Guide | Display & China Cabinets

How to Choose a Display Cabinet

For those who love to show off their collections of coveted collectibles, display cabinets provide the perfect venue. These showy pieces provide a centerpiece for the living room, dining room, bedroom, entry, or hallway. Available in a variety of designs to hold a myriad of items, you’ll find choosing just one or two will be difficult.

To help you trim down the choices to suit your needs and style, we answer your most pressing questions about display cabinets.

What is the difference between a display cabinet and a curio cabinet?

Unlike a china cabinet used to display china and glassware, a display cabinet is made specifically to hold any item you want to show. Think collections of figurines to antique books to sports memorabilia. These showcase cabinets come in a range of materials and styles to suit any décor.

Curio cabinets were the first type of cabinets created in the 16th century for displaying curiosities discovered by adventurers and scientists. Today, the terms “display cabinet” and “curio cabinet” are often used interchangeably. Both curios and display cabinets are used in contemporary times to display collections of different items.

What are the styles of display cabinets?

As with most furniture, display cabinet style spans the spectrum and accommodates most decors. You’ll find display pieces in the following styles including:

Modern — these mid-century modern pieces boast straight lines and warm wood finishes.

Brown Solid Manufactured Wood Glass Standard Modern Curio Cabinet
Beige Rubberwood Solid Wood Glass Modern Standard Display Stand
White Solid Manufactured Wood Standard Modern Tower China Cabinet
Dark Brown Glass Manufactured Wood Modern Curio Cabinet
Black Onyx Pine Solid Wood Glass Modern China Cabinet

Contemporary — this style display cabinets feature sleek finishes in lacquer, wood, or metal and have straight or curvy lines.

Bright White Manufactured Wood Contemporary Corner Display Stand
Glass Solid Manufactured Wood Contemporary Corner Curio Cabinet
Dark Brown Metal Glass Solid Manufactured Wood Contemporary China Cabinet
Black Gloss Manufactured Wood Contemporary China Cabinet

Rustic & Country — most often made of rough-hewn or reclaimed wood with natural or painted finish.

Glass Solid Manufactured Wood Rustic & Country Curio Cabinet
Antique White Glass Manufactured Wood Rustic & Country Display Stand
Gray Rubberwood Gum Solid Manufactured Wood Glass Rustic & Country China Cabinet
Rubbed Linen White Solid Wood Rustic & Country Console Display Stand

Traditional — made of fine finished and tight-grained woods like mahogany and cherry with formal details and molding.

Gray Poplar Solid Wood Glass Traditional Lighted Display Stand
Warm Cherry Glass Solid Manufactured Wood Traditional China Cabinet
Cherry Oak Solid Manufactured Wood Traditional Lighted China Cabinet
Gray Wash Solid Manufactured Wood Traditional Display Stand
Gray Manufactured Wood Glass Traditional Lighted China Cabinet

Italian/French — ornate carving and molding with decorative shapes and etched or beveled glass.

Antique White Solid Manufactured Wood French Country Dining Hutch
Gray Solid Manufactured Wood French Country Display Stand
Gray Beige Metal Glass Solid Manufactured Wood French Country Lighted China Cabinet
Cream Birch Poplar Solid Wood Glass Display Stand
Beige Poplar Solid Wood Glass Lighted Display Stand

Industrial — metal cabinets in raw or smooth finishes with or without glass.

White Black Metal Industrial Display Stand
Gray Solid Manufactured Wood Industrial Curio Cabinet
Cobolt Bisque Wood Industrial Lighted Display Stand
Black Glass Solid Manufactured Wood Particle Board Curio Cabinet
Black Solid Wood Glass Standard Display Stand
Solid Manufactured Dark Wood Glass Lighted Display Stand

How do I choose a wood finish for my display cabinet?

The wood finish you choose for your display cabinet depends on the décor style you want to achieve. We suggest following the basic rule of thumb with your wood and style pairings. Rough and reclaimed woods lend themselves toward a rustic or country aesthetic while dark woods with tight grains lend themselves to formal or traditional decors.

Do I need a glass front on my display cabinet?

While some display cabinets have open shelves, the majority boast a glass front. Others have glass sides so that collections can be viewed from every angle. Glass doors and sides are best for protecting treasured items or delicate pieces against dust and accidental damage. On the other hand, open shelf display cabinets lean towards a country or rustic style and display wood toys, books, vintage collectibles, and non-delicate items nicely.

What types of glass are best?

Different types of glass for you display cabinet are available—non-tempered glass, tempered glass, bevel-edge glass, or frosted-edge glass. Here are the guidelines for different glass types:

  • Non-tempered glass — best for use in a home without pets or children. And if your collections are not expensive, one-of-a-kind, or irreplaceable.

  • Tempered glass — for homes with kids and pets this type of glass will keep everyone safe if an accident does occur. Additionally, this type of glass will protect your priceless treasures inside if the glass does break.

  • Bevel-edge glass — styled towards more formal or traditional pieces, beveling adds a decorative element. (Available in tempered and non-tempered glass).

  • Frost-edge glass — as with beveling, a subtle line of frosted glass around a cabinet outer edges adds a touch of decoration. (Also available in tempered and non-tempered glass).

Glass shelves vs. wood shelves—which is better?

When it comes to displaying your collectibles, glass shelves allow light to flow through the display case and show off your collections in the best possible way. Wood shelves tend to be best for more rustic or casual collections in a wood display cabinet.

What lighting options can I choose for my cabinet?

Many display units come with built-in spotlights.

  • For those with glass shelving a spotlight will often be installed under the top pointing downwards (downlighting) and on the cabinet’s bottom pointing up (uplighting).

  • The wood shelf cabinets can be found with spotlights installed from the top and under each shelf to highlight the items below.

  • For cabinets that come without lighting, you can add LED strip lights in the same places as pre-installed ones or attach to outline the cabinet back to illuminate the entire cabinet.

  • Small battery-operated lights can also be attached under wood shelves.

What height and width do I need for my display cabinet?

The height of your display cabinet should be equal to the extent of your collections you wish to display. A tall, slender cabinet with adjustable shelves offers an excellent way to show off taller figurines and items. While a low-profile cabinet can display sports memorabilia and shorter pieces. Additionally, measure the space you will put the display cabinet to determine the exact height and width to look for when shopping.

Best Tips & Ideas for Your Display Cabinet

To choose the best possible display case for your room and style, we’ve curated a collection of best tips to help:

  • Determine your décor style before looking for display cabinets.
  • Be sure to measure your space before shopping for a display case.
  • Glass-front cabinets protect priceless collections or delicate curios.
  • Cabinets with glass doors allow you to see and access your treasures easily.
  • Up-lighting installed in the bottom of the cabinet, along with glass shelves, highlights your collection beautifully.
  • Glass shelves make viewing your collection from shelf to rack easy.
  • Wood shelves work nicely for rustic or casual collectibles.
  • Dark wood with a fine grain lends itself to formal and traditional style.
  • Reclaimed and rough-hewn wood display cases carry a rustic, country, or casual style.
  • Metal displays tend to be industrial in style.
  • Adjustable shelves offer a way to show off collectibles in various heights.
  • Display cases are also known as curio cabinets.

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