You’ve probably seen this unique piece of kitchen furniture at your grandma’s house or perhaps searched for one yourself. It is charming, useful, and vintage. But where did it come from and how is it different than other kitchen storage units?
Today, we’ll go over everything you need to know about the Hoosier cabinet. After all, most people don’t even know where the name Hoosier came from or why we call this type of cabinet a Hoosier cabinet.
What Is A Hoosier Cabinet?
A Hoosier cabinet is a cabinet with lower storage, upper storage, and a countertop. It’s an all-in-one piece of furniture used in the kitchen. You can find them with glass doors, flat doors, or no doors at all.
Why Were Hoosier Cabinets So Popular?
Hoosier cabinets first came to being in the early 1900s. Though similar cabinets were invented and used before then, the term wasn’t popularized until the Hoosier Manufacturing Company manufactured millions of them in the first few decades of the 1900s.
However, it isn’t known if the name came from the company or from the fact that they were manufactured in the Hoosier state, Indiana. Other cabinet manufacturers also made theirs in Indiana, so the term is widely used.
The Hoosier cabinet was advertised in catalogs, which helped with its popularity. The ads catered to housewives who wanted a “modern” kitchen. This new cabinet was “dainty” yet useful after all.
“Your kitchen! – furnished as completely and tastefully as any other room – how can you have it so with little trouble and expense,” the ad headlined. It also stated that a home-loving woman wants a “dainty, fresh, and inviting” kitchen.
The statement may be dated, but the ad caught on like wildfire. Families across the nation wanted this all-in-one kitchen accessory. Most families could afford them at this time during the roaring 20s when America was prosperous.
After the Great Depression hit, the cabinets became less popular and weren’t manufactured again for a while. No one could afford luxuries such as this when the country could hardly afford flour to feed their families.
Vintage Hoosier Cabinet
You won’t be able to find a vintage Hoosier cabinet just anywhere. And when you do find one, it’s hard to tell if it’s authentic or not. Here are a few ways to tell if the Hoosier cabinet is a real Hoosier or not.
A Hoosier has three areas. A deep lower cabinet, a workspace (traditionally porcelain), and shallow upper cabinets. If the counter space is wooden, it could still be real. But the most authentic ones had porcelain or enamel counters.
Traditional Hoosier cabinets had drawers. These drawers were lined with tin and were made to store bread. If the tin is still intact, the cabinet is in great condition and probably authentic. While tin may last through the years, other additions are hard to keep.
Most Hoosier cabinets had a flour bin and sifter in the left upper cabinet. It would be difficult to find one with the flour bin still in it, but if you do, keep it! One with the original flour bin is worth a lot.
Measurements And Charts
Originally, the Hoosier cabinets had charts in the doors. They would list measurements, conversions, and even have a place to write down what you needed. Some may have even included recipes in the door.
Most older cabinets and furniture had stamps that dated them. There should be a stamp somewhere with the manufacturer’s name and date. If the date is pre-1950, it’s probably authentic. If it’s pre-1940, it’s most definitely authentic.
Ask An Appraiser
You can ask someone at an antique store or an official appraiser if your Hoosier cabinet is real. You can even contact someone online and send pictures to them. Just make sure you ask someone who isn’t interested in buying it.
Modern Hoosier Cabinet
Although a vintage Hoosier cabinet is ideal, it’s not easy to find one and when you do, it’s hard to find one that is affordable. Luckily, you can get modern Hoosier cabinets that are similar to the traditional ones.
This adorable Hoosier-type cabinet comes in four colors. You can get it in white or one of the three wood grains available. The wood grains look more authentic while the white looks more modern. All four are rather alluring.
This Lewisburg is very similar to what you’d see in the early 1900s. It’s narrow but the structure is the same. The vintage feel of the grain that looks distressed adds to the character and betrays the price tag.
This piece from Alcott Hill has a lot of storage space. If you’re planning on cutting down on standard cabinets in favor of a Hoosier cabinet, this option should suit you. It only comes in one color, but white is quite versatile.
Rosalind Wheeler does an amazing job of picking colors for this Hoosier cabinet. You can get it in grey or an antique white which is the perfect color for a cabinet like this. The color and structure are similar to the traditional cabinets with porcelain countertops.
If you want a more modern take on the Hoosier cabinet, this is a great choice. It has the sleek design and contrasts that contemporary interior design favors. Yet the setup is similar to a vintage Hoosier cabinet.
If glass doors are what attracts you to the Hoosier cabinet, then this one by Red Barrel Studio is perfect for you. It has the classic look with glass cabinets. The only thing missing is a flour mill sifter built-in!
Open shelves were not frowned upon for storing flour, sugar, and other baking ingredients. In fact, having a set of labeled jars is adorable, and always has been. So if open shelves draw you in, this cabinet is amazing.
This Breaktime cabinet isn’t traditional, but it takes the Hoosier cabinet to the 21st century. There is space for a mini-fridge beneath and borders on the line of a kitchenette cabinet. This thing is perfect for dorms and studio apartments.
Lastly, we have the Cierrah cabinet which is as adorable as can be. Although the cabinet doors are flat and the look is modern, there is a vintage flair to this cabinet that cannot be ignored. It is the perfect middle ground cabinet.
Hoosier Cabinet Alternatives
If you can’t get your hands on a Hoosier cabinet, don’t worry. There are plenty of alternatives that work just as well and have just as much character. Since new manufactures can’t use the term “Hoosier,” a lot of them use these words instead.
A kitchen hutch is very similar to a Hoosier cabinet. Hutches are a piece of furniture that can be used in any room, sometimes appearing as a vanity. In recent years, the terms hutch and Hoosier cabinet have been used interchangeably.
However, hutches were used long before Hoosier cabinets were invented. The word is also more forgiving as you’re not talking about a brand nor an era. Just a cabinet of a certain style that can be used anywhere.
Pie safes are often seen in diners holding, you guessed it, pies! They look like wood cabinets with many glass panels. Pie safes were traditionally used to store pies, meats, or other perishables. They add a diner/bakery feel to your kitchen.
Because pie safes date back to the German immigration to America, pie safes are usually made by the Amish. The Pennsylvania Dutch community makes pie safes to this day, and these are some of the only authentic pie safes in the country.
A china cabinet is a cabinet with a solid bottom, often with doors, and a glass top. The glass top is made to display china and other knick-knacks. They are still quite popular in homes with antiques that need to be kept safe.
China cabinets are not actually from China, despite the name. They were made to display china dishes, which actually were originally made in china. The porcelain dishes are very fragile, and thus, a special cabinet was made to protect them.
A Welsh dresser is a cabinet that is similar to a china cabinet only with optional glass. More often than not, the top is open shelving, separating it from the traditional Hoosier cabinet. Another name for a Welsh dresser is a china hutch.
The Welsh dresser is traditionally from Wales, hence the name. The cabinets were popular throughout Europe, but Wales took on the term that we use to this day. They are used as wardrobes, kitchen cabinets, and general storage units.
Kitchen Buffet Combo
A kitchen buffet is the bottom part of a Hoosier cabinet. To turn one into a Hoosier cabinet, you just need to add a top cabinet. You can even have one converted and customized, which is much cheaper than buying a Hoosier cabinet outright.
If you have someone build onto the buffet, you can save a lot on material costs. All you need are small upper cabinets and something to secure them to the bottom cabinets. For an even cheaper version, use open shelving.