A Hoosier Cabinet Makeover

If you have ever wanted to try your hand at refinishing and making over a Hoosier cabinet you'll find this article by blogger Emileigh Roger of FlashbackSummer.com informative and inspiring.

Hoosier-Cabinet-Makeover-Before-and After
Over the past few years of living in the dorm, I would stroll through flea markets and antique shops and sigh at all the fabulous old things that wouldn't fit in my room or my budget. If a piece was really good, I would snap a picture of it on my phone... and it was generally a Hoosier cabinet.

All their specialized nooks and crannies and clever gadgets, closures, and designs totally melt my heart. I want one in my kitchen. And my sewing room. And my bedroom. And the living room. I want one in every room; that's how much I like them.

Hoosier cabinets are free-standing kitchen workspaces. They can have everything a cook would need, including flour sifters, dish racks, coffee grinders, shelves, spice racks, cupboards, pull-out counters, and bread boxes. These cabinets were an integral part of kitchens from the early 1900s until the 1930s when built-in kitchen cabinets became the norm and cabinets went out of vogue. However, many people kept the cabinets in their kitchen even after getting built-ins because of the beauty and memories often attached. (I usually hear people say, "Oh yeah! My grandma has one of those!)


From "You and Your Kitchen, from Experience by Mrs. Christine Frederick," The Hoosier Manufacturing Co., New Castle, IN: 1915. (source)

These cabinets are called "Hoosier cabinets" or just "Hoosiers" because of their origins in Indiana, known as the Hoosier state. Indiana Public Media describes how Hoosiers represented a shift in society around the time they were made. After the Civil War, the social structures of the Old South crumbled and people flocked to cities. Women who had been used to sprawling homes and servants had to learn to adapt to their new homes in servant-free, small, urban quarters. These back-in-the-day kitchens often included only some open shelves, maybe a sink, a stove, and a work table; can you imagine?! The Hoosier cabinet was a way to practically and efficiently store a lot of kitchen tools and ingredients in one compact space when efficient storage was so badly needed.


Early 1920's Kitchen (source)

These kitchen storage pieces were also a step forward in innovation by saving housewives a lot of steps in the kitchen.  A study commissioned in 1920 by the U.S. Department of Commerce found that the Hoosier cabinet saved a person over 1500 steps, hugely efficient when the daily  average in the kitchen was 2000 steps.  What a difference!

So, I have always loved these cabinets, but I have never gotten the chance to own one for myself.... until now! Jacob and I discovered one in a flea market about and hour and a half from Springfield, MO, and I just couldn't get it out of my head! It had "character" (aka peeling paint like crazy, dirty inside, warped boards, and lots of rust!), but it also had a cute design and a SEA FOAM porcelain counter on it! It perfectly coordinated with our house colors already!

Hoosier Cabinets Saves StepsI just couldn't get it out of my head.

We saw other cabinets around, but a finished cabinet will easily run upward of $350 in my area, and we just couldn't quite swing that.

Not to mention, none of the others I saw could beat that other sea foam-countered one...

So we went and got it. Isn't she a beaut?! Well, her potential was beautiful at this point.


Hoosier-Cabinet-Makeover-Sanding So we sanded...Hoosier-Cabinet-Makeover-Painting and painted. And redid our Hoosier cabinet! I TOTALLY love it so much. We're going to use it as a "beverage bar" in our living room, so although I love the chipping paint look, I figured old lead paint wouldn't go so well with storing beverages. So, in an effort to avoid a slow death by lead-poisoned tea, we sanded it all off and tried to keep the original look with a similar color combination and some antiquing. (Antiquing was necessary. When it was painted it looked new. Ick. What's the point of having a 1920s Hoosier cabinet if it looks new? Exactly.)

Hoosier-Cabinet-Makeover-Complete It still has a couple minor things that we'd like to tweak in the future (finding some vintage hardware for the top, for example, since only 2/3 original door pulls are there), but we can definitely use it while we wait to do the small details that no one knows about but us!

However, I also discovered through research for this post that Hoosier cabinet designs usually included a pull-out counter top for more space. Jacob and I had been wondering why the counter wasn't attached, and now we know! How totally brilliant is that little detail?!


Slide out porcelain work top

Redoing this Hoosier cabinet ourselves was a laborious process with lots of unforeseen difficulties, but I learned some new skills with Jacob's help (using a sander and knowing the difference between kinds of saws, for example) and it was more cost effective for us.  Not to mention we get the personalized, custom look we wanted and the pride in being able to say we did it ourselves!
And yes, we, a married newly couple, did make it through this whole cabinet makeover without any tense moments or "discussions"!  Woooo!

What do you think?  Would you ever consider redoing a Hoosier cabinet, or would you want to buy one already done?  Do you have any makeover projects you're especially proud of?

More Hoosier history:
How to Identify Art Deco Hoosier Cabinets
Hoosier Cabinet Info
Moment of Indiana History: Hoosier Cabinets
Amish Acres: Hoosier Cabinet Collection
The Hoosier Cabinet in Kitchen History (Book)
Helpful Clues to determine the age of your Coppes Napanee kitchen Cabinet

Hoosier cabinet supplies and parts:
Hoosier glassware
Kennedy Hardware
Hardware of the Past
Architecturals Restoration Center

Build your own Hoosier cabinet:
Kennedy Hardware: Hoosier Cabinet Plans
Kennedy Hardware: Basic Hoosier Cabinet Kit

Article and images courtesy: Emileigh Roger of FlashbackSummer.com. Visit her blog about all things vintage while adding an intercultural twist.