How to buy a Curio Cabinet

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One of my favorite furniture items in a house is the elegant curio cabinet.  I love to look at all the little keepsakes that people have collected over the years.  Some people have large collections of a certain style like Royal Doulton.  Some go crazy for a theme and fill a cabinet with horses or pigs or cows.  Others have an heirloom set of dishes passed down from their mother or grandmother.  Regardless of the object, I enjoy hearing all the unique stories that are inspired by each piece.

contemporary curio cabinet

For my wife and I, we are the potpourri types.  We have seen many attractive items over the years together that really drew us in and we would buy these trinkets to remind us of that event or time.  We have a few curio cabinets in our home and I know my wife is only too happy to describe every detail, of every item, in each cabinet (for those who will listen).  In spite of these being a more traditional showpiece, there is still a good range of styles in the market today.  Even if the stores don’t carry all the models on their floor, be certain to ask about others that might be available from their catalogs.   Curio Cabinets are such a treasure trove, it makes me wish I had a bigger house.  (However, I always wish that).

Knowing what you want to display and how you wish to display is the secret.  Before going to a showroom to look at what’s out there, know approximately how many items you are hoping to show.  If you are buying a cabinet to put all of your precious collectibles into in a random manner then you won’t require the same sense of detail and organization.  Once you know what and how you want your collectibles to be presented you need to consider the following:

  • How tall do you need the cabinet to be?
  • How wide?
  • How deep?
  • How many shelves do you desire?
  • How many adjustable shelves do you need? (Most tall cabinets will have one fixed middle shelf for stability).
  • Do you want lights in it?
  • If yes, what material do want the shelves to be? (Glass, wood, or metal)
  • If wood or metal, do you want a light under each shelf so that the cabinet is lit from top shelf to bottom shelf?
  • If glass, do you want multiple or singular upper light(s)?
  • Do you want front loading with swing doors or sliding glass panel door?
  • Do you want it side loading? (The front glass panel is fixed in place and you access your shelves from hinged side doors).
  • Are you looking for a corner unit or flat wall unit?
  • Does it require a power source?
  • What kind of material are you looking for the cabinet to be made from? (Wood, metal, glass, or other)
  • How many linear inches would be ideal for you to display your collection?
  • Do you want a mirror or wood, (other), backboard material?

These are some of the questions that you need to consider before you head out on your shopping spree.  One of things that you should be aware of is, that some cabinets will have the front top and bottom doors framed in wood  and so when they are in the closed position, they block off a big chunk of your display.  Check carefully to be sure how the cabinet will showcase or block off the view of the display.  It is imperative that you get a solid-as-a-rock cabinet for your display.  The unit needs to be tough, rigid and stable on the floor.  The shelves should be easy to put in or take out for cleaning purposes and height adjustable with easy attachments for future changes in shelf height.  Will the cabinet be easy to clean in your current setup?

Shape, size and style are personal.  You might not know exactly what you are looking for when you leave the house but most people will find themselves drawn to a particular look.  By running through the check list of things to pay attention to it should greatly assist you in your cabinet selection.