What Is a Chimney Cabinet?

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A slender cupboard tucks into the otherwise unused space next to the fireplace.
A slender cupboard tucks into the otherwise unused space next to the fireplace. (Image: John Wollwerth/iStock/Getty Images)

Chimney cabinets are shallow, skinny cupboards or open cases designed to take advantage of narrow spaces next to the fireplace. Most chimney cabinets are primitive designs that complement rustic, eclectic or Colonial decor. If you're lucky enough to have an old home with an original chimney cabinet, it might hold books or decorative accessories beside the hearth. But a chimney cabinet can be repurposed to make any cramped corner of the house more useful.

Flank the Fireplace

Custom Shaker-style cabinets, built to fit against each side of the fireplace, work like bookends to focus attention on the mantel and hearth. At the same time, they hold a wealth of storage -- with doors, you can hide a messy media collection or completely unexpected items such as extra china sets and serving dishes. Cabinets without doors make traditional bookcases or convenient display stands for family photographs. The simplicity of the lines and the beauty of the hardwood complement modern, minimalist and mid-19th-century decor.

The Corner Behind the Door

A tiny corner of wasted space gets put to work with a narrow, shallow chimney cabinet that just fits behind the front door when it is open. In a farmhouse cheerful with country decor, paint a chimney cupboard with bright yellow, soft sage or medium turquoise milk paint to lend it an air of antique authenticity. The placement is perfect for stashing extra umbrellas, winter hats, mufflers and gloves. A cabinet with one long door and no shelves gets hooks for jackets, raincoats, purses or shopping bags. Use the bonus storage for seasonal decorative wreaths that deck the front porch and door for holidays.

Shabby-Chic-Style Hallway

Create a shabby, funky chimney cabinet from scrap lumber and salvage pieces to hold towels or bed linens at the end of the upstairs hall. Use reclaimed boards with scarred and crazed paint still clinging to them. Build the tall top door and shorter bottom door from mismatched boards in alternating whitewash and variations of a single color -- faded rose and pink-lavender or distressed forest and mint. If you use new lumber, bang it up with hammers, chains and ice picks before painting, sanding and crackle-glazing the wood to simulate age. Hunt for old hinges and latches at flea markets. Add double crown molding at the top and single decorative molding trim at the bottom.

Chimney Cabinet Near the Hearth

Your home doesn't have a fireplace, but you do have a rustic kitchen with a period-style stove. A beat-up but still functional chimney cabinet is right at home in the space next to the cooktop and bread oven. Get a primitive look with weathered barn wood -- silvered from decades of exposure, still showing the pentimento of an old painted advertisement. Inside the cabinet, shelves clad in brushed stainless or aluminum veneer can hold large mixing bowls, roasting pans, stockpots, spice collections, a bread basket, or the toaster and other countertop appliances. A chimney cabinet works especially well when the stove is set into an alcove or the cabinet space is next to the door, where the only room available suits a shallow cupboard.

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