The Perfect Cabinet
By Karen Parr-Moody

Among my recent design heartaches, as baleful as any country song, is the inability to find the perfect china cabinet upon which my husband and I can agree. Willie Nelson could write an entire album about our disagreements over "shabby chic" alone. And I've completely given up on a stark white Hollywood Regency cabinet made of faux bamboo. That is a vaporous dream, like some big city love affair from "Sex in the City." Yes, my husband is on terra firma when it comes to "serious" purchases; the heavier the piece, the heavier his weigh-in. So my Grandma Lucille's 12-place setting china set molders in the kitchen cupboards.

My own stymied desire is only assuaged by the knowledge that you, lucky shopper, can be assured that  a dizzying array of cabinets awaits you at GasLamp. And let's just hope your significant other is a rubber stamper when it comes to décor. So let's explore the desire created by such objects.

A Hoosier cabinet, pictured at right, is a charming kitchen addition ($380; Booth B-2010). No, it doesn't have old-money patina. In fact, it reminds me of my own folksy Grandma Grace, her wide Germanic hands turning out dumpling dough on a floured surface. And in fact, this particular item still retains the combination flour-bin/sifter, a tin hopper that was once used without having to remove it from the cabinet. Not that you would necessarily still use it, but still; it's there for absolute authenticity.

Hoosier cabinets were widely used during the early 20th century; it was named after the Hoosier Manufacturing Co., although such cupboards were made by other companies. Houses of that time period were not equipped with built-in cabinetry, and the lack of storage and work space in the kitchen was a real problem. The Hoosier cabinet was the solution.

In the base section of this particular Hoosier cabinet, like most of them, there is a slide-out shelf as a workspace, along with a large compartment and several drawers to one side. Some such cabinets sit on casters; this one does not. The top portion is shallower than the bottom and has several compartments with doors, including a tambour door for a breadbox area.

Another precursor to modern kitchen cabinetry was the pie safe, as seen in the photo at left ($695; Booth B-200).  Now, this little piece of farmhouse scrumptiousness pre-dates my Grandma Grace by at least a generation. I'm thinking Hilda Hinkle, her mother, straight off the boat from Germany, would have had a pie safe to guard pies from flies and mice in her quaint Alabama kitchen. Because that was the exact purpose of such a household item: The pie safe kept varmints away from pies, but it still provided ventilation to prevent mold. The ventilation was usually in the form of pierced-tin doors or, sometimes, chicken wire.

Pie safes were used not only for pies but also for jellies and jams, breads, and other baked goods. These cupboards date to the mid-1800s and are of Germanic influence. They were first made by Pennsylvania craftsmen, then migrated into the surrounding states and the Midwest.

Now, the moholi cabinet in the photo, right, is a cabinet of a different stripe -- and country -- altogether ($885; Booth B-222). It is a classic piece of Indian furniture, sturdy and solid, infused with exotic sensibility. Sinuous vines and flowers are subtly painted in earth tones along the sides and front, adding character. And according to the principles of Vastu Shastra, similar to Feng Shui, such natural beauty ensures that the energy of one's house stays pure and positive. Translated, ‘Vastu’ means ‘the environment,’ and is about creating homes that are in harmony with nature. As a bonus, any room that needs some extra storage space will benefit from such a beautifully done piece.

These cabinets, so different and so beautiful, are just a hint of the wide variety that will appeal to GasLamp shoppers. Meanwhile, I will be the one loitering around, window shopping, buying whimsical pieces as window dressing, and hoping to some day find housing for that enormous amount of Grandma Lucille's china.

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