Friday, March 29, 2013

A New Life for An Old China Cabinet

My Mom loved collecting china, crystal and so do I.   In fact,  over the past two decades, I probably gave my Mom a gift of crystal or silver for almost every birthday and special occasion.  Of course, when you collect china and crystal you want to have a beautiful china cabinet in which to display it.  So when Mom decided in the 90s that she wanted to replace her last dining room set with a new one (pictured at right), I was thrilled to be in a financial position to go halfsies on it. That was a long time ago.

After Mom's health began to decline and it was clear that it was in both of our best interests to move and downsize, we agreed that a lot of that china and crystal had to go.  We had planned to move into a much smaller house or an apartment and most of the furniture would have to go too.   As I began making decisions about which items to let go and which to keep, I decided that anything that we were going to keep would have to be multifunctional.  We both really loved the dining room set but what do you do with a huge china closet when you're planning to dispose of most of your china?  The drawer space at the bottom of the unit was great for storing table cloths and other linens so I knew that it could also be used for clothing if need be.  However, what to do with the top display unit?  After thinking about this question for a long time i decided that I was going to try my hand at converting the top display unit into an indoor greenhouse.   It just made sense since both Mom and I also loved gardening and keeping house plants. 

As events would unfold, we never moved,  Mom would pass away and I never did get the chance to convert the china cabinet the way that I have envisioned.  And now that I will be relocating on my own, I definitely don't need a large formal dining room set.  So for the past few months I've been trying to sell the set.  While the dining table and chairs are still in very good condition, over the past year the china closet has been badly damaged and much of the interior glass and the glass in the doors has shattered.  So I've been offering to sell the table and chairs and just give the china cabinet and buffet/server to anyone willing to pick them up and with an interest in refurbishing them.  Almost no one was interested. Those who were interested in the entire set,  couldn't pick it up. And, I can not ship it.  I've had several people come to take a look at the set and tell me that either "no one is buying china cabinets anymore" or that the "set wasn't worth buying because the china cabinet was damaged".  Every time that I heard one of those latter responses my heart would break a little because they just couldn't see the potential in something for which I once had so many plans.

So today, in preparation for tomorrow's indoor yard sale,  I decided to demonstrate what I once had in mind for giving the china cabinet a new life as a place to start seedlings, over-winter patio plants and hold house plants. 

It was actually a fairly easy process.  First I removed the frames which held the glass panels in the doors of the display area.  This leaves the front of the display area open which would allow air to circulate.  Next, I completely removed the damaged middle horizontal glass shelf.  This slid out easily through the open area in the side doors.   Since the glass in the back wall of the china cabinet was damaged and could not easily be removed, I decided that it needed to be covered.  If I had more time, I would have either covered those panes with contact paper or a very light weight self adhesive tile.   However, since I'm only doing this as a demonstration, I covered the back glass with some leftover Christmas wrapping paper.  I intentionally chose the silver and gold pattern because of its reflective quality.  Also, if I had a little more time, I would run out to my local hardware store and replace the current light bulbs with plant grow lights,  line the bottom of the display unit with a lightweight self adhesive tile, and put in a  drip pan to catch water.  There you have it.  A china cabinet converted into an indoor greenhouse.

This is a traditional indoor plant display which can cost nearly a thousand dollars:

This is my refurbished china cabinet: 

If you are in the Philadelphia, PA / South Jersey area and would like to have this china cabinet, I am still giving it away for free with the purchase of my gardening starter kit.  You only have to be willing to pick it up and give it a little time and tender loving care

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