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Know Your Furniture: Hutch

Posted by Tom

Know Your Furniture: Hutch



A hutch is an American English word usually used to describe a set of shelves or cabinets placed on top of a lower unit with a counter and either drawers or cabinets. Hutches are often seen in the form of desks, dining room or kitchen furniture. Frequently referred to by furniture aficionados as a hutch dresser.


In the 18th and early 19th century, however, the term hutch or hutch table referred to a tabletop set onto a base in such a way that when the table was not in use, the top pivoted to a vertical position and became the back of a chair or wider settee.[1][2] This was a very useful form at a time when many homes had a large room used for multiple functions, because it allowed a large dining table to swing up and out of the way.[1]

Typically fashioned from timber, modern hutch dressers can range from country cottage style (frequently solid timber, sometimes adorned with ornate scroll-work) to the sleek lines of the wood grain veneer style popularized throughout the 1960s to 1980s.

Many hutches from recent decades feature a mirror in the back of the upper shelving to give the additional appearance of depth and to better display the fineries kept within (in a similar manner to a china cabinet).

Amongst the most desirable of the 1960s veneered kind are those featuring a fold down liquor compartment where the fold down compartment door serves to increase the worktop area for setting out the glassware and preparing an evening “tipple”.

These liquor compartments often feature a mirror at the back and frequently the inner wood veneer surface of the door (becoming the worktop surface) is polished to a high luster increasing the overall effect thus impressing guests and onlookers.


Most hutches are of three types, the kitchen hutch, the china hutch or the buffet hutch.

Buffet Hutch

A buffet hutch is the simplest of the three types. It is usually a short cabinet, with a flat top, upon which one can serve additional food, tea, or coffee. The top is also a nice place to keep a bowl of fruit. This type of hutch may have wheels, offering ease of movement from one place to another in a dining room or kitchen.

Beneath the flat top of the buffet hutch, there is usually a cabinet with a few shelves. The cabinet doors tend to be solid wood, although some are a combination or wood and glass. Occasionally, a large drawer sits atop the shelves, or the cabinet instead will more resemble a lowboy dresser on wheels. The buffet hutch tends not to have shelves above the flat top, though a few have small wire shelves set up higher so as not to minimize the food serving area.

Kitchen Hutch

A kitchen hutch adds a number of upper shelves to a buffet and generally does not have wheels. Usually a kitchen hutch cannot be moved because it is too tall. This hutch still has some available flat space beneath the upper cabinets. The doors for the cabinets tend to be made of solid wood. Sometimes one sees the upper shelves made without doors, or with glass doors.

The top shelves of the kitchen hutch, whether used in a dining room or kitchen, are usually wide enough apart to store unusual items like raised cake plates. A kitchen hutch with an open top might be used to place food out of the way, like cakes or pies, that won’t fit easily on counter space or in the refrigerator. Kitchen hutches can be quite tall, some measuring around 6 feet (1.82 m) in height. Some are also available to be used in corners, which can really help with storage needs, while not taking up too much space.

China Hutch

The china cabinet hutch,  known in British English as a Welsh dresser,  is usually the largest of the three hutches. It almost always has wooden doors with glass panes in the top section so that china can be beautifully displayed. Upper shelves are often made of glass, and may be lighted. The lower shelves usually have cabinet doors made of solid wood. There may also be drawers in the lower section, which are perfect for storing silverware or folded tablecloths.

The china cabinet hutch tends also to be the widest type of hutch. Though sizes vary, they can measure between 4 and 5 feet (1.21 and 1.54m) across. However it is possible to custom order each type of hutch in a variety of sizes.

Hutch Vs. Breakfront

A hutch is a huge, generally wooden; cabinet that can come in numerous varieties and are often seen in the form of desks, dining room or kitchen furnishings. A breakfront on the other hand, is a piece of furniture, such as a cabinet with a central part that projects beyond the sections to either side and has the line of its face broken by a curve or angle. The hutch was first popularized all the way through the 1960s to 1980s, while the first Known use of breakfront was in 1928.

Hope you have enjoyed this latest installment of Madison Seating’s Know Your Furniture series, please don’t hesitate to leave your thoughts, questions or ideas for other Know Your Furniture entries in the comment area below.

Have a wonderful day!

1 Comment

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