Until my wife mentioned buying an old kitchen hutch and giving it a makeover, I thought a hutch was something you put a rabbit in. Seems I was wrong about this (amongst other things)…
A kitchen hutch consists of two stacked pieces: a cabinet or sideboard and a display case or hutch. Originally used to prepare game and store food from the 1600’s onward, they are now used to store everything needed to set a table – silverware, tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups, and serving dishes.
Let’s dive down into the subject of kitchen hutches in more detail, and discover more about their history, what you can use them for, how much they cost, and where you can buy them…
What Is the Difference Between a Cabinet and a Hutch?
The word cabinet has several meanings. A cabinet is a type of cupboard used to store things. Kitchens have cabinets that are attached to a wall or to the floor.
Cabinets can also be freestanding pieces of furniture with four legs, shelves, and drawers, like a filing cabinet. In the kitchen, a freestanding cabinet is a single piece of furniture with four legs, a long countertop for chopping, and plenty of storage. A freestanding kitchen cabinet stands on the ground and is only waist-high.
A kitchen hutch is tall – over five feet – and consists of two stacked pieces: a cabinet and a display case or hutch. The bottom piece is the cabinet (sometimes called a buffet or sideboard).
The cabinet is low and has drawers and cabinets with doors. The bottom cabinet of a kitchen hutch is ideal for storing serving dishes, crock pots, everyday and fine china, tableware, and table linens.
The top piece of a kitchen hutch is the display case. It is shallower than the cabinet it rests on. Display cases can also have drawers and doors but typically have open shelving. The open shelving is used to display dishes, vases, and plate collections.
What Do You Store in Your Kitchen Hutch? (What Can I Use One For?)
Today, most kitchen hutches are used to store everything you need to set a table – silverware, tablecloths, napkins, plates, cups, and serving dishes.
But, like kitchen hutches in the 1600s, you can use them for food storage and kitchen prep work too. Don’t have a built-in pantry? No problem! Use the storage inside the hutch and the open shelving with decorative containers of staples.
Add some cookbooks and a few bright-colored dishes to the open shelving. Make the hutch your coffee, tea, and hot cocoa nook. You’ll have plenty of space for a hob, teapot, coffee grinder, electric coffee pot, Keurig machine, coffee cups, coffee, cocoa, and tea.
The amount of storage space and shelving in a kitchen hutch makes them handy in other rooms too.
Repurpose an old kitchen hutch for a craft center or library. Use an old kitchen hutch in your home office. Take the display case off and use the bottom cabinet for a TV stand, sofa table, or buffet. Add legs to the display case or mount it on the wall for storage in your laundry room.
Paint the hutch and add wallpaper to the back to display a collection in your family room. Add some under-cabinet lighting to see your collection better.
Put an old hutch in your basement or family room for a fun bar space with glass ones and a wine rack. Make it a conversation piece with colorful paint. If the cabinet is large enough, add a retro mini-refrigerator.
Here are 8 ways to repurpose an old kitchen hutch.
Is a Hutch a China Cabinet?
The kitchen hutch was originally designed to help the cook store and prepare food. The cabinet base was handy for chopping vegetables and game. The handy and sturdy kitchen hutch lived in the kitchen. Not so the China cabinet.
The China cabinet is also tall and has two pieces, the bottom cabinet and a display case. But the China cabinet is designed to grace a dining room. It is a much finer piece of furniture. No chopping on the China cabinet.
China cabinets are beautiful, formal pieces of furniture designed to store and display prized China collections.
Why Is It Called a Hutch?
Experts say that the origin of the word hutch came from the Old French word huche, circa 1200, which meant storage chest or trunk. The association of the word as a cupboard for food or dishes was first recorded around 1670.
Back in the 1600s, the hutch, or hutch table, was a piece of furniture with a dual purpose – to be a table and a bench. The hutch table had a flat wooden piece hinged onto the cabinet. The flat piece folded down along the hinge to form a table. Then, when the table wasn’t needed, the tabletop folded up vertically to form a bench.
The cousin of the kitchen hutch, the Hoosier cabinet, was popular from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s. The Hoosier cabinet, whose birthplace was Indiana (the Hoosier state), had a wide bottom cabinet with storage and pull-out cutting boards. The narrower hutch top had cabinets with appliances built-in, like meat grinders, flour sifters and a Lazy Susan for spices.
Another kitchen hutch cousin was the Welsh dresser, aka kitchen dresser or pewter cupboard. The Welsh dresser originated in Wales in the 1600s. They were often used for food preparation or storage. Scottish highland dressers had a tin-lined “porridge drawer”, where porridge was stored until it cooled and then sliced.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, the kitchen hutch was used in the kitchen to prepare game and store food. It was the kitchen workhorse. Dishes were prepared at the kitchen hutch, then taken to the dining room where they were served from a sideboard or buffet.
When modern kitchen appliances moved to the countertop, the kitchen hutch evolved into a piece of furniture to store and display dishes. Today, it still has a place in the kitchen or in casual or country-styled dining rooms.
For more on the history of the Hoosier cabinet, click here.
How Much Is a Hutch Worth?
A recent price check for new kitchen hutches ranged from $400 up to $4,000.
What Is the Top Piece of a Hutch Called?
The top piece of a kitchen hutch is called the display case or sometimes the hutch. The bottom piece has several names: sideboard, cabinet, or buffet.
What Is the Difference Between a Credenza and a Hutch?
A credenza is a long, low cabinet with four short legs. A credenza can be used in a dining room for dish storage or serving food, in a family room for holding a TV, or in a living room for table lamps, flowers in vases, or a row of family photos.
A hutch is tall and comes in two pieces, the cabinet, and the display case. A hutch can be used for storage and dishes in the kitchen or dining room or repurposed for the family room, office, basement, or living room.
Here’s an article on the difference between a hutch, credenza, buffet, sideboard, and a china cabinet.
Where Can I Buy an Inexpensive Kitchen Hutch?
We found inexpensive kitchen hutches on Wayfair, Overstock, Home Depot, and Amazon. For a different shopping experience, try local antique malls, garage sales, estate sales.
Or, you can also check out Facebook Marketplace or Craigslist.
Refinishing a hutch is a great DIY project because most of them are made of wood. Wood is a very rewarding material to restore. If you love the look of wood and if the wood on the hutch isn’t damaged, then with some stripping, sanding, and staining you’ll have a beautiful refurbished piece.
Or, you can refinish a wooden hutch with some paint. Prepare the surface for paint. Sand down any rough areas and fill holes and cracks with Spackle. If it hasn’t been painted before, hedge your painting bets with some primer first.
Many paint manufacturers have a special cabinet paint. It costs more but it will last longer and clean up better.
Or, have fun with your garage sale hutch. Upcycle it with stencils, chalk paint, chicken wire, peel and stick wallpaper, and light fixtures.
Then, replace the old hardware with some clean, updated, or fun knobs and pulls.
In this video, an $80 hutch is refinished into a mid-mod masterpiece.
So it looks like my wife had a great idea when she suggested buying an old kitchen hutch and giving it a new lease of life with a makeover.
That one in the video above looks truly amazing, so I think we’ll try to emulate that kind of style.
Our kitchen extension is costing a fortune – so anyway we can save money on this would be most welcome! 🙂