vintage GE steel kitchen cabinet set
Double the Fun: Both kinds of GE Cabinettes in this vintage GE kitchen in Quincy, Mass.!

Today: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About “Cabinettes” But Were Afraid To Ask.” Over on the Retro Renovation Forum (no longer online), 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:

vintage GE steel kitchen cabinets with cabinettes in two sizes
Cabinettes under the GE wall refrigerator… and under the wall cabinets in this kitchen for sale in Quincy, Mass. — there were two heights of Cabinettes.

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.

GE cabinettes in mies van der rohe kitchen
Chris’s Mies van der Rohe GE Wonder Kitchen featured GE Cabinettes under the wall cabinet.

You can see the taller Cabinettes in Chris’s GE Wonder Kitchen. Yes: That’s a “Wonder Kitchen”: One long piece of stainless steel countertop incorporating a sink and cooktop, with oven to the right, cabinets including dishwasher underneath. We see these occasionally, they are quite the marvel.

vintage GE refrigeration center
The shorter Cabinette mounted above the backsplash in the rare and wonderful GE Refrigeration Center.

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.

Often 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.

GE glass was 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.

GE corner cabinettes
Corner Cabinettes in the Quincy, Mass. kitchen

There were also corner Cabinettes.

Thank you, 52PostnBeam.

Now: Why didn’t these under Cabinettes 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. 
  2. Another thought: 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.
  3. And last, 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?

CategoriesSteel kitchens

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