If you walked into any home a few decades ago, we guarantee one piece of furniture you’d undoubtedly see is a display cabinet. The most common example would’ve been a China cabinet placed in a formal dining room and housed the homeowner’s finest dishware and cutlery. Nowadays, you’ll notice that the number of homes with display cabinets is dwindling, leading many to question whether this once staple home feature is now considered “old-fashioned” by modern standards.
Display cabinets are not old fashioned, and here’s three reasons why:
- They add elegance, grandeur, and refinement to any space
- You can purchase them in modern styles to match current aesthetics
- They’re versatile pieces you can use for more than China storage.
These are just a few reasons why display cabinets can fit in perfectly with any modern home.
In this article, we’re going to cover eight reasons why display cabinets are not old-fashioned, even if people think they’re a piece of furniture that should be left in the past. After we’ve made our case that display cabinets are not only still relevant but arguably essential to a home, we’ll discuss the various types of cabinets you can buy and what spaces they suit best.
You Aren’t Limited to the Curio Cabinet
When people take a firm stance that display cabinets are completely outdated and old-fashioned, oftentimes, the cabinets they’re picturing are old or antique curio cabinets they used to see in their grandma’s dining room. The first point of why display cabinets aren’t outdated is simple. Not. All. Display. Cabinets. Look. Like. This!
Display cabinets come in a wide range of designs and materials apart from bulky antique curio cabinets, and so, it is an over-generalization to say all of them are outdated when, in reality, it might just be this one type.
If people were trying to make a point that curio cabinets are outdated, we’d be a bit more inclined to agree with them.
Curio cabinets are usually made entirely of darker woods and glass, boasting very traditional designs with Baroque swirl carvings. While these cabinets can be absolutely stunning, especially if you love antiques or older styles, they don’t match or blend well with modern design trends of clean lines and bright colors.
That being said, the argument here is whether all display cabinets are outdated. To some, a certain type or two might be (and we’ll go over the various types in more detail later), but we don’t think it’s fair to make the overgeneralization that all display cabinets are outdated when most people’s argument for this is based on one type that arguably hasn’t aged well.
Elegance Doesn’t Go Out of Style
Curio cabinets aside, the next reason why display cabinets aren’t outdated has more to do with their overall aesthetic and effect on a room.
Display cabinets easily add a sense of elegance, grandeur, and refinement to any space thanks to their superb craftsmanship and the overwhelming sense of wonder they exude from knowing they house items the owner deems invaluable.
Whether you like display cabinets or not, you can’t deny that they are truly eye-catching pieces of furniture that inspire at least a glint of curiosity in every visitor. Part of this is purely because of what they hold inside. However, their overall design, in general, has an immediate effect on any space by elevating it to a higher level of class and sophistication.
More display cabinets will have a sleek, clean design that blends perfectly with a wide range of aesthetics, making them charming conversation starters. Comparatively, older display cabinets are created with exquisite craftsmanship that’s getting harder and harder to find in modern society due to the mass production of products by factory machines.
Both examples are elegant in their own unique ways and would be an exceptional addition to any space dedicated to dining and/or entertaining guests.
You Don’t Need Fine China or Antiques to Have a Display Cabinet
Another common misconception about display cabinets we’d like to nip in the bud is the idea that they are filled with dusty old antiques or fine China you can only touch (ever so gently) maybe twice a year and nothing else. These cabinets would have died a horrible social death years ago if this were true.
A vital reason why display cabinets are not outdated is that they are highly versatile pieces of furniture that can hold nearly anything the owner deems valuable, regardless of how others perceive those items.
Display cabinets give you the opportunity to show off whatever you want! It is the perfect place to put your prized collection of Pokémon cards or Harry Potter prop replicas. Alternatively, you could don the shelves with wedding photos and other cherished memorabilia; you could use it as a coffee station or a haven for your cocktail equipment; some people even place these transparent storage units in their bedroom so they can show off and admire the 30 pairs of shoes they’re most proud of.
The sky is the absolute limit with display cabinets, and oftentimes, it’s what is inside these cabinets that will affect the vibe or aesthetic of a room rather than the cabinet itself.
True, you can get an elaborately decorated display cabinet that ensures a person’s focus is on the cabinet and not what it holds, but you can also buy display cabinets that are merely vessels meant to highlight the treasures inside, not detract from them with an ostentatious design. So, grab that favorite book series or those sports trophies from college and display them loud and proud!
Everyone Has Something Nice They Want to Protect and Show Off
This point is almost more of an extension of the previous one regarding what you can put in your display cabinet, but here we’re focusing on why.
The overarching purpose of display cabinets is to give you a place where you can keep precious objects protected from dust, UV rays, or other forms of potential damage without shutting them away in storage.
The concept of protecting objects you care about while still being able to show them off to others is something that won’t go outdated.
People will always have things they want to share with friends, family, or anyone that visits a personal space of theirs. But display cabinets give them the rare opportunity to do this without being concerned for the item’s well-being like they might if the valuables were displayed on a table or shelf.
They Can Help With Organization and Limiting Clutter
Never underestimate the power a large display cabinet can have on your home’s organization and clutter levels.
Although display cabinets can be large pieces of furniture that take up a lot of wall or floor space (or both), one reason they aren’t old fashioned is their ability to reduce a home’s overall clutter and promote organization by providing a space where people can place items that might otherwise be overflowing shelves or tabletops.
Most homes that don’t have display cabinets will play everyday decorations and prized possessions on top of other furniture. While accessorizing tables and shelves can help your home feel more personal and less empty, sometimes there just isn’t enough space for all of you items you want on display. This is where the display cabinet comes in.
Having items overflowing your furniture can cause your living space to feel cramped and messy. Instead of leaving them out to collect dust and ruin your living space’s aesthetic, you can organize them in a singular place, a display cabinet.
Material and Design Versatility Allows Them to Match Any Aesthetic
Similar to our point on not all display cabinets being curio cabinets, we’d like to discuss how versatile these pieces of furniture are.
Display cabinets are not old-fashioned because their designs and the materials used to create them constantly adapt to match modern trends.
There is a display cabinet out there somewhere that can match whatever design or aesthetic choice you’ve made for your space, guaranteed. The days of display cabinets being oversized wooden monsters dominating any room they’re placed in are long gone.
While you can still find display cabinets like this (which are fantastic for romanticism or farmhouse-styled rooms), you can also find display cabinets that are sleek, slender, geometric, arched, textured, they can be made of metals, glass, acrylics; you name it.
The wide range of designs and materials used nowadays to make display cabinets means they can be seamlessly incorporated into any design. Even minimalists can find a simply designed display cabinet and use it storing plants or common items like dishware.
They Can Help Add Contrast to a Space
Probably one of our favorite reasons why display cabinets aren’t old-fashioned is because these timeless pieces are an exceptional design tool for attracting the eye and establishing a design hierarchy in your space.
A benefit of having a display cabinet is that these eye-catching pieces help provide contrast to your space, giving you and others a point of visual interest. This can help brighten up an otherwise boring space that might be considered too uniform.
It is always good to have consistency and uniformity in your space, but contrast can be effective in giving a room more personality. A little contrast is effective, but a lot of contrast can be dangerous. For instance, you wouldn’t place an antique wooden curio cabinet in a luxury contemporary designed room because it would look completely out of place and clash with the black, white, and gray color pallet and crisp lines.
However, if you place a pastel-colored display cabinet in an overtly white room and paired it with other accents of the same color (ex. pillows, vases, chairs), these become focal points of the room that help brighten up the space rather than it feeling washed out from a solely white palette.
It’s a Great Way to Add Light, Personality, and “Space” to a Room
Our last point might seem a bit odd once you get to the idea of display cabinets adding “space” to a room, but we assure you this is another saving grace of why these pieces will never go out of style.
Designers everywhere sing the praises of display cabinets because of their ability to add light, personality, and space or airiness to a room.
Each of these elements are common, or even essential, factors to consider when designing any space, from modern to traditional and everything in between.
A vast majority of display cabinets feature built-in lighting so you can more proudly showcase the items inside. Because of this, they can be exceptional sources of light in any room, especially if natural light is limited or completely lacking. Considering most modern designs highly prioritize sources of light, this makes them fitting for current trends.
As far as furniture goes, display cabinets are the epitome of personality. Not only can they be designed to be the focal points or accent pieces of any room, but they are also filled with objects that reflect the owner’s tastes. If you’re struggling to put elements of your personality into a home, try getting a display cabinet you like and filling it with objects that represent a part of you.
Space is usually the element here that confuses most people but bear with us. A lot of people think display cabinets are out of fashion because they’re giant pieces that take up space. This can inhibit open layout homes, which is a significant modern design trend, and it can even make homes feel cramped.
However, when used properly and designed properly, display cabinets can actually help a room feel larger and more spacious through the use of mirrors.
The reflective surface of mirrors creates an illusion of depth that makes rooms feel larger and even makes the display cabinet seem smaller or less overpowering. This effect is increased if you place the cabinet near a window where it can reflect the outside world in your home.
Is a China Cabinet Outdated?
So, we’ve made our case about whether the display cabinet, in general, is old-fashioned, and concluded that they absolutely are not. These timeless pieces are still seen in modern homes and will continue to be featured in them for generations to come.
However, we did discuss how one type, the curio cabinet, might not follow other types of display cabinets into the future, and many people are wondering if the China cabinet will share the same fate.
It is very likely that if China cabinets are not already outdated, they will be in the very near future. The reason being that younger generations are no longer purchasing fine China for their homes, as social mentalities are shifting away from formal dining and entertaining to being more casual.
Other reasons why younger generations don’t want China is because they don’t see the value in having a whole set of dishware they rarely use, and they aren’t interested in finding somewhere to store it all, especially considering how much of their limited floor space China cabinets take up.
Many China cabinets also have the same tired design as most curio cabinets that don’t fit most modern homes. Even if you find a more modern-designed cabinet, most younger generations are actually buying smaller homes nowadays, and they’re buying them much later in life, so having the space for these large cabinets becomes a challenge.
Any millennial or surrounding generation who has China probably inherited it from a grandparent or parent, and so, since this is a dying trend, it isn’t a stretch to assume the China cabinet will fade away as well. If they do stick around, we think they’ll be used just to store everyday dishware so other cupboards can be designated for food items.
What Other Types of Display Cabinets Are There?
We’ve covered a decent number of display cabinets already in this article and explained how the versatility in their designs is a reason why they can never be old-fashioned.
However, if curio or China cabinets are the only type of display cabinets you can picture, we’d understand why you’d still be skeptical of this point. So, let’s look at what other types of display cabinets you can buy and what you can use them for.
Apart from curio and China cabinets, other types of display cabinets include:
- Shadow box
- Queen Anne
|Type||Description||Best items to display|
|Tower||These are tall, slender display cabinets you could easily tuck in a corner or along a wall without them taking up too much floor space. They are often angular, allowing them to add dimension to any room. Most are made almost entirely of glass panels||Valuables you want to be clearly and easily visible to anyone in the room|
|Horizontal||These are another common display cabinet that are the opposite of tower cabinets. They are longer than they are taller and usually have one front-facing glass panel while the rest of the cabinet has wood or metallic sides. They make great entryway tables or living room storage units.||Everyday items you like to see but aren’t the room’s focal point as much as the cabinet itself (ex. books, couch pillows, movies). Can be used to hold valuables like vases or collectibles if they’re taller or installed closer to eye level.|
|Pedestal||You’re more likely to see these in a museum than a home, but they’ll pop up from time to time. These display cabinets are built one tall, slender block where one prized object sits and is then encased in glass.||Usually holds an incredibly valuable piece of artwork, such as a vase, pottery, a statue, etc.|
|Shadow Box||These look like standard storage cabinets, except you can display items in a case built into the top of the cabinet. The rest is shelving and drawers for storage.||Valuables you want protected and prefer people investigate when curious rather than leaving them on display in the open.|
|Queen Anne||Very similar to curio cabinets in terms of featuring older design elements and constructed solely of wood and glass. The main difference is these cabinets are usually elevated on legs that can vary from a few inches to a few feet tall.||Valuable you want fully on display for others.|
While we’ll concede there are certain types of display cabinets that will definitely age better than others, we firmly believe that display cabinets, in general, will never be old-fashioned. These timeless pieces of furniture have too many advantages for homeowners, and their designs and materials will constantly change to keep up with modern trends.
Yes, the display cabinet is here to stay, and we highly encourage you to find one of your own to elevate and personalize your living space and show off the cool, unique, or cherished items you own.