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Decorating with an Antique Pie Safe

Updated on February 4, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

Pie safes were used extensively in country homes of centuries past. They were a necessary piece of furniture used to store pies, cakes, and other sweets. The pie safe not only kept the sweet desserts safe from flies, mice, and other pests – it kept them away from hungry children.

A pie safe is a nostalgic addition to any country kitchen and makes a useful storage cabinet that will give your home warm country style.

used under licensing agreement
used under licensing agreement | Source

Names for Pie Safes

Pie safes were known by different names in different parts of the country. Common names for pie safes are:

  • Pie cabinet
  • Pie cupboard
  • Kitchen safe

History of the Pie Safe

The pie safe or cabinet is believed to have been introduced to the United States by the Pennsylvania Dutch. These homemade cabinets were used for all sorts of baked goods including breads, cakes, cookies, and tarts.

Because of the lack of refrigeration and airtight storage it was important that foods be kept in a place that was well ventilated and yet protected from mice. The tall pie safes served that purpose well. Situated in the coolest part of the kitchen, the safe held the family’s baked goods.

The doors were ventilated with punched copper of tin and later on, screening. To get the most ventilation the pie cabinets might even be moved to a shaded side porch in the spring and summer.

Materials for Pie Cupboards

Pie cupboards and safes were usually made of local wood. Since they were not meant for the parlor or other public areas they were generally simple, primitive pieces that may or may not have had a quick coat of leftover whitewash or milk paint.

Pine and other soft woods were generally used for the shelves and drawers, if not the whole piece. Sometimes local hardwoods like chestnut, maple, or hickory would be used for the outer surfaces, especially in the more affluent homes.

The Value of Antique Pie Cabinets

The value of a pie safe will vary according to a number of different criteria.

Age is an important consideration – especially as pie safes were used for several centuries and on into the early 1900s. An early pie safe from the 1700s may sell for several thousand dollars or more while a pie cupboard from 1910 will be easy to find for less than five hundred.

Original hardware and paint will generally give the pie safe more value than one that has been refinished or changed in some way – even if those changes were needed repairs. The condition will definitely affect the value.

Unique characteristics are more valuable than a piece that looks like every other one. Stenciling, a special painted motif, something different about the design – all of these will add up to a more valuable piece for your collection.

Demand with always drive price. If you are in Western Pennsylvania and there are thousands of pie safes to be found they will cost considerably less than if you live in Arizona where they are harder to find.

Finally, the provenance of a piece can make it extremely valuable. If it belonged in George Washington’s kitchen and you can prove it your pie safe may be able to finance your retirement.

Decorating with Antique Pie Safes

While the most logical place for the pie safe might be the kitchen there is no reason it can’t be used for towel storage in your bathroom or DVD storage in your den. Since these cabinets were built to be used they are sturdy enough to handle normal use, as long as you keep in mind their age.

The most important thing is to keep the pie safe away from direct sunlight and sudden temperature changes. If the pie safe is too near a heat source, whether it is a register or an oven, the wood will dry out, buckle, crack, splinter, and peel. Applying lemon oil on a regular basis can help protect the wood.

  • Keep mixing bowls, baking supplies, and measuring cups in a pie safe.
  • Use it to store yarn and other craft supplies.
  • Place diapers and baby’s bedding in a pie safe.
  • Use a pie safe to hold office supplies.

Once you have it places you can think about what you want to pair with it. A green plant or hand-woven basket on the top looks very rustic in almost any room.


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    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      These are so neat! I was intrigued by what an antique pie safe would be so I had to read your hub. Love it!

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      6 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      I will never forget a co-worker was hunting for a pie safe. As a modern girl I was dismayed - why? What? Huh? It is not my form of decorating. I have since matured and now understand and appreciate. Your hub is great for sharing a part of decorating that long eluded me. Being open to various decorating ideas, makes the home warmer and the person richer for appreciating different styles.

    • ContentThreads profile image


      6 years ago from India

      Hi Marye. I really appreciate your hard work and passion, you earn full time through Hubpages. That's great. And it made be eager too. And I really one pie safe for my kitchen, it's so easy when all the spices are lined up in order :( Will get one soon. Anyway good job.

    • sen.sush23 profile image


      6 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Pie safes were a common household article in most Indian middle-class families, probably a colonial influence rubbed off from the Europeans in India, in the nineteenth century. I have noted these in many homes, specially of the aged and who were in Government services prior to Independence etc. We had one at our house too, till a couple of years back my sister took it after she got married, to store her crockery. You may find this funny but we call it a 'Meat safe' though nobody ever stores meat in it. Nice hub. Voted up.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      I really enjoyed this one and have to vote up.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • Laura Schneider profile image

      Laura Schneider 

      6 years ago from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

      Excellent article! I love that you included the research about provenance and price (the practical stuff) in addition to the sentimental (traditional use of a pie safe) and the modern (can be used for many purposes). Now I want a pie safe to store my piano music in or my special dishes! I'll keep watch at auctions I attend in the future. Thanks for enlightening me to these beautiful and historical pieces of furniture!

    • Donna Huebsch profile image

      Donna Fairley Huebsch 

      6 years ago from Clearwater, Florida

      Very nostalgic article for me! My sister has our grandmother's pie safe in a cabin she owns. It still has the original whitewash on it, and you can see little worn spots in the paint around the wooden latch where my grandmother's fingers brushed against it over many years. I can remember raiding this same pie safe for treats when I was little :o)

      Interesting read!

    • angela p profile image

      angela p 

      6 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      I enjoyed reading this. We have an old pie safe with the doors removed that we store items on. It was my grandmothers handed down to my mother and then to me. The hub reminded me of my grandmother and aunts who also have old pie safes in their kitchens. Thanks!


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