Decorating & Design
January 11, 2019
Lynda Reeves On Today’s Hot Trend In Kitchen Furniture
This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue of House & Home
When we think of kitchen furniture, what comes to mind is tables and chairs or counter stools and not much else. But, if you were a fashionable bride in Canada or the U.S. in the ’20s or ’30s, chances are you would have asked for a Hoosier cabinet for your first kitchen. This indispensable storage closet would become the centerpiece of the room along with your stove, kitchen table and chairs, fridge and the white enamel sink hung on a wall, hopefully under a window (below).
These pieces were part of the category of kitchen furniture common until the late 1950s. The Hoosier Manufacturing Co. of New Castle, Indiana, was one of the earliest and largest manufacturers of these cabinets, hence the affectionate name: Hoosier cabinet. The company sold millions and soon Hoosier cabinets were being made by furniture makers all over North America. You could even order them from the Sears or Eaton’s catalogue. They could be basic or elaborate, made of wood and glass or enamelled metal. They were always up on legs to help keep food away from rodents and usually included a practical work surface.
Fast-forward to the ’50s onward, when sleeker built-in kitchens became the new ideal in North America. New postwar suburban homes featured built-in lower cabinets with laminate counters and closed uppers. I remember my own modern home had counters with rounded edges, a built-in laminate dining table that swivelled and a pass-through with its own counter. I hated it. But not as much as what was to come: overbuilt reproduction wood kitchens with miles of carved wood doors, built-in islands and way too much granite.
The past two decades of sleek Euro-style kitchens and simple Shaker-style country kitchens have been so much better. But for me, they still lack the charm of the old unfitted kitchens of the prewar days. My own response has been to design custom kitchens with open work tables and cabinets that resemble freestanding furniture. But that is an expensive and often impractical solution.
A few fine, artisanal workshops like March, Henrybuilt and Bulthaup have for some time made exquisite kitchen furniture. We’ve featured them (April 2012 and September 2013) but knew that they were out of reach for many of us. Happily, for the first time, there are now fabulous options for kitchen furniture available in a wide range of prices.
Bulthaup dazzles with its new b Solitaire line (above). All the pieces have finely crafted, matte black aluminum frames, solid oak or glass tops and shelves that can include carved niches for special tools. There are dining tables and benches, shelving and small side tables.
From deVOL Kitchens comes an exciting new collection based on mid-century style called the Haberdasher’s Kitchen. Just take a look at the island made of natural stained oak and glass, with copper ends. It has rounded corners and tapered legs and features glass-fronted drawers and cabinets and a marble or copper top. Also in the line is a marble sink with a fluted front made from a solid block of Carrara marble. This is kitchen furniture for the connoisseur.
Most exciting of all is a new line made here in Canada that offers clever kitchen furniture in modules that can be configured to fit your room. The company is Cuisines Steam, and the line is called coquo (above). Each component is available in natural white oak or dark espresso-stained oak. There are options for glass-fronted cabinets, marble or granite countertops, work tables, islands, sink units and vanities that work in both kitchens and bathrooms.
The designers of this Montreal company have filled a much-needed niche in a growing market by offering clean, modern design with the character of fine furniture, at price points that are reasonable. You can go online to coquo.ca and see the broad range of components and the dimensions of each.
Finally, consider mixing in freestanding units like the French Kitchen island from Crate & Barrel. I love the matte metal base and polished white marble top, reminiscent of an old French patisserie. Of course, if you really want to bring old world character into your kitchen, keep your eyes open for a vintage Hoosier cabinet — back in vogue after only 100 years, and just in time…