Vintage GE kitchen ‘cabinettes’

spec sheet for vintage GE steel kitchen cabinets

Today: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About “Cabinettes” But Were Afraid To Ask.” Over on the Retro Renovation Forum, cabinet-hunter pja2trees wasn’t afraid to ask, “Could you please explain what a ‘cabinette’ is?” 52PostnBeam, aka Helen, who is the mega-expert, responded:

A ‘cabinette’ is a small cabinet with sliding glass doors, popularized by General Electric. It’s usually mounted under the upper cabinets, or less frequently they’d be mounted atop the backsplash, with the base cabinets slightly extended from the wall to accommodate. They’re often seen in conjunction with the GE Wonder Kitchen and the GE wall mounted fridge – products both marketed in the mid 50s.

Above: An illustration of a 1957 GE Wonder Kitchen from Helen’s archive. You can see the cabinettes in pretty much all their variations here. Yes: That’s a “Wonder Kitchen”: One long piece of stainless steel countertop incorporating a sink and cooktop, with oven t the right, cabinets including dishwasher underneath. We see these occasionally on the Forum, they are quite the marvel.

Helen continues:

The unique spelling “cabinette” is from GE’s marketing materials. The sizes came in 21″, 30″, 51″, 54″, 64″ … and possibly 12″, 18″ and others.  Additional photos:


Vintage specification sheet for GE Cabinettes.

vintage steel kithen undermount cabinette An example of a new-old-stock (NOS) cabinette that was for sale in 2010 on eBay.

undermount kitchen cabinetNifty corner with wrap around cabinets and cabinettes beneath.

vintage kitchen cabinets under a wall mount refrigeratorOften undercabinettes were fitted beneath the GE wall mount fridge. The refrigerator is 64″ wide. Underneath: Two, 30″ cabinettes with a spacer between them.

GE cabinettes have a light mounted at the top, and inside the cabinet there’s an outlet. A hole in the back makes it possible to run electric all the way though each cabinet.

A close-up of GE glass, sometimes called “waterfall glass” because of how light looks passing through it.

The vast majority of these type cabinets were made by GE, but Geneva made a version with thicker reeded glass. St. Charles and Lyon also had their own versions.

Special corner unit made to fit undercabinettes together

Thank you, 52PostnBeam.

Now: Why didn’t these undercabinettes remain popular and continue into today?  I am going to speculate: (1) These cabinettes did not leave enough counter space for the growing list of kitchen appliances women wanted to leave out on the counter.  Another thought: (2) Wood cabinets came to dominate anyway… and the cost to make units like this in wood was prohibitive — although we certainly did see the rough concept continue with corner appliance garages. And (3), I think that GE was out of the steel kitchen cabinet business sooner than others.

Aren’t vintage steel kitchen cabinets fascinating? Continue work on your Retro Renovation undergraduate, graduate or ph.D. degree by reading more here:

When they left the market, so did cabinettes. What do you think, Helen? Readers?

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Comments

  1. victor H says

    can anyone tell me what type of faucet was included in a possibly 1963 genelral electric Kitchen with stainless steel top –
    I have one of these with everything except the stove – still have the truetone hood – and the dishwasher. . .

    looking for front loaded kitchen faucet replacement .?

    thanks

    SP

  2. stacy says

    we have the stainless steel countertop and stove, and the burners no longer work well. Does anyone know a model number or replacement parts for the cooktop of the GE Wonder Kitchen. Thanks!

  3. Michael Hawk says

    Wow, I really don’t have interest in those under cabinets, but I have that exact Green GE Fridge in the photo up there. It is still my main refrigerator in my home. It was here when I bought the place 10 years ago. Friends are amazed when they come over…. Don’t know what I am gonna do if it ever breaks down… I have a matching countertop stove and oven in the wall.. Yup.. Retro…

  4. Amy K Rice says

    We have metal upper cabinets from my Grandma’s house. They had very nice frosted glass sliding doors that were broken in storage. I am trying to figure out the best option for replacing the glass.

  5. says

    Hi Pam, Would you please tell me the dimensions (height /depth) of the cabinettes? I can’t enlarge your dimensions diagram enough to see the numbers.

    Also, I read somewhere you have suggestions for shipping cabinets on the website. I can’t find that link & I need help!

    You’re such a huge help!
    Melissa

    • says

      Thanks Pam,
      I found the height and depth of the cabinettes – 12″ high, 11″ deep on top 7″deep on the bottom.
      If you have shipping advice for the steel cabinets, please let me know.
      They’re bulky & expensive to ship so I’m ending up just taking one or two out of entire lots. I hate knowing the rest of the set will go in the dumpster when I leave it behind.
      Thank you, Melissa

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