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Why a Cabinet Is a Better Bar Cart & 7 Other Furniture Swaps

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It's tempting to just see furniture for what it is: A bench is a bench, a ladder a ladder, a cabinet a cabinet.

But no! Some of the most creative design moves are notable because they break this very supposition. A piece of furniture, used in a way other than for its intended purpose, is often more interesting than something that does exactly what you expect it to do. Shaking things up can be less than intuitive, of course, so here are some examples to get you inspired.

Shallow Cabinet as Barcart

A true barcart is on wheels, so it can hypothetically be scooted around to best serve those who are slave to its bounty. But most end up leading a stationary life, regardless. So why not use a standard cabinet, which has the added benefit of shelves that can provide extra kitchen storage (or simply a place for all your coupes and tumblers)?

Cocktail & Champagne Coupe (Set of 2)

Cocktail & Champagne Coupe (Set of 2)

Monti Decanter

Monti Decanter


Ladder as Shelves

There are a few ways to use a ladder as storage. If you have the room, simply set it out in an empty corner and arrange decorative accents on its steps, or scooch it up against a wall and lay a few boards across its steps to act more like traditional shelves. Even more basic leaning ladder models can be propped against the wall to hang towels or magazines on.

right back to it 📷🌿

A photo posted by jillian guyette (@jillianguyette) on

Photo by James Ransom
Solid Oak Oxidized Decor Ladder

Solid Oak Oxidized Decor Ladder

Steel & Wood Leaning Ladder

Steel & Wood Leaning Ladder


Two Cabinets as Hutch

Without getting tangled in the weeds of furniture semantics, a hutch is a type of furniture with an upper section—often windowed for decorative storage—and also a lower section of cabinetry. It is tall, fits many things, and comes in many styles. Instead of buying a hulking antique, consider a piece that hangs above a low set of cabinets (and then paint them two different colors!).

Wardrobe as Dish Cabinet

Despite the fact that we can't see into this cabinet, its proximity to the dining room table indicates that it doesn't likely hold a capsule collection of summer dresses. Are there aprons on hooks? Added shelves for table setting supplies or linens? Either way, it's an interesting (and slender) shape for the space.

Bench as Pedestal

In an entryway, a bench might be useful in its intended free-from-clutter form (since you might sit down to take off or put on shoes, or want to leave your bag somewhere that's not the ground). But elsewhere, especially along a hallway or living room wall, it isn't as necessary for seating—so heap it with plants and books and bottles instead.

Feeling fresh at The Boathouse Balmoral Beach in Sydney with @glampackersyd #traveldeeper

A photo posted by AFAR (@afarmedia) on

Ironing Board as Console

Narrow and rickety, vintage ironing boards might not be the best for steaming your clothes (unless you're the type who is ready to DIY a cover for it, and 10 points if you are). Others might use it the same way a narrow table would be in the hallway, for anchoring a piece of art above it or holding pretty things.

Photos by SF Gate, Vintageholic

Baskets as Side Tables

An oldie but a greatie, the idea of flipping over deep baskets to make small tables is fun, airy, and non-committal—the best kind of side table decisions.

Photo by Jen Gotch
Vintage French Oyster Basket

Vintage French Oyster Basket

Wood Market Basket with Liner

Wood Market Basket with Liner


Flat File as Linen Cabinet

Antique cabinets with very, very skinny drawers are difficult to repurpose in the obvious situations (because do you have a map collection that needs sorting? do you want to put a single shirt in every drawer?). Linens—especially for the table—are an excellent example of something that would find a happy home in a piece of furniture like this.

Photo by Magnolia Market

This article originally ran this day last year, but we brought it back to inspire a little pre-spring rearranging.

Do you have any furniture that you use in a completely unexpected way? Share your ideas in the comments.

Tags: Interior Design, Furniture, Storage Tips, How-To & Diy