of souvenirs, trophies, or DIY crafts. Framed pictures are a viable alternative, too.

If you decide to place the cabinet in the living room, consider replacing dishes with books and turning the piece into a bookshelf. Makely outlines a similar instant storage solution. Moreover, you can spruce the shelves with sentimental belongings and position them between the books. This way, you give your place a unique, homey vibe. Another intelligent hack involves transforming the cabinet into a linen cupboard to adorn your bedroom. Interior designers from The Spruce believe cabinets can get a new life when used to hold your children's clothes.