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Curio vs. China Cabinets: What’s the Difference?

by Paige Pesko

Blue and white china in a cabinet

Do you have an assembly of crystal and blue figurines collecting dust around your TV or on your bookshelf? Or maybe you have a special set of plates that have been sitting in a box for years. If you’ve been trying to find a better way to display these items, you might be wondering, what’s the difference between curio vs. china cabinets?

Similar in many ways—including mirrored backs, sturdy shelves, and clear glass windows—these cabinets have several aspects that make them vastly different from one another. Know the differences before you go shopping.

What Are China Cabinets?

Generally, china cabinets are made from sturdy wood and designed to hold heavier show pieces such as fine china, crystal, and other special dinnerware. The sides are typically closed, while the front has glass panels to reveal what is inside. This design focuses the viewer’s attention on the front of the glassware and calls attention to the intricate details typically found on the display items.

China cabinets often come in two separate pieces: the china cabinet hutch and the buffet cabinet or console cabinet. The hutch sits on top of the console, which provides extra storage for silverware, napkins, and other place settings. Typically, people place display easels and shelves inside china cabinets to highlight certain pieces and help them stand out. Some cabinets also have an interior lighting element to enhance the appearance of the items on display.

Why Choose a China Cabinet

You may prefer a china cabinet to a curio cabinet if you want to display expensive dinnerware that you will only use on special occasions. If you received an heirloom collection from your grandparents or purchased a set while abroad on your honeymoon, a china cabinet is the perfect place to keep your treasures. Common items kept in a china cabinet include:

  • Crystal
  • Delft
  • Tea sets
  • Champagne and wine glasses
  • Silver

What Are Curio Cabinets?

Giving a full 360-degree view of the interior, curio cabinets are made with glass panels attached to wood or metal frames. You will have a clear view of your collections when you place them in a curio cabinet. Curio cabinets have multiple shelves that allow you to display a myriad of items. Standard curios sit on the floor like bookshelves and come in models that fit in corners. You can also choose wall-mounted curio cabinets that won’t take up any floor space.

Why Choose a Curio Cabinet

You can display anything in a curio cabinet. If you have precious collectibles that you don’t want people to touch or that shouldn’t collect dust, put them in a curio cabinet. The best items to keep in a curio cabinet are:

  • Porcelain dolls
  • Crystal figurines
  • Jewelry
  • Travel mementos
  • Vintage books
  • Small antiques

It’s not always necessary to know the difference between curio vs. china cabinets. The pieces are interchangeable depending on the look you want in your home. Some crystal and fine china pieces will look good in a curio cabinet, and you can get creative with china cabinet designs by placing quilts, plants, and seasonal items inside. The Great American Home Store sells dining and living room furniture in Memphis, TN, that you can mix and match to fit any home décor.