Today I am sharing the story of my antique European painted cabinet: a brief history of these charming folk art pieces, why I feel this particular one was meant to be mine, and how I have styled and use it in my home.

My Love For Painted Furniture

If you read my recent blog post The Charm and Whimsy of Victorian Painted Cottage Furniture, you know my love of antique painted furniture runs deep.

Very deep.

Today, though, I am talking about a different kind of painted furniture.

Every bit as charming as my beloved Victorian cottage furniture, but from a different era… and a different country!

That would be European marriage furniture.

An intriguing name, right?

Let me tell you a bit about it.

What Is Antique European Marriage Furniture?

In the 1700’s and 1800’s in Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe, it was tradition to craft special furniture pieces for newlywed couples.

Most particularly:

  • Marriage boxes, or chests, to hold a bride’s trousseau, which typically consisted of linens, clothing, and household goods.
  • Marriage cupboards given as a wedding gift to store household items.
  • Marriage armoires used by the newlywed couple to hold clothing and linens.

These were country pieces, simple in form and crafted from humble pine. But charmingly hand-painted faux wood finishes, bright colors, and folk art designs made them special. To commemorate the happy occasion, they often included the couple’s names or initials and the wedding date.

The pieces you see most commonly now originated from Germany, Austria, Bavaria, and Sweden and date to the early to mid 1800’s.

This cheerful form of furniture was brought to the “new world” by German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania. You can clearly see the German folk-art influences in “Pennsylvania Dutch” chests, cupboards, benches, and storage boxes, with their stylized whimsically painted finishes of colorful hearts and flowers.

Today collectors appreciate antique painted marriage furniture for its unique design, craftsmanship, charm, and sense of history.

Bonus — they provide beautifully disguised storage space too!

My Own Antique European Marriage Cabinet

The find

As is the case with many great finds, I was not looking for anything when I visited an antiques store the Friday after Thanksgiving.

I was down in Kennebunk with my son, daughter-in-law, and her family for the holiday and we headed out to do some Black Friday shopping.

So my mind really was on getting a head start on Christmas shopping.

But we stopped by Antiques on 9, because, sadly, they were having a big going-out-of-business sale.

And there she was, patiently waiting for me to notice her — a petit one-door antique marriage cabinet painted in my signature shades of blue and brown, with faux woodgrain (my favorite!) and subtle red accents.

And marked 60% off.

My heart went pitter-pat. But where would I put her? As you know, my home is already, um, fully furnished with special pieces.

But still, I took measurements, and headed on my way.

The decision

I could not stop thinking about her, though. So when I got home I walked around the downstairs and tried to figure out if there was anywhere she could go.

And then I thought about replacing the dough bin and small gallery wall next to the sofa. I loved each individual element of this grouping, but it always seemed a bit busy to me. Too many small items, in a room where I already have a lot going on.

I am not someone who is always rearranging furniture. It can be hard, even for me, to reimagine a space that I have been living with fairly happily.

The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt this was not a piece I should pass up.

The colors and size were perfect.

With 60% off, while still not a purchase to be made lightly, it was a very good deal. One it would be rare to see again for such a piece.

And as an extra sign, the initials M R were painted on the center of the door — my initials growing up.

This was definitely a special piece that I would treasure always.

Bringing her home

So the next morning, I made the call to the store. And then drove the 2 1/2 hours down and 2 1/2 hours back to bring her home.

I am usually confident in my design choices. I know what I like and can envision how everything will come together.

But I was nervous about this piece.

Had I let my love for it cloud my vision? What would I do if it didn’t fit in they way I hoped it would?

Fortunately, as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about.

As soon as I moved her into place, she settled in like she had always been there.

Her size is perfect, adding height and weight to that corner of the room.

She frames the view of the living room from the kitchen/dining area beautifully.

And while, highly decorative, the graphic painted design, adds interest, but does not overwhelm.

And then there are the details that I adore — the faux wood finish, elaborate original latch and key, iron strap hinges, and pretty painted details which even extend to the sides.

She is, I am convinced, my “unicorn” furniture piece.

How I Style and Use My Antique Painted Cabinet in My Home

So as not to detract from her beauty, I kept the styling simple.

On top I placed two vintage wicker pet carriers that had been hidden underneath the dough bin. Their brown color and curved tops complement the color and shape of the cabinet perfectly. And I like how they “play” with the wicker cheese baskets hanging on the opposite side of sofa. Their added height balances other elements on that wall, as well as the floor to ceiling stone fireplace.

I am happy that these unique wicker pieces are out of hiding and finally have the place of honor they deserve.

As a final touch, I ordered a decorative tassel to hang from they key. Afterall, every girl deserves a bit of jewelry!

To replace the table lamp that had sat on the dough bin, I moved a floor lamp out of the den. Again, it looks like it has always been there.

Inside the cabinet, there was just one wooden shelf at the top. To improve its storage capability, my plan was to temporarily use an inexpensive plastic shelving unit on the interior.

In preparation for this blog post, I dragged a set of shelves from the basement that I had purchased a couple years ago for our shed, but never used. (You all are always great impetus for me to get things done around the house!)

As another sign that this piece of furniture was meant to be mine, the shelves are a perfect fit. And the gray-blue color is a pretty good match for the exterior paint color. I think these shelves will not be temporary!

I am using this piece to store games, puzzles, and some books. Vintage picnic tins hold sewing and crafting supplies.

Form and function! My favorite!

By the way, the grain-painted dough bin has been reunited with the cottage dresser in the Captain’s Bedroom. These pieces also shared a room in my parents’ house. It sits under the window now, also as if it has alway been there. Win win!

This Week Into Next

Welcome spring!

We had cold temps and snow this week.

Not a lot.

But definitely enough to make it feel decidedly un-springlike.

But that is “spring” here in New England.

I am not usually one to rush the seasons, but I have to admit that, since living in Maine, I always do tend to decorate early for spring and summer. They just come so late here.

So, while we won’t be seeing any real signs of spring outside for a good month, you will definitely be seeing signs of spring inside my home.

I just can’t help myself.

A New Computer

My blog post last week went out on time.

But behind the scenes, there was a lot of scrambling going on.

With things pretty much set to go last Friday night, I poured myself a glass of wine. I just needed to schedule my post to publish, copy the link to my email, and schedule that as well.

But then I spilled my glass of wine, killed my my computer, and chaos ensued.

Doing things on my phone was not easy. And I needed a neighbor’s laptop to finalize my email.

Sometimes it takes a village — or at least a neighborhood.

Saturday was spent on a trip to the Apple store in Portland to purchase a new computer.

While this was a purchase I had not planned, I am enjoying the faster speed.

And the pretty dark blue color.

Maine Maple Sugar Sunday Weekend

This weekend is Maine Maple Sugar Sunday Weekend!

Over 100 “sugar shacks” across the state will be open for tastings and demonstrations.

You can get all the details on the Maine Maple Producer’s website.

I also wrote about my experience last year in the blog post I’m Sweet on Maine Maple Syrup Season, including links to order small-batch pure Maine maple syrup delivered to your door!

I was planning to enjoy the festivities with a friend on Saturday, but we are expecting a nasty storm with snow, ice, rain, and wind. So Sunday it will be!

I am so looking forward to this quintessential Maine event — driving the back roads and slogging through the mud for a sweet taste of that amber-colored nectar.

In Zoe’s Kitchen

Zoë, Sam, and Poppy are traveling to Italy next week!

In preparation for the trip, there is an Italian theme to her newsletter. She is sharing recipes for Molly Yeh’s meatless meatballs (you will be surprised what they contain!) and Marcella Hazan’s classic tomato sauce (so easy and so good!).

Also, next week is Poppy’s first birthday! We will be gathering to celebrate after they return from Italy.

That’s it for this week! I plan on keeping all liquids far away from my computer today….

Be well, friends!


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