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What Is A Curio Cabinet?

A curio cabinet is a specialist display cabinet. They’re made from wood and glass, although some contemporary options use other materials. Curio cabinets are used to store & show off important collectables, antiques, or any special heirlooms.

So, is curio cabinet just a different name for a display cabinet or china cabinet?

Not quite.

There are a few subtle differences between regular display cabinets, china cabinets, and curio cabinets.

Display cabinets can be used to store just about anything around the home. For example, a cute Christmas decoration or something your kids made at school.

Also a display cabinet will generally hold a number of different items without much relation to each other. Curio cabinets typically hold a collection of related items like rare toys, artifacts, or collectibles like Precious Moments.

Display cabinets are commonly used in jewelry stores and tend to be horizontal as opposed to the vertical style of most curios.

Also note that curio cabinets typically display items of monetary importance or high sentimental value. Think antique figurines or perhaps some beautiful glassware.

High-end curios are specifically built to prevent air, dust, and other pests from damaging these priceless items.

Unlike china cabinets, curio cabinets usually have glass on the three visible sides of the cabinet. This is because they’re designed to store a wider variety of objects viewed from multiple angles, rather than just the front like with china plates for example.

Curio Cabinet Styles

Curio cabinets are designed with multiple shelves usually made from glass, although some may have wooden shelving. They typically have a mirror in the back which gives a 360-degree view of the display objects and creates an illusion of more space in the room.

Lighting is also a major factor in curios. Depending on the style of the curio cabinet there are different types of lights from overhead styles to multi-shelf lights.

The placement of these lights will differ based on each curio’s design. Lighting styles depend on the type of collection on display, as well as the type of cabinet. For example a classic curio cabinet displaying antique figurines on glass shelving would benefit from small twinkle lights installed just under the top of the cabinet.

black curio cabinet with glass shelves
via @ayyydriann

The basic idea of a curio cabinet is pretty specific. However they do come in many different shapes and sizes. Generally there are three main types: corner curios, wall-mounted curios, and classic curios.

A classic curio is specifically designed for those with large collections. It’s a free standing piece of furniture and can be used to house some of your heavier collectable items. Standard curio cabinets usually take their place in the living room or dining room.

Corner curios are ideal for those with smaller rooms without much space. People will generally have one type of collection per cabinet so these are excellent space savers. Corner curios are usually tall, thin pieces that have a triangular base so they can fit perfectly into the corner of the room.

This type of curio is popular for making good use of empty space in the home.

A wall mounted curio is, as you might expect, a cabinet that hangs on the wall. It’s usually smaller and more subtle, often used to display smaller antiques and treasures.

These are great for smaller rooms because no floor space is required. And because of their size they’ll be cheaper than other types of curio cabinets.

dark sideboard curio cabinet
via @magnolia_treasures

Nowadays curio cabinets have even more styles to pick from. Things like console curios and clock curios are popular options.

Described simply, console curios are literally a classic curio cut in half, making them perfect for entryways. Clock curios take the shape of a traditional grandfather clock with the main dial featured on the top and the curio shelving in the lower two-thirds of the cabinet. They are usually similar in size to corner curios.

In many homes the newer open concept curios are also quite popular. These don’t have any glass or doors so they can feel more “free”, but they don’t provide any protection either.

Either way the curio is a great piece to add into your home if you wanna show off valuable decorations without leaving them strewn about.

And have a look at our curio cabinet buying guide if you’re thinking of grabbing one for yourself.

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