Briggs Beautyware kitchen cabinets — making steel kitchen cabinets as early as 1938

steel kitchen cabinet colors 1938Briggs Beautyware is a name well-known for its mid century sinks, tubs and toilets — but the company also made steel kitchen cabinets. And, it seems like they were among the early makers of steel kitchen cabinets. The photos I’m showing here are from a catalog in my personal collection — and the catalog is dated 1938. And more: Look at these colors offered. Yes, in 1938 you could get Briggs Beautyware metal kitchen cabinets in white and 11 other gorgeous colors: Sea Green Light, Sky Blue Light, Coral (!!!!!), Sea Green Deep, Sky Blue Deep, Orchid (!!!), Lime Green, Ivory, Sandstone, and Black.

Briggs Beautyware plumbing fixtures also were available in these colors, and in some cases, you could get two-tone. For examples, see the tub above — the bottom is the darker green. And, the pedestal sink looks to be sandstone on a black pedestal.

Briggs Manufacturing Company DetroitThese steel kitchen cabinets are siblings to auto body panels

This story, which is part of my The Retro Renovation® Encyclopedia of Vintage Steel Kitchen Cabinets, also situates steel cabinets as part of the auto-making complex. Which makes sense. Cars need pressed and enameled sheet metal. And so do steel kitchen cabinets.

By 1938, Briggs Manufacturing Company had been in business for 30 years. The company was based in Detroit. It had factories in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, Mich.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Cleveland; Evansville, Indiana, and Dagenham, England. These all were locations closely associated with the American auto industry, which was booming. 

Briggs Beautyware Cab-Unettes

Briggs Beautyware kitchenApparently reflecting the fact that kitchen cabinets that you could piece together in a modular fashion were a NEW thing, Briggs called their line “Cab-Unettes”. Unettes. Units. Get it? 

My catalog is 54 pages long. The kitchen cabinets take up just five pages. I guess that’s why the text on the page above also calls them “Special Kitchen Cabinets.” That is, Briggs was known for its plumbing fixtures, not steel kitchen cabinets. But now that steel kitchen cabinets were becoming more popular, they extended their Briggs Manufacturing Company auto body business into this endeavor.

briggs kitchen cabinets

The cabinets themselves do not seem to have many features that distinguish them from other designs. The doors and drawers are full overlay, the most common design.

Okay, how about: The cabinet pulls seem to be set fairly high. The shelves are all metal and appear to be fixed (not adjustable). 

From my Briggs catalog:

The “Cab-unette” fixtures illustrated … round out the Briggs Beautyware line of kitchen sinks. They are fit companions for Briggs ware, of the highest quality, individual units built to last a life-time. High grade metal, with baked enamel finish, sound-deadened doors.

Cab-unette fixtures combine maximum utility with modern lines. They are available in all Briggs colors and provide a perfect match to all Briggs Beautyware sinks…

Briggs kitchen cabinets 1938Above: You could have any color linoleum countertop as long as it was black. << Ford joke. I’m not sure this is true re the Briggs’, but I do know from previous research, that linoleum kitchen countertops during this period tended to be in dark colors. Black, red, green. Also, countertop laminate was not invented until 1938, and not popularized until after World War II ended.

20 combinations illustrated, with 42″ and 60″ Briggs drainboard sinks

briggs manufacturing company kitchens
briggs manufacturing company kitchens
These are some nice looking kitchen combinations!

Briggs steel kitchen cabinet colors 1938Above: Here’s the text that proves that you could get these Briggs steel kitchen cabinets in 12 colors. As early as 1938! I am gobsmacked! 

briggs kitchen sink and sink cabinetOf course, you also could start with just a sink cabinet. Briggs also had many designs of porcelain enamel drainboard sinks. These also were available in all the colors. 

Steel bathroom vanity cabinets too — including in a vitreous porcelain finish

briggs bathroom vanity steel 1938Briggs also had steel bathroom vanities. Read the fine print and it seems there were two finishes. Above: A “Synthetic Enamel” finish. I presume that means some sort of paint. And in all the colors, too. Note, these bathroom vanity designs are deco-curvy, unlike the kitchen cab-unettes.

Briggs porcelain bathroom vanityAnd above: There was an even more upscale steel vanity with a Porcelain Enamel finish. I think that means: The same kind of vitreous process used on cast iron and steel sink substrates.

kitchen and bathroom color combinations 1938Want to decorate your kitchen or bath just like they recommended in 1938? Briggs gave us a handy dandy chart of color combinations du jour.Briggs Beautyware

briggs bathroom colors 1938

Briggs Manufacturing Company, circa 1938, must have really been something!

Readers, if you find more info or photos or examples of these Briggs Beautyware Cab-Unettes, be sure to contact me, I’d love to capture more info. And in colors — double extra bonus points!

And see my Geneva steel kitchen — the kitchen that started this blog!

You are now at the epicenter of all research about vintage steel kitchen cabinets, read more: