What is a Linen Cupboard?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2019
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A linen cupboard or press is a closet or standalone cabinet for storing linens like towels, sheets, and tablecloths. The design protects fabric from dirt, moisture in the air, and other hazards, keeping it in crisp condition so it will be ready for use whenever people have a need. The practice of storing linen in a covered area to keep it in good condition is ancient, and it is possible to see examples of historic and antique linen cupboards on display in museums as well as for sale at antique shops.

The typical linen cupboard has a series of shelves to create usable compartments for different kinds of linens. The shelves may be adjustable and sometimes there may be a drawer for smaller items like napkins and pillowcases. The shelves may have drawer liners or paint to keep them neat and clean. Rough wood cannot be present because this could leave splinters or snags in the fabric. Some cupboards use cedar paneling to resist insects.

In the airing cupboard variation on the design, the linen cupboard is built around a water heater with slats for ventilation. Warm air circulates through to prevent dampness and limit the chances of mold and mildew. This can be a concern when people have a large store of linens that may not all be in regular circulation. Resting in a dark, warm spot can result in molding, and the airing cupboard will prevent this problem.


The basic design allows for flexible uses, and people may use a linen cupboard to store a variety of things. With closets and built-in cupboards and cabinets, this flexibility can be very useful in remodels. People can use a linen cupboard as a closet in a bedroom, pantry in a kitchen, or general storage closet for things like games, cleaning supplies, and so forth. It may be necessary to adjust the shelving or make other small modifications to make it more usable.

Freestanding cupboards for linens can be useful for people who want design flexibility, or want to be able to take their linen cupboards with them to accommodate houses with limited storage space. It is also possible to repurpose antiques for other purposes, like storing and displaying antique fabrics or other precious objects. With freestanding cabinets, it is important to make sure the cabinet is on level ground and not top-heavy, as it can fall, especially in an earthquake, and may injure people or cause damage.


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