Imagine a utilitarian piece of furniture with a specific purpose, to store preserves, and you have the basic premise for the jelly jar cabinet. It's like a CD cabinet for a time when kitchens had few if any built-ins.
History of Jelly Jar Cabinets
Usually made of wood and sporting multiple, shallow shelves to hold jarred goods, jelly jar cabinets were a convenient storage solution for the 19th century cook. They were fashioned into simple as well as more finished looking designs, and completed units could range from a few open shelves on legs to large door-fronted cabinets with punched tin inserts.Over the course of a couple of hundred years, from the 1800s at least, these useful room additions were most at home in the kitchen, but were also sometimes set up in the dining area, particularly if space was a problem. Jelly cabinets changed over the years to do double-duty as tea and spice cabinets, and sometimes included on-board drawers. The shelves in some instances became deeper and the distance between shelves a bit wider until they could comfortably store a variety of dry and preserved goods, like the occasional pie, muffins, teas and spices as well as preserves.
Today, antique jelly jar cabinets can sell for $6,000 or more, depending on their age, size and condition. As pieces of history, they're a quaint reminder of the days when households canned and stored bulk, seasonal foods for the long winter. From a design perspective, these cabinets are nicely sized to fit the scale of many modern kitchens and family rooms. They have clean lines and minimal ornamentation, which makes them ideal for both traditional and more contemporary décor.
Finding Jelly Cabinets
Today there are a plethora of jelly cabinets to choose from, including antique versions, vintage styles, or brand-new reproductions.
Antique stores are the best place to look for original jelly cabinets. If you are searching for an authentic antique be sure to carefully look over the construction details, such as the drawers, the door hinges and make certain that the shelves are still sturdy. You can also often find quality units at consignment shops and yard sales, or online via auction sites like eBay.
A number of retailers offer reproduction cabinets that will give you a hint of old-world style while maintaining a modern appeal. From very basic units in pine with wooden pulls to hardwoods with more ornate detailing, you'll be able to find a cabinet to fit your design goals and pocketbook:
- SawDustCityLLC.com carries an impressive array of colors and finishes for a really beautiful and basic jelly cabinet.
- KitchenSource.com has a variety of jelly cabinets from Catskills Hardwood, which are made from domestic Northeastern hardwood and hardwood veneer. They come with a variety of door styles, including punched copper, punched tin, as well as flat panel wood.
- AdirondackFurniture.com is a charming website with a beautiful collection of antique-looking jelly cabinets that will add charm to any interior.
- SugarPlumOak.com offers a few Amish-style jelly cabinets that are incredibly simple one- and two-door cupboards crafted from solid oak, walnut, maple, hickory, quartersawn oak, or cherry woods. You can choose from a variety of sizes and shapes.
Build Your Own Jelly Cabinet
If you'd like to try to make your own simple jelly jar cabinet, you don't need to be a woodworking whiz. This can be a beginner project you can complete in a weekend. These free or inexpensive plans will get you started:
If building your own jelly cabinet from scratch seems a little ambitious, there are also knocked down units available that just need a little assembly. Most require only basic tools, and the hardware is included.
Modern Uses for Jelly Jar Cabinets
Because they have a slender profile and can fit easily in a small space, like an entry or bathroom, jelly cabinets, once bursting with a diligent cook's fall harvest, are now being used to store linens, CDs, toiletries and other miscellaneous odds and ends. They're a natural to provide a little extra storage in a breakfast room, bathroom or hall, and look charming when filled with your assorted soaps, scented candles and embroidered towels. Whether you do your own canning or not, keeping one of these cabinets in your house or apartment is sure to inspire memories of days-gone-by and give your special collection a secure and attractive home.