Published on July 13, 2020

Distressed cupboards, thrift store vases—there are many ways to bring rustic charm to your cooking space. But if you want the real deal, turn to antique kitchen cabinets. Put your secondhand shopping hobby to use and hunt down the perfect old-school fixture—it’s not as challenging as you might think. 

“Antiques give your kitchen a layered feel and a story,” says designer Geneva Vanderzeil. Going vintage doesn’t necessitate redoing your entire room with one-of-a-kind furniture. It can simply mean incorporating a couple pieces to break up a contemporary design. Here are some ways Vanderzeil strikes the old-new balance: 

  • Pick a statement item. “Consider swapping out a basic island for a vintage workbench or upcycling a hutch for shelving,” she recommends. 
  • Scour online shops. With IRL antiquing pretty much out of the question right now, it’s time to go digital; Vanderzeil swears by eBay, Chairish, Craigslist, and Facebook Marketplace. 
  • Choose search terms wisely. Go with a catchall, like mid-century or retro, to find the style you’re looking for while still casting a wide net. 

Ready to gift your kitchen some instant character? Take a page from these seven spaces.

The Stand-Alone Cubby

white rustic kitchen with antique wood cabinets and green cupboardsPin It
Photography and design by Taylor + Taylor

Lattice-front doors make this case the focal point—no small feat, given how stunning the whole Taylor + Taylor–designed room is. The shade of wood perfectly matches the rest of the natural materials, from the ceiling beams to the glass-front cupboard, making for a seamless blend of heirloom and modern. 

The Upper Cabinet Replacement

dark blue kitchen cabinets and antique upper cabinetPin It
Photography by Mikkel Vang

Keren Craig’s renovated farmhouse is full of unique touches, and this single unit is no exception. If you lack necessary storage real estate, take a page from Craig’s rule book and hang up your own wall-mounted piece. Play up its one-of-a-kind nature by using it to house all your favorite dinnerware—including the novelty coffee mugs you scored on Etsy. 

The Compartmentalized Storage

white kitchen with built in antique drawersPin It
Photography by Lina Ostling

If your main priority is organization (and lots of it), look no further than this cream-colored kitchen for inspiration. The built-in is outfitted with an old apothecary cabinet, which includes 12 drawers. A piece like this offers plenty of room for all your most-used cooking tools and your niche equipment—pastry cutters, we’re looking at you. 

The French Country Dream

rustic kitchen with wood beams and antique islandPin It
Photography by Micky Hoyle and VISI magazine

Brick floors, ceiling beams, and an assortment of copper pans: This Montagu, South Africa, home looks like a villa in Provence. Introducing a medley of reclaimed items like the workbench, island, and even dining room table plays a big role in creating that escapist vibe; mimic the idea with a mishmash assortment of your own. 

The Eclectic Grouping

teal kitchen with antique cabinets and red stovePin It
Photography by Skye Parrot

In Carly Jo Morgan’s Topanga Canyon, California, home, unexpected pairings—like salvaged cupboards with a fire truck–red stove—rule. Scattering pieces from different eras is the ideal solution for anyone who likes the principle of upcycled furniture but doesn’t want to feel too theme-y.

The Multifunctional Unit

yellow kitchen/dining room with dark wood antique cabinetPin It
Photography and design by Ben Pentreath

When working with a room that’s low on prep space, look for antique worktops that can double as decor. Ben Pentreath brought in a dark wood china cabinet that—when not being used as a display—we’d guess easily doubles as a stylish spot to assemble cheese boards and mix cocktails. 

The Fancy Entertaining Station

kitchen with antique cabinet and floral wallpaperPin It
Photography by Mariko Reed; styling by Rosy Fridman

In lieu of a bar cart, why not give your favorite glassware its own permanent display? Joanne and Luke Bartels’ vintage cabinet was a Craigslist score—now they use it to show off every martini glass and Moscow Mule mug in their collection. Track down one of your own to make its origin story a built-in conversation starter at your next dinner party. 

See more cabinet ideas:
For Every Kitchen Cabinet Style We Found the Perfect Countertop
High-Gloss Kitchen Cabinets May Be the Key to Brightening a Tiny Room
7 European Kitchen Cabinet Ideas to Turn Your Home Into a Perma-Vacation

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