Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Helen the Hoosier

This is what she looked like the moment I laid eyes on her. I became instantly infatuated, some know it as love at first sight. I've seen many of these vintage Hoosier cabinets over the years and I've always admired them, but when I saw Helen ... it was just different. I had to have her. She was marked at $150.00 which is a fair price on a cabinet like this, but she was dirty .... REALLY DIRTY. The bottom of the cabinet was rotted out and needed a new back and bottom, and as we came to find out a few structural reinforcements as well. I didn't care about these things ... barely even noticed them. I offered $135 and brought her home a few days later. 

Most Hoosiers that you see in antique stores today are early models. They are made from sturdy oak and were never intended to be painted. These cabinets were made from 1898 through the 20's and even into the 30's. It wasn't until the late 20's and early 30's that they were manufactured in lower grade wood that was intended to be painted. This was towards the end of the Hoosier popularity, which was a result of modern built in cabinetry and the onset of a national depression. 

The Hoosier was an ingenious invention that would house the entirety of a modern families baking supplies. The enamel top pulls out to create a large work surface, the upper cabinets always contained a built in flour sifter that would hold up to 50lbs of flour. Often times there would be another container for sugar and racks for other dry goods and spices. 

My Helen came complete with flour sifter, beautiful enamel top that still pulls out with ease, a functioning roll top compartment, and beautiful art deco stencils on the upper doors. I know you all know me for painting and altering furniture, but I also believe that you just don't mess with a good thing! This girl is painted in the iconic yellow and green of the 1930's and I would never dream of compromising her integrity. So I set out to very gently and considerately clean her and rebuild her bottom half. 

After about four weeks she has finally been moved inside. Brett did most of the structural reinforcements and I did the cleaning. 

When I bought Helen, there was a note with her from the seller that said she was found in the lower level of an old townhouse in downtown Chicago. I'm guessing Chicago is where Helen has spent her life until now. I'm not sure if she was left there abandoned for several years, or just not cared for, but signs of wear inside and out indicated severe neglect. But after wiping away layers of dirt and set in grease I found the original wear marks from when she was once loved and used as the most functional workspace in a kitchen. 

Although the Hoosier company created the Hoosier, there were many companies that also sold these cabinets. Helen has an actual Hoosier insignia which from what I hear is fairly rare, and I'm quite pleased with this little piece of history, still in tact after 80 years.  

Thanks for stopping by to see my pride and joy ;)  


  1. Chelsea,one word, gorgeous! amazing work as usual! I love reading your new post! This on was by far a favorite! Heathere

  2. Love it. I'm glad you left the original paint and decals. That makes it way more interesting. It's also nifty that it came with the flour sifter. Brett's mom used to have a bunch of glass canisters that went with Hoosier cabinets. She may still be using them. Love the lean look, though, with just the scales.

  3. You did an amazing job of cleaning Helen up. Love it! Appliances and kitchens and what not were way more interesting back then compared to now. I want a little fridge like the one in the picture you posted in your last post!

  4. Helen is freaking beautiful! Great job bringing her back to life!

  5. What a great find! So glad you didn't "update" her. The insignia and the stencil are wonderful. If I had her, I think I'd have to design my whole kitchen around her!

  6. WOW! What a beautiful thing you found! And what a great job you did in doing her up! Great job!

  7. I have a question....what year is your Hoosier. I have one just like it and can't find any info on it.