What are Oak Curio Cabinets?

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Curio Cabinet

Decluttering has been a big trend in home decorating over the last decade or two, and many people have been inspired to clear out and clean up. The trouble is, not everyone likes the sleek, minimalist look that’s often paired with newly spacious rooms.

As the KonMari mantra goes, “Throw out everything that doesn’t bring you joy.” But what if you have a lot of “stuff” that brings you joy, even if it collects dust? An antique teacup or two. A few small vases. Antique crystal, thimbles, shot glasses, or beer steins. Maybe you have a collection of vintage Pez dispensers or a few matryoshka (nesting) dolls that long for a home.

If you want to get organized but don’t want to throw anything out, put your joy on display in an oak curio cabinet.

What Is a Curio?

Before we get into the beauty of oak, let’s talk about curios.

Depending on where you live, you might not use the word curios to describe your knick-knacks, bric-à-brac, or objets d’art. Curio comes from the word curiosity, and it simply means a small, unusual, or rare item that’s interesting or even odd. It may be antique or modern, valuable or cheap, elaborate or simple. You know what they say about “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure?” Curios are your treasures.

Whether you call them gewgaws or doodads, tchotchkes or trinkets, your treasures deserve a curio cabinet.


What Is a Curio Cabinet or Glass Display Cabinet?

A curio cabinet — sometimes called a glass display cabinet — is a vertical set of enclosed shelves with a glass front and sides. These cabinets are often made of oak or other wood, but any material strong enough to support the glass and curios is used. They’re designed to show off your collectibles, and they come in many sizes and shapes.

You might wonder whether a curio cabinet and a china cabinet are the same thing by different names. They’re similar, but they have a few differences.

Curio Cabinet

  • Are typically enclosed by glass on three sides
  • Usually have mirrored backs
  • Can be almost any size or shape
  • Can be freestanding or wall-mounted

China Cabinet

  • Feature glass in the front.only
  • May have drawers or shelves behind doors at the base 
  • Must be large and sturdy to support the weight of china or other dishware
  • Are freestanding

Both curio cabinets and china cabinets may have adjustable shelves, plate grooves, interior lights, and lockable doors.

Why Oak Is Popular for Curio Cabinets

Oak is often used for furniture because it’s strong and durable, and most types aren’t prone to rot or decay, even in humid climates. Red oak is most often used for furniture, and white oak is generally better suited to flooring and construction. Each type has numerous sub-types, however, and both are used for curio cabinets.

Colors range from a beautiful pale tan and golden yellow to a light reddish-brown and even dark brown. The prominent grain patterns and knots that make oak so distinctive vary from wavy to almost straight and striking to subtle.

Oak curio cabinets are made in styles such as Mission, Country Style or Rustic, and Arts and Craft. Victorian-style antique curio cabinets can also be found in oak.

Vintage and modern styles also use oak, especially if the grain isn’t well-pronounced and knots are minimal. For example, a dark expresso stain can be used to create a more uniform appearance in one of the darker oak types. This may be more appealing for some compared to the lighter, grainy look of oak that’s more common in traditional styles.

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Types of Oak Curio Cabinets

You can find vintage and antique oak curio cabinets in many styles, including those made in the early Victorian era around 1850, when they first became popular. Styles are often replicated, too, so the choices are almost unlimited. Here are the basic types of curio and glass display cabinets.


A standard, full-size curio cabinet stands about 60–70 inches tall, although some are even taller. Widths are generally 24–36 inches. Extra-large oak and glass display cabinets might be triple that width and form the focal point for an entire wall. These are appropriate for large items, such as vases or sculptures.


Corner curio cabinets are ideal because they take up space that’s often unused. Like standard types, they can be quite tall. Because of their triangular shape, two sides face adjoining walls, so only the front is made of glass. In some cases, however, the cabinet may have an irregular five-sided pentagon shape, with two narrow glass sides on either side of the door.  

Depending on the space between shelves, this type might be perfect for a Lladró collection or other figurines.


Half-round oak curio cabinets are mostly glass, so the wood isn’t a dominant feature. Styles vary widely, but the beauty of a half-round glass display cabinet is that it shows off your treasures from almost every angle. Perfect for a Waterford crystal collection, the light, airy style can also compliment an uncluttered look in your home.

Depending on the space between shelves, this type might be perfect for a Lladró collection or other figurines.


A console curio cabinet stands 30–36 inches high and is usually around 40 inches wide. This type can create a lovely focal point in almost any room. Colorful vintage bowls or antique glassware would be perfect in an oak and glass display case like this.

Depending on the space between shelves, this type might be perfect for a Lladró collection or other figurines.


Wall-mounted oak curio cabinets are perfect for small spaces or small collections. Since oak is heavy — and your curios add to it — be sure it’s mounted securely with appropriate hardware. Small treasures, such as old photos in antique frames, would make a wonderful display.


Table-top curio cabinets are small and, as the name suggests, displayed on accent tables, consoles, desks, fireplace mantels, or even your dining room table. Some feature glass on all sides, and they can make wonderful centerpieces and hold items you might use for dinner, such as small vintage wine or cordial glasses.

Are you looking for the perfect oak curio cabinet or glass display cabinet to showcase your treasures? Learn how to find one with MaxSold Local Online Auctions. Or, register to bid right now!

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