Must-Know Furniture: The Hoosier Cabinet (2024)

A Hoosier cabinet is a freestanding kitchen workhorse that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. So much more than just a storage cabinet, this versatile piece was outfitted with a flour sifter and more. Today the Hoosier cabinet can be an efficient, functional addition to any kitchen.

Kimberley Bryan

My family hails from Indiana, and one of my fondest memories was the oak Hoosier cabinet in my grandma’s dining room. I loved its many little cabinets and drawers and its old-time feel — and because it happened to be where she kept her cookie jar.

Here’s what to know about the classic piece.

Where does the term “Hoosier” come from? We can’t talk about the Hoosier cabinet without first touching on the term “Hoosier.” It has been tied to the state of Indiana for some 150 years, and there are several theories about its origin. One involves people yelling, “Who’s there?” across the Ohio River, and its sounding like “Hoosier.” Another is that a man lost his ear in a bar fight, and some unlucky person picked it up and asked, “Whose ear?” While its true roots remain a mystery, the term “Hoosier” and Indiana are forever intertwined.


Hoosier cabinets are so named because most of them were made in Indiana. The first Hoosier cabinets appeared in 1898, made by a furniture company called Sellers, based in New Castle, Indiana. Between 1899 and 1949, there were about 40 different manufacturers of Hoosier cabinets. However, the top two companies were Sellers and the Hoosier Manufacturing Company. McDougall, Boone, Nappanee and Wilson were also popular Hoosier cabinet manufacturers. (Wilson was in Michigan.)

The popularity of the Hoosier cabinet started to wane in the late 1940s. That’s when manufacturing records for the cabinets became scarce, says Brandon Fyffe, manager at Kennedy Hardware in Zionsville, Indiana, which supplies about every Hoosier cabinet replacement part you can think of. (Fyffe’s grandfather also wrote the book Hoosier Cabinets.) A modernizing world with built-in kitchen cabinets is the likely reason for the decline, as there wasn’t as much need for them.

What makes a Hoosier cabinet so special? You might think they’re just simple cupboards, but they’re so much more. Yes, they store staples like flour, sugar and spices, and utensils. However, they also have workable parts inside, like flour sifters, meat grinders and rotating spice carousels. Some have fold-down ironing boards. The niftiest part is the tabletop surface that slides outward to provide more work surface.

“Hoosier cabinets were made to handle all of the bustle in the kitchen,” Fyffe says. “You could do all your work there, except cook your food. It was a matter of saving steps and making life easier, which is where the phrase ‘Hoosier saves steps’ comes from.”

More clever accessories. Probably lost on most surviving cabinets are the door charts that originally came with them. They vary by manufacturer, but many include household stain removal advice, cooking tips and food pyramid suggestions for balanced meals. Fyffe notes that the Hoosier Manufacturing Company’s door chart has a clock and food timer card. Kennedy Hardware’s exact replica of the original is shown here.

Rikki Snyder

Hoosier cabinet materials. Hoosier cabinets are made of wood. Oak was the most prevalent wood species used, but a scarcity in the supply later forced manufacturers to use any type of wood they could. “That is why you start to see painted cabinets in the later years,” Fyffe says. “It was to hide the different woods that were used. It was not uncommon to see a cabinet that would have three or four different wood species.”

Worktops were made of wood, zinc and porcelain. Porcelain, shown here, is the most common worktop material and what people usually associate with Hoosier cabinets.

Julie Ranee Photography

As relevant today as yesterday. A Hoosier cabinet works especially well in older homes that probably have smaller kitchens and are short on storage. This one appears to get a lot of use in this 1930s Columbus, Ohio, farmhouse.

Kitchen Concepts, Inc.

Kitchen designer Marilyn Terlouw, of Kitchen Concepts, says her client purchased this yellow and green Hoosier cabinet at a local antique mall — a nostalgic reminder of one her grandmother used.

Terlouw says her client wanted a kitchen with modern conveniences, but one that would also blend with the older house and antiques. “We used some open shelves and different products along with the antiques so it wasn’t so matchy and had an unfitted look to it,” she says. “They didn’t want to have everything the same.”

Kitchen Concepts, Inc.

The Hoosier cabinet in Terlouw’s project still has the flour mill with sifter. A pie safe they painted red and colorful vintage tea towels tie the kitchen space together.

ReDefined Interiors by Tara

Hoosier cabinets don’t work only in vintage or farmhouse-style kitchens. They can also mix well with other furniture genres, as seen here in this more modern dining room. However, I wouldn’t expect to see a Hoosier cabinet venture too far from the kitchen or dining room. With its kitchen-y aesthetic, it could look dramatically out of place somewhere else.

Image Design LLC

Where to buy Hoosier cabinets. Hoosier cabinets, Fyffe says, are hard to find, except by chance. Garage sales and antiques stores are your best bet. Some online sites, like eBay and Houzz, sell vintage Hoosier cabinets too.

Find a buffet with a counter and hutch to mimic a Hoosier cabinet

If antique isn’t your thing, but you like Hoosier cabinets, you can make a new one yourself. There are woodworking plans for Hoosier cabinets out there. American Woodworker published a how-to guide by Tim Johnson in its December 1999 issue.

Sarah Greenman

How much does a Hoosier cabinet cost? Expect to pay $500 to $1,200 for a cabinet in good shape. In the 1990s, Fyffe recalls, it wasn’t uncommon to see them sell for more than $3,500. “As most antiques make rotations, I hope that someday these cabinets will come back full circle and give many more people the love of owning a part of history,” he says.

Jenn Hannotte / Hannotte Interiors

Restoration resources. If you’re inspired to restore your Hoosier cabinet to more closely resemble its original appearance and function, below are links to two useful resources. Both sell reproduction hardware and accessories to replace pieces that have been removed or don’t work, such as bread bins and flour sifters.

  • Kennedy Hardware, in Zionsville, Indiana. Kennedy Hardware also manufactures some of its wood Hoosier cabinet products. Fyffe shares that he personally makes every tambour door they sell.

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Hoosier Cabinets: A Brief Overview

A Hoosier cabinet is a freestanding kitchen workhorse that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. It is more than just a storage cabinet; it is a versatile piece of furniture that was designed to make kitchen tasks more efficient and convenient. Hoosier cabinets were made to handle all the bustle in the kitchen, providing ample storage space for staples like flour, sugar, and spices, as well as utensils. They were equipped with various workable parts, such as flour sifters, meat grinders, rotating spice carousels, and even fold-down ironing boards. The most distinctive feature of a Hoosier cabinet is the tabletop surface that slides outward to provide additional workspace .

Origin of the Term "Hoosier"

The term "Hoosier" has been tied to the state of Indiana for about 150 years, and its exact origin remains a mystery. There are several theories about its etymology. One theory suggests that it originated from people yelling, "Who's there?" across the Ohio River, which sounded like "Hoosier." Another theory involves a man losing his ear in a bar fight, and someone picking it up and asking, "Whose ear?" Regardless of its true roots, the term "Hoosier" has become forever intertwined with Indiana.

Hoosier Cabinet Manufacturers

Hoosier cabinets are named after the state of Indiana because most of them were made there. The first Hoosier cabinets appeared in 1898 and were made by a furniture company called Sellers, based in New Castle, Indiana. Between 1899 and 1949, there were approximately 40 different manufacturers of Hoosier cabinets. The top two companies were Sellers and the Hoosier Manufacturing Company. Other popular manufacturers included McDougall, Boone, Nappanee, and Wilson (located in Michigan).

Materials and Design

Hoosier cabinets were primarily made of wood, with oak being the most prevalent wood species used. However, due to a scarcity in the supply of oak, manufacturers started using other types of wood as well. In later years, painted cabinets became more common to hide the use of different wood species. The worktops of Hoosier cabinets were made of wood, zinc, or porcelain, with porcelain being the most common material associated with Hoosier cabinets.

Popularity and Decline

The popularity of Hoosier cabinets started to decline in the late 1940s. The introduction of built-in kitchen cabinets and modernization in kitchen design reduced the need for freestanding workhorse cabinets like the Hoosier. Manufacturing records for Hoosier cabinets became scarce, indicating a decline in production. However, these cabinets still hold nostalgic value and can be functional additions to kitchens, especially in older homes with limited storage space.

Finding and Owning a Hoosier Cabinet

Hoosier cabinets can be challenging to find, but there are a few places where you might come across them. Garage sales and antique stores are good places to start your search. Online platforms like eBay and Houzz also occasionally have vintage Hoosier cabinets for sale. If you prefer a new Hoosier cabinet, there are woodworking plans available that allow you to build one yourself. The cost of a Hoosier cabinet in good shape can range from $500 to $1,200, depending on its condition and rarity.


Hoosier cabinets are a piece of kitchen furniture that was popular in the first half of the 20th century. They were designed to provide efficient storage and workspace in the kitchen, with various built-in features and accessories. The term "Hoosier" is closely associated with the state of Indiana, where most of these cabinets were manufactured. While their popularity declined with the advent of built-in kitchen cabinets, Hoosier cabinets still hold nostalgic value and can be functional additions to kitchens, especially in older homes.

Must-Know Furniture: The Hoosier Cabinet (2024)


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