The Hoosier Cabinet is a generic term used to describe a free standing kitchen, or pantry, cabinet with multiple storage cabinets and an enamel counter workspace at hip level that is able to be pulled out to enlarge your workspace. Fancy versions could have decorative window panes, flour sifters, sugar and flour storage, spice racks, rolling pin holders, recipe storage and handy baking tips on the insides of the doors.
When/IF you can find them at antique stores, or sometimes a barn or estate sale, their price runs anywhere from insane to ludicrous. Their condition runs the gambit between a pile of wood scraps, a cabinet that is 6 inches larger in every direction due to a million coats of paint, and near pristine (or even newly made copies, distressed and being sold as antiques).
I have ALWAYS wanted one. As far back as I can remember, I have wanted one. I must have had a great, great aunt that had one in her kitchen, and it is hidden deep in some corner of my good memories. I think they are wonderful. There is just something so incredibly fascinating about them. They represent creativity, thrift, hard work, craftsmanship, and home and family. The catch was, as they are antiques, there is no way one would ever survive being moved frequently. Compounding the issue was never finding one that was in decent enough condition that had a price tag that didn't send my eyes rolling.
Until this April.
I have been visiting Liberty House Antiques about every one to two weeks for the past year. Not only is it an amazing Victorian era home used as a bed and breakfast, but it is also a fabulous antique store. Pat, the proprietor, has the antiques in the appropriate rooms of the house (kitchen items in the summer kitchen, clothes in the closets, etc). There are also amazing nooks and crannies that hold little treasures if you have the time to look. She is constantly bringing in new items, and is always willing to keep an eye out for things you collect while she is on the road hunting. Anyway, one Spring day in April, I noticed a set of fiesta teacups on a shelf. Then it dawned on me that the shelf was in a cabinet, A HOOSIER CABINET.
The cabinet was always open so you could things displayed on the shelves for sale, and the counter was covered in items as well. I had never noticed it before for what it was! It was in really decent condition, so I didn't even BOTHER looking at the price tag. There was no way this thing was less than $500. So I just kept going through the shop, shoving the image of the cabinet to the back of my dust bunny filled brain.
Fast forward to the end of July. I was visiting the shop again and decided, just for giggles, to check the price of the cabinet. I moved items around looking for the tag until I found it. $125! I quickly started going over the whole piece, looking for missing pieces, broken wood, missing legs, broken hinges, anything that I couldn't fix myself or easily replace. There was nothing that was so major that I couldn't handle. The hardware wasn't original, and judging by its design was from sometime in the 60s, The interior, at some point, had been sloppily painted a dark Hershey bar brown, but the wood, for its age, was in great condition, and the counter was almost pristine - no chips in the enamel, the roll top door (the tambour) on the utility cabinet needed repaired, but that would be easy. I couldn't get that cabinet paid for and loaded into my truck fast enough!
(I forgot to take a photo of it IN the shop. Silly, over excited me!)
Once I got it home ( I had to take it apart into its three pieces to get it in the truck), I looked up reproduction hinges online and quickly tossed that idea out the window and went local. All this cabinet was a cleaning, light sanding, staining/sealing, and that Hershey brown had to go.
I selected Rustoleum high gloss Wild Flower Blue for the inside, which is a shade lighter than my kitchen walls. This illuminated the interior by leaps and bounds.
The stain is Olympic stain and sealer in one, made for decks, and I chose semi-transparent Canyon Sunset. A warm deep brown. The more layers that went on, the more rich the stain became.
The inside of the utility cubby, which I would leave open for display would be painted Flat Navy Blue.
The flour dispenser/sifter, I chose Rustoleum High Gloss Candy Apple Red!
Several trips to area hardware stores finally revealed the hardware that I had in mind, library cup handles in flat black.
Then, the work began. The first task was to tackle the cleaning. Almost a century of grime had to go. OF COURSE I decided to start this project on the hottest week of the summer! I vacuumed out glitter, crumbs, and dead bugs. The cabinet then had a good scrubbing with Murphy's Oil Soap, and then had a good rinse down. Even just washing the cabinet, seemed to bring the cabinet to life. All the hardware was removed, as were the doors and drawers. I allowed it all to dry for two days before continuing.
It was during this cleaning that I found the original shipping labels and price tag, which was written in oil/grease pencil on the backs of the pieces, Sears and Roebucks, Nappanee Cabinet, $25.95!
With the cabinet now dry, I lightly sanded all the surfaces and wiped them down with a tack cloth to remove the dust. I taped off all the area where the painted and stained surfaces met, and then proceeded to paint the interior. I also painted all the hinges flat black and the flour sifter.
Two coats of paint later, and a wicked spray paint, heat exhaustion sinus headache later, The painting was done. I decided, due to the high humidity, to allow the paint to fully set up for two days before tackling the staining.
The staining really went quickly. I managed 4 coats in a day. With each layer of stain, the color became more and more luminous. I couldn't wait for it to dry so I could put it back together and get it into the kitchen and start filling it with canned goods.
I allowed the stain to set for a full 24 hours before carrying it, piece by piece, into the kitchen to reassemble there, in the cooling, arctic breezes of the Air Conditioning. It took me two hours to put her back together and get it set up. I lost track of the work hours. The supplies; paint, stain, and hardware, came to $100. I still got a deal!
The lower cabinet still has the wire shelf in it, but I made a 7/8th" thick, stained to match, wood shelf, to store quart jars of tomatoes. The wire shelf just isn't strong enough to take the weight. The drawers hold canning supplies. The bottom drawer is a tin lined bread drawer with a sliding lid and holds all my rings. The middle drawer is divided and holds my citric acid, fruit fresh, tongs, lid lifter, and the boxes of flat lids fits perfectly in each cubby. The top drawer holds odd cooking utensils. The rest is self explanatory.
I like to think she's happy again to be loved and useful and clean and new again.