A Guide to Vintage Cabinet Styles: How to Make Your Custom Cabinets Look Like Period Pieces

Posted on: 9 September 2015

Vintage cabinets are very coveted, but incredibly hard to find. There are many who yearn for the look of a vintage cabinet, but don't have the finances to buy one. Luckily, by identifying the stylistic elements of cabinets from a certain period, you can make your new custom cabinet, from a place like Kurt Sander Ltd, look vintage.

If you want a vintage-looking cabinet, you have to consider the furniture trends over the years.

Jacobean cabinets were medieval-looking, rigid, with straight lines and a study construction and a  dark finish. The detail is all in the carvings. This cabinet's pulls were either brass knobs or knobs shaped like a teardrop attached to a circular panel. The feet were either blocks or knobs, and the cabinet body was primarily made from oak and black walnut.

Colonial cabinets were sturdy, sensible, and very utilitarian. Cabinet pulls were either bat-wing shaped, knobs, or simple wooden slabs. The feet were either blocks or brackets which were rounded or drake-shaped. Their design was made mostly of straight shapes with the occasional subtle curvature, and the cabinet body was mostly made from ash, black walnut, elm, fruitwood, hickory, mahogany, or maple. Similar to Colonial cabinets are Early American ones, though the latter are plainer.

Queen Anne cabinets are similar to William and Mary style cabinets, but more refined. They are moderate in size and graceful-looking, with cabriole or drake legs, bat wing shaped drawer pulls, curved lines and plentiful ornamentation. The body is mostly made from ash, black walnut, cherry, elm, fruitwood, hickory, mahogany, or maple wood. Chippendale cabinets are similar to Queen Anne's, but are more complex, with sweeping lines and flaring details and pediment scroll tops at the edges.

Federal cabinets are similar to Hepplewhite and Sheraton cabinets, with graceful straight lines, a light design with tapered legs featuring plenty of inlay and contrasting veneers. The pulls can be knobs, loop handles, rectangular or oval plates, and the feet are mostly straight, without ornaments. The body is generally made from black walnut, cherry, fruitwood, maple, rosewood or satinwood veneer.

Victorian cabinets have Gothic influences and have a heavy design rich in ornamentations and carvings. They are elaborately detailed and have a somber appearance, with pulls varying from ornate carved wood to glass knobs, carved knobs and rosettes. They often have a gold leaf finish, standing on whorl or ball and claw feet. The body is made mostly from ash, butternut, black walnut, maple or rosewood veneer.

Art Nouveau cabinets have a naturalistic style with intricate patterns and sweeping, curving lines, featuring plenty of curves and flares. The pulls are exclusively plates with bail handles, and they stand on simple legs. The decorations are floral, with swooping foliage and intricate flowers; you can also see animal motifs. They are mostly made of beech, black walnut, mahogany, and oak.

There are many other styles – these are just a few popular ones. Help your custom cabinet makers with visual aids, and remember: if you can't find the real thing, a well made copy will do just as well!