How to Make a Dining Room Hutch Beautiful

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Are dining room china cabinets or hutches even in style?  In our fast-paced culture where formal dining rooms are no longer a house-hunting must-have, this is a very good question!  I guess it really depends on who you ask, but in my opinion, the general idea of dining room storage still holds a lot of value. 

No matter the style of the home, shelving of some kind is very popular.  So while a more modern farmhouse style home might have floating shelves or another home may have an open concept with open shelving running through the kitchen, the idea of some kind of shelves to hold dishes and décor is still very popular.  And with open concept homes being so common, it is not unlikely to see a pretty shelving unit in a living room or kitchen instead of a formal dining space! 

I think the changing trend is perhaps more in what goes on the dining room hutch or china cabinet rather than discarding any kind of storage. 

So whether your shelves are in the kitchen, dining room, living room, or some other space, I hope this post will inspire you to rethink how you use those shelves and even spark some creativity! 

We purchased this apothecary last winter.  You can find all the details about its history and how we restored the original paint in this post .  I have so much fun styling this piece for the seasons, just as I would any other space in our home. That’s my first tip for dining room or kitchen shelf styling:

Have fun rotating décor on your shelves! 

It’s okay to store certain pieces away, bring others out, add, take away, feature collections, and in general, treat your shelves as you would a mantel or entryway table!

What to Use as a Dining Room Hutch


For the purposes of this post, I’ll call it a hutch, but it could be any kind of shelves or cabinet!  This is a great spot to get creative with your furniture!  A vintage step back cabinet, pie safe, apothecary, floating shelves or open shelving are all great ideas for a dining room!  And those are just a few out of a long list!

In our dining room, we added this antique apothecary.  I love all the drawers for storage (though at the writing of this post, they are basically empty!), so I guess I should say I love the idea of all the drawers for storage!  Maybe at some point, I’ll do some reorganizing in my kitchen and move some of the “dining room” type of things to those drawers.  Whatever piece you use, the first consideration is function.

 If you have lots of storage in your home, this may not need to be a consideration.  But if you need to be conscious of storage space, a dining room hutch or cabinet is a GREAT place to add extra storage for anything from dishes to linens to extra kitchen ware or even pantry items! 


As much as possible, I do like to store things in the room or space that they are used in.  But in our first “real” house, I had a big wall in our kitchen where we put a dining room hutch and I kept all of our everyday dishes and flatware on the shelves and down below was my main pantry space!  It looked good in the space but most of all, was a desperately needed storage piece for our odd kitchen!  (Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture!  That was a long time ago!)

Once you have identified how you need the piece to function, have fun choosing just the right piece.  This may take some patience, especially if you are working within a budget or have a really specific style.  I waited a few years before we found this apothecary that fits our space and needs so perfectly!



If you are looking for a vintage piece, you can find some of my favorite vintage hunting tips HEREThe main thing to remember is patience!  It is worth waiting for the piece you LOVE versus settling for a piece that you’re not even going to like in a few months!

Now that you’ve chosen your dining room hutch or storage piece….

What to Put in Your Dining Room Hutch


Here’s the key: If you put things in your hutch that you use often or you rotate things around often enough, you never have to worry about deep cleaning!  Sometimes people worry that dishes sitting out on open shelving will be dirty.  If you are keeping things that you love using, that won’t be a problem!  There may be that special dish or piece that you keep for sentimental reasons, but if it gets a little dusty, no worries.  You’re probably not using it anyway!

On my hutch/apothecary, I use it as a fun spot to decorate with favorite collection pieces or seasonal items.  I like to keep out pieces that I use often for tablescapes, as well as favorite vintage items and seasonal décor.

If you are using your dining room hutch primarily for dishes, consider adding some décor pieces throughout.  A little pot with a fresh plant or a cloche covering a stack of bowls or some terra cotta pots can add a lot of interest to this space and make it more of a décor statement rather than just a storage unit!

Here is a list of things you might consider using in your hutch along with functional items:


  • Vintage Collections: Clocks, vases, ironstone, mortar and pestles, pottery, bottles, jars, crocks, and cloches are just a few that come to mind!  If you have a favorite collection, get it out where you can see it!  Consider grouping collection items to make a statement.
  • Sentimental Pieces: That pretty jar that belonged to your grandma or those candlesticks you received as a wedding gift?  Dig them out from the recesses of the closet and use them!  Unless it’s some kind of strong color or just cannot blend with your décor, a dining room hutch is a great place to display special pieces!  They can be great conversation starters!


  • Everyday items: Especially if every square inch counts, use a dining room hutch or pretty cabinet and make your everyday items decorative!  Choose dishes, flatware, vases, pitchers, and essentials that you really love and let them become your décor.  Neutral colors can really be helpful in this case, as you can’t go wrong with all-white dishes that will look pretty sitting out no matter the season.  But whatever your décor style is, invest in everyday items that enhance your décor rather than needing to be tucked away.  This will double your function and storage!

Once you’ve figured out what to put in your dining room hutch….

How Can I Arrange Items in My Dining Room Hutch?


One thing that gives hutches and china cabinets a bad reputation is that they can quickly become a catch all for “all those little things you didn’t know what to do with.” 

I have a few of those too, mainly some sentimental pieces that no matter how I try, they just don’t go with anything!  You know those awkward spaces above the refrigerator, I use one of those shelves (behind closed doors) to house those items.  But I don’t add to them.  Those are pieces that belonged to grandparents, etc., more heirloom kinds of things.  And there’s only a small box of them.

Clear out and clean out often!

 It is okay to get rid of things.  In case you need permission, CONSIDER IT GRANTED! 

Treat your dining room hutch or shelves as you would a mantel or a console table.  Even if you are decorating with every day, functional items, keep it looking pretty and a style in keeping with the rest of your home.

When arranging décor on shelves, there are three things I consider:


You can add a lot of character and depth to your dining room hutch décor by varying the heights of your pieces.  While it may look nice to have a row of a certain item, like a collection of bottles or bowls, consider adding some unexpected elements like a stack of the bowls at the end of the shelf or varying the heights by adding a stack of little plates under a couple of the bowls.  Use the dishes you have on hand to add height variations!  A little stack of butter pats or a few dessert plates under a fresh plant can add so much texture and character, while still in keeping with the rest of the décor.


For shelf styling, I like to choose a few elements and repeat variations of those elements in the overall styling.  For my summer dining room hutch styling, I chose to use white, glass, and a few natural, coastal elements.  The glass is repeated on each shelf through the use of vintage bottles, apothecary bottles, and cloches.  The white dishes are repeated on each shelf with stacks of bowls, plates, and some white architectural salvage pieces.  The pieces of coral add a seasonal touch and a bit of an “unexpected” touch as well.

In almost every décor space, I add greenery.  Whether nice faux greenery or real, it can really add some movement to the décor as well as breaking up the straight, hard lines of the white and glass pieces.

No matter which elements you choose to use in your dining room hutch, consider paring it down to 3 (or so) elements and then have some fun with a couple of unexpected touches too!


When styling shelves, balance is a really key element.  Style each shelf, but then step back and make sure there is a balance of your elements throughout the entire look.  On my summer dining room apothecary, for example, I wanted to make sure there was a balance of the white and glass pieces.  I wouldn’t want the right side to be all white and the left side be mostly glass.  By considering the space as a whole, I was able to balance the styling.

Symmetry can be a helpful way to style, but I do love to break up the symmetry with some unexpected pieces as well.  Styling with a balanced look, yet not completely symmetrical, can help your dining room hutch to have a more curated look. 

How to Edit Your Dining Room Hutch

Once you have completed your shelf styling, it can be helpful to walk away and take a break!  As you come back to it later, you may see spots that can be tweaked and edited.  I often style a space, leave it alone for awhile, then come back and remove items, move them over a couple inches, switch plants, add a plate to this stack, etc.!  This is all part of making a space “yours”.  Decorating truly is personal preference and expression of YOU!  Getting tips and ideas from other people is always fun and helpful, but as you edit your space, make it a personal reflection of your family and home.

How to Decorate Your Dining Room Hutch for the Seasons

Just as I decorate my mantel for the seasons, I like to do the same with my apothecary cabinet!  I love to switch décor, so while I might change the look of the entire piece, you can decorate for the seasons by simply switching a few items.

When fall rolls around, I could simply switch the coral pieces for a couple of baby white pumpkins!  Where the cool, blue tones of the vintage bottles are for summer, I could replace with some vintage amber bottles for the warm, fall colors.

Consider small and simple seasonal touches that don’t require you to store boxes and boxes of decorations! 

(When Christmas comes to town…that’s a whole different story, right?!) 

I hope this gives you some ideas and inspiration as you’re styling your dining room or kitchen shelves!  There are so many fun ways to use and display your everyday items, collections, and favorite pieces!  I hope this inspires you to put those things where you can see them and where they make you smile!



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