There is no more decorative piece of furni-ture than the china cabinet, whether it be of such elaborate design that we feel it must be found on the pages of the "Gentleman and Cabinetmaker's Director," by one "Thomas Chippendale, Cabinetmaker and Upholsterer in St. Martin's Lane, London," or the rough-hewn and carven oak cupboard of our forefathers, which shows off pewter, brassware, or silver tankards to such perfection.
There is no need to dwell on the utility of the cabinet, as that is self-evident. The owners of fine specimens need have no anxiety over their treasures when they are safely stored on the glass-guarded shelves. Time is a sufficiently deadly destroyer of works of art and costly nick-knacks, without the assistance of reckless collectors, who put a premium on breakage by displaying choice specimens without guarding them.
We owe it to posterity to keep fine works of art spotless and unbroken, and are not justified in exposing them unduly for our own pleasure and gratification at the risk of damage or destruction, even though the treasures may be our very own.
The Cabinet as a Decorative Asset
But the value of the cabinet does not alone depend on its utility in securing precious objects from harm; it is a decorative asset of great importance in any room, and by its arrangement may give a note of distinction to the most commonplace apartment.
In a homely drawing-room, where a painted panel wall was in creamy white, a modern corner cupboard was white to correspond. The shelves of the cupboard were arranged with an old Wedgwood service of the cheap green vine-leaf pattern, and the same rich green showed in the modern hearth tiles. Such a simple decoration could not fail to be successful.
"Furnish your corners, and your room is furnished," is the saying of a master in house decoration, and we strongly advise intending purchasers to invest in corner cabinets.
If your bric-a-brac is not of the first quality, the panes may be small; but if you possess china, lace, silver, or glass of fine pattern, cabinets which have wide, square panes should be chosen, as these allow an unbroken view of your treasures.
Make Use of Your Cupboards
It is a pretty idea, one in accordance with old custom, to keep the best tea-service in the room in which it is to be used. For this purpose a little corner cupboard, with dainty rose-strewn cups and saucers, is a delightfully useful piece of furniture in the dining-room drawing-room, or snuggery; and the writer Knows of a certain summer or garden room where teacups with poppy garlands repose in a simple cabinet made by the village carpenter, and are all ready for the moment when the tea equipage and cakes are brought from the house.
Our grandmothers washed up with their own dainty fingers the cups of old Worcester and Nankin, replacing them in the china cabinet without risk of handling by servants; but this is a counsel of perfection seldom followed in these latter days.
The Charm of Variety
Though porcelain is the most useful exhibit in an ornamental cabinet, we would strongly advise those who enjoy beautiful effects to try how a wisp of lace looks amongst the plates and cups. A short length of Greek lace, or a lace scarf, greatly enhances the beauty of china, jade, or glass when placed on the shelf of a cabinet.
Some lace lovers possess lace cabinets; these are usually managed so that pieces not in use can be laidson the shelves, and drawers beneath hold more bulky or less decorative pieces. Such drawers should be lined with white satin, a piece being hemmed and left to serve as a dust-proof top cover.
A few fans make a subtle change in line when arranging a cabinet of lace, china, or bronzes; and even if one is not the fortunate possessor of valuable antiques, it is a good plan to keep a fan or two in a sitting-room cabinet in case one is wanted.
A corner cabinet cupboard eminently suitable for pewter, cottage Staffordshire china, and the coarser kinds of pottery
A beautiful Chippendale cabinet, which is the ideal receptacle for valuable old Worcester, Chelsea, and Leeds porcelain
When Buying a Cabinet
When buying a cabinet, it is a good plan to make a mental review of the class of bric-a-brac that one wishes to display, for the effect will be much better if we try to match our receptacle with due regard to the exhibits. For example, carved oak is excellent for pewter, cottage china, or Staffordshire, and such rather coarse curios; while glass and earthenware greybeards and such antiques require the solid background.
Cabinets of the First Empire type are good for the display of lace, fans, patch-boxes, and other decorative bibelots. The Chippendale cabinet, an original piece or a good reproduction, is useful for old Worcester, Chelsea, and Leeds porcelain; while Italian lace and glass look best in an Italian cabinet.
A cabinet of dado height is always a delightful object in a room. The shelves should, of course, be arranged with due regard to the downward view, which is the only one possible. Objects whose beauty is shown at the base are not suitable, nor are things which need to be examined from top to bottom.
Glass shelves, which are not very common, and, as a rule, have to be specially ordered, are excellent owing to their lightness, and also because they do not hide all that is in the under shelf. For dado cabinets, glass shelves should always be used.
As to the lining of cabinets, individual taste must decide. If an old specimen should already have polished wood shelves and back, the owner is lucky, for nothing shows up porcelain better. Some women line their cabinets with old brocade. Such a plan ekes out the poverty of the exhibits well, for the eye is attracted to the patterned background.
It has ceased to be considered in good taste to line a cabinet in plush, of whatever colour; but velvet of old rose or greenish blue is useful, especially for carved ivories and pale-tinted porcelain or old Waterford glass.
Lace cabinets should always be lined throughout, and the shelves covered with some plain-coloured stuff, so that the fabric may be held in position, if necessary, with small steel pins. Some women have the walls of the cabinet lined with cork to facilitate the sticking in of the pins, but this is not really necessary. One collector of small pieces devotes the two upper shelves to specimens, the next holds her cushion, with bobbins and pricked parchment complete, and on the lowest of all her lace histories, and catalogues of fine collections.
A mahogany bookcase that can be utilised as a china cupboard with good effect
Teach your children to collect intelligently, even if the specimens are penny toys. Date and label them, so that the child one day remembers the purchasing as an incident in a happy visit or a pleasant day. If peasant dolls are collected by your little daughter, give her a cheap little cabinet for them to be placed in, to keep them clean and in order, and show her how to label each with the name of the place from which the doll came. If tiny pieces for dolls' furniture can be obtained from the same place, the collection expands intelligently. For example, a Japanese doll is a pretty object in itself, but she becomes much more interesting if she is sitting by her little tea-table, squatting on a mat, with the tea equipage before her, and fine matting spread on the shelf beneath. A little blue china vase filled with blossom will be in keeping with the picture, and if a tiny five-fold screen can be put in the background, so much the better.
No self-respecting stamp collector affixes his treasures in the wrong places, and the method and classification necessary for successful stamp collecting will teach your boys how to arrange their possessions and how the value of specimens is increased when properly displayed. The consultation about a doubtful stamp, the looking up to identify an unknown name or country, are highly beneficial, and the learning of history and geography may be assisted materially by this excellent hobby.
Get your boys to classify their moths and butterflies with care, and not to cease inquiring till they are sure of the species; or if birds' eggs or flint arrow-heads are their quarry, buy them a box or cabinet, and show that you expect them to know all about what they are arranging.