The China Cabinet

“We picked this china pattern together over 50 years ago!” said Bertha to Irwin, her loving husband of some five decades.

“But Bert, what do we need those dishes for in our new home? We never use them except for holidays,” Irwin replied.

It’s a typical conversation we hear from seniors planning a move. What do you do with that china, Lladrós, Murano glass, or those figural ceramic vases? You chose that china pattern because you planned to use it – you couldn’t imagine not having it in your home when you needed it for guests and holidays and special occasions. But you didn’t use it nearly as much as you thought you would. Why not?

The American tradition of china and china cabinets really took hold in the late 1800s, as the industrial revolution brought prices down and more immigrants could afford these things in their homes. Often they would be among the nicest possessions a new couple had. In fact, throughout the 20th century, the combination of porcelain dinnerware and a fine cabinet to store it in became one of the most common combinations in every American home. After all, it was mandatory to bring out the china whenever guests were visiting, right?

Increasingly, however, young couples are favoring function over form. They realize that their parents’ or grandparents’ china was rarely used, and they’re asking themselves, “Why do I need that?”

Personally, I wish I had a small set from my grandparents to use with my own children. I don’t think I was ever allowed to eat on their china in the formal dining room. But formal dining rooms are more rare in today’s homes, and elegant dinners at home are less common, as well. Starter home sizes are smaller and have less room for a large, elaborate cabinet to store items that are seldom used. So it’s not surprising that it is becoming less common to see fine china on wedding registries. And, with all of these changes, the value of both china and the cabinets that hold them has gone down.

So if you can’t sell it for as much as you’d like, why not give a set to each of your children and grandchildren and tell them – use it!?! Keep a set and use it! When friends stop by, put some cookies, cake or sandwiches on it with your coffee or tea. Be proud of your china. Don’t hide it in that china cabinet!

And when it comes time to downsize – what furniture item will that china cabinet displace in your new home? Certainly some of that furniture from your family home will have to go. Decisions must be made. Maybe another piece would be of more use to you in your new space? There is still a market for these cabinets, so it is possible that your children or someone else might want it. That’s because they’ve recently become repurposed for other uses as part of a “grand millennial” design movement. Maybe someone in your family would like to repurpose yours?

It’s worth a conversation with family members. You might make one of them very happy – plus you’ll impress them with your knowledge of the latest design trends!