Before the 1920s, it was rare and practically unheard of to find a kitchen within a home that offered built-in cabinets and countertops as we have today. Instead, most kitchens were outfitted with a sink, some open shelves and a table or two.
This did not leave much room for storing spices and baking staples, nor did it allow for much of a workspace for the cook to read their creations. More houses were built in the United States between 1890 and 1930 than all the countries in prior years combined.
This created a need for better options in the kitchen. Around 1890, someone living in the Hoosier state decided that a standalone kitchen cabinet with ample storage and an expandable workspace might solve this issue. They were an instant hit, and their popularity spread like wildfire.
One of the earliest known manufacturers was the Hoosier Manufacturing Company in Indiana. Their design was nationally advertised a “step saver” for any home kitchen, which led to the generic name of the “Hoosier cabinet” applying to any model or style of furniture that was similar.
Such is much like the term “Kleenex” in today’s society. Hoosier Manufacturing Company sold so many cabinets by 1920 that it is safe to say that nearly 10% of all American homes owned one of their committees. However, there were quite a few other companies that sold similar models; most of them were based in Indiana as well.
Cabinets for Home Kitchen
In the 1920s, some of these manufacturers started making built-in cabinets for home kitchens. With this came the birth of the modern kitchen with offices with doors above, more cabinets with drawers below, and a large counter with ample workspace in the center.
As these newer kitchen amenities took off and gained even more popularity, the Hoosier cabinet faded as a necessity. Later, with the onset of the Great Depression, many companies like Hoosier Manufacturing struggled and eventually died out. By 1950, most of these companies were gone for good and, with their extinction, the once-popular Hoosier cabinet became an antique.
Hoosier cabinets are still widely known today, but not as easily found. However, they can be a beautiful and functional addition to just about any kitchen. While some aspects of them may not be quite as desirable in this modern age, they still provide an exquisite way to organize and house kitchen utensils, spices, and other staples.
Many of them are retrofitted to house stand mixers and small kitchen appliances while others are turned into coffee bars and the like. Experts say the best places to find Hoosier cabinets are in antique shops or at garage sales. However, these are far and few between.
One alternative option is to create your own. With a little time and effort, you can make this timeless piece of work for you and your kitchen needs. There are plenty of different ideas online about building these with whatever accessories you can think of. You may find that you don’t like just one particular plan, but a few that would want to incorporate different aspects from.
What Makes A Cabinet A Hoosier Cabinet?
A Hoosier cabinet is considered to be an improved version of a baker’s cabinet. The baker’s ministry was a standalone table with several bins underneath for storage and a shallow upper section or shelves on top of the table for storage of bowls, pans, and utensils.
The Hoosier cabinet is a larger piece of furniture designed to be used in much the same way except that there are more options available to the cook. It usually included a pull-out workspace and shelf, a bottom portion comprising drawers and cabinet space, a top portion that was shallower than the base that housed several smaller cabinets with doors.
These were designed to save the cook space and time. One of the main reasons it became so popular was that it featured many moving parts and accessories. They were supplied with different racks and hardware to house, store, and organize the staples of any kitchen. Most Hoosier cabinets included a combination flour bin and sifter.
This was mainly a small hopper that never needed to be removed from the cabinet. Some models also came with a similar bin for sugar. Many of these cabinets came with coffee and tea canisters, a saltbox, a cracker jar, and several spice jars. Some manufacturers included colored glassware, ironing boards, and ant-proof casters for the bottom.
There are many models in existence ranging in size, color, and added amenities. However, the most popular format was about 48 inches wide, 22 inches deep, and about 72 inches tall. They usually offered about 40 inches of counter space. This was a crucial part of their success and popularity, as many kitchens during that time were not yet equipped with such storage or workspace.
What Tools Will I Need?
If you are going to build your Hoosier cabinet, the easiest and most efficient way to do so is to start with stock cabinets. These can be found in any home improvement store. You can also use old cabinets that are no longer being used for an even cheaper route.
This way, you are not building a cabinet from scratch, even though that is an option if you would like to. You will then need plans that you either found online or thought up yourself on everything you want to include. Today we will just be discussing how to make the bare bones of your piece because there are so many options you could go with.
You will also need plywood for connecting the base to the top cabinets and for making the side panels if you want your cabinets to have those. Also, depending on what features and amenities you want to include in your cabinets, some other boards and moldings for shelves and decorative parts may be needed. You may also need hardware such as cabinet pulls or handles, slides for any drawers you create or a sliding workspace, flour sifters, or dispensers and jars for certain spices and kitchen staples.
For tools, you will need a drill, a circular saw, miter saw, jigsaw, router, and straightedge. You may also want to invest in or rent a pneumatic nailer to help make the process go smoother and faster.
When it comes to accessories for this DIY project, the sky is the limit. You can add bins, jars, shelves, hoppers, swing up shelves and workspaces, cork panels, tilt-out bins, spice organizers and so much more.
Tips & Instructions
Building the bones of your Hoosier cabinet is relatively simple. If you are using more than one base cabinet, you will need to connect them. This requires you to take off the doors and any drawers that are included. Place them together and secure with screws.
Next, you will measure and cut your plywood to affix to the back and sides of your base cabinet. The side panels should be shaped like an L because your top cabinets will most likely be shallower than the bottom ones.
Be sure to measure correctly so that the back and sides together will house your upper cabinet with a perfect fit. This will also make sure that there is room for the addition of a pull-out workspace into the top of your base, should you want one.
Once these are cut, you can attach them to the back and sides of your base cabinet with screws. Then, measure and cut your top piece and attach it to the sides and back using wood glue and finishing nails. Now you can add your top cabinets. Make sure that the top and sides are flush with your cabinets before securing them with screws driven into the back and finishing nails on the sides.
The Finishing Touches
Once you have finished the above steps, the main pieces of your cabinet are complete. It is now time to accessorize. Depending on what you have chosen, you can now add extra shelves, a top onto the base cabinet to house your slide-out workspace and install particular hardware pieces.
To cover the edges of your plywood and to give the piece a more professional and finished look, add molding, a toe kick, and strips of whichever wood you are using. You may also want to add trim, bottom valance or crown molding.
The last step includes the finishing touches. After you have added all the amenities and accessories you want, you can sand it down and make sure all areas are smooth and to your liking. You may need to fill in the nail or screw holes or sand the edges to make them less sharp. Then you can add paint or varnish. While this will personalize your piece and make it one of a kind, it will also protect it for years to come.
A Hoosier cabinet is a beautiful way to include a timeless classic in your home kitchen. It is still an efficient and functional piece, even considering the newest and most modern amenities in our society. However, finding one already made and with items, you would use may be hard to accomplish.
Therefore, don’t think that building one for yourself is out of the question. Detailed plans and instructions are readily available for you to learn how to construct this fantastic piece of history on your own or with the help of some friends or experts. There are so many additions that can be implemented to make your Hoosier cabinet a unique and custom piece that all of your friends and family will want.