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Practical antiques: Creative use for an antique dye cabinet

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How many times have you seen a beautiful antique and thought, "I love it but I don't know what I would do with it!" Or, "I love it but I can't afford it."

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Unfortunately, a lot of wonderful antiques get passed by for these two reasons. That's because most antiques are typically desires rather than necessities; they are decorative and often not practical in today's world.

This column kicks off a new series where I'll give quick ideas for putting beautiful antiques to practical purposes, which helps with both predicaments. If you could replace an item in your home with the antique, then you could find a place to use it. Moreover, if you could find a practical use for an antique, it is likely you wouldn't have to spend your money on something mass made that you find in a big box store that serves the same purpose, which solves the budgetary argument.

First up, is the antique dye cabinet. There are lots of uses for them, but we'll tackle just one idea a day. Most dye cabinets feature beautiful artwork and have access doors from both sides. They used to be used as displays in general stores; one side could be accessed from the front, where the customer viewed the dye packets that would be used for dyeing clothing and fabric, while the other side was accessed from the merchant's side of the counter.

This particular dye cabinet features bold wording as opposed to the colorful artwork found on some other varieties. In this case, many of the envelopes containing the dye is still in the cabinet. The dye packets remain but interspersed with them are cosmetics and the cabinet, because of its compact size, easily fits atop a toilet tank or bathroom counter.

It provides plenty of extra cubby storage for small items like mascara tubes, lip sticks, lip gloss and eye shadows. What is really neat about this particular piece is that the labels that indicated the color of the dye packets still remain, which is handy for this application. For instance, you can put tubes of mascara or eye liner in the cubby marked black, while lip gloss and lipsticks can go in the cubbies marked red or pink.

It is a fun, unique way to store antiques and add a vintage touch to your bathroom.

You can always find vintage dye cabinets at local antique stores as well as on Ebay, Etsy and one of my favorite online antique stores for general store items, Bargain John's.