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Chinese Antique Cabinets

Cabinets in the China’s history are mainly used to store things in daily life, just as the same function of wardrobe at present. A Chinese antique cabinet or hutch is a piece of furniture resembling a cupboard, with doors, shelves and drawers used for storing clothes and other miscellaneous objects. Cabinets are also used in study to store books and writing implements, in kitchen to store food and other cooking utensils.

Characters of Chinese Antique Cabinets

Chinese cabinets came into existence during the 13th century (late Ming period), when china had become prosperous for luxurious items including fined furniture. Furniture's made during this time were usually made from timber of indigenous trees like pine, elm, and zelvoka (southern elm).They were usually lacquered red or black and them painted, carved and sometimes inlaid with precious stones. Main emphasis was usually placed on the application of the natural beauty of wood texture and adopting latticework carving. Chinese cabinets from Ming period are usually referred to as antique Chinese cabinets because of their simple structures, unique shapes and minimal decorations which would reserve the natural beauty of the wood.

Today these are classified into two shapes:

•Round cornered cabinets with slightly sloping sides with removable doors and wooden pivots at each end, wherein the doors can easily be slotted directly into the frame of the cabinet, resulting in the design with clear lines
•Square cornered having vertical sides with doors mounted on metal hinges.

Chinese antique cabinets

Both of these were made in matching pair, placed side-by side or symmetrically to suit the interior of the room. The themes that were used while designing those commonly included landscapes and garden scenes, however there are decorative designs which are region specific.

Chinese Antique Cabinet

Chippendale and Chinese Cabinets
The leading manufacturers of antique china cabinets are Chippendale, which opened in the latter part of the Colonial period 1750 to 1780, and Hepplewhite and Sheraton who started the Federal period, Hepplewhite from 1780 to 1800 and Sheraton from 1790 to 1810.

Chippendale has a square appearance and is very tall. They feature many drawers. The structure itself will look plain but there will be ornamentation such as intricately carved knobs and finals. The one feature that everyone connects with Chippendale china cabinets is the legs. The feet are a lion's paw or an eagle's claw on a ball. The favorite woods were mahogany and cherry. Heppelwhite had a very delicate and graceful style. Where a Chippendale piece would have a plain finish, the Hepplewhite would have decorative painting and wood inlays. His preferred wood was mahogany and the inlays would be in rosewood, satinwood, and tulipwood. Sheraton has a very square and solid look. The legs are slim and square and taper at the bottom. His favorite wood was also mahogany and his pieces have a lot of decorations, painted carved and inlayed

Chinese Lacquer Cabinet

Lacquer cabinets became available in the 1920's after WWI (they had to use all the left-over cotton from gun powder somewhere). Lacquer is an excellent finish, especially the moisture resistant type. It is also the most widely used furniture finish.

Chinese Lacquer Cabinet

Lacquer itself has a long history in the far east, dating back over 2,000 years in China. The Chinese are experts at applying several thin layers to achieve the look they want.

Important Reminder:
Lacquer is dangerous to use. The solvents you need to use it are highly flammable, toxic, and air polluting. Use a ventilator mask when applying the finish, and be sure to have adequate air ventilation in the space you are spraying in.