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Antique Armoires & Wardrobes

Back in the day, houses did not have closets. What clothes people had were kept in wardrobes or armoires when they weren’t kept in chests. Wardrobes and armoires could be simple, with plain wood planks for a box and a door or two, or jaw-droppingly ornate both inside and out, with drawers, shelves, and other storage places for each bedroom.

What style of armoire or wardrobe is available?

This type of furniture may be all about storage, but style matters as well, especially if you're trying to match the bedroom decor. Styles of armoires and wardrobes are:

  • Art Deco: A more modern form that came into fashion around World War I. These armoires often have chevrons and other geometric motifs as decorations.
  • Louis XV: This style is notable for its S-shapes and curves. Wood was often lacquered and painted.
  • French country: This is a simplified version of the styles named after the French kings. It rarely has such add-ons as veneers or marquetry, though door panels can have attractive carvings.
  • Victorian: This type of furniture tends to be heavy, ornate, and made of dark woods.
  • Biedermeier: This German style sees armoires and wardrobes full of carvings, arches, columns, plumes, wreaths, and other ornamentation. There may be shelves on the inside, and the piece may have a decorative finish.
  • Chippendale: This type of furniture is known for its ball and claw or bracket feet, beautiful hardware and broken pediments.
  • Modern: In modern furniture, form often follows function. These armories have clean lines, simple pulls and peg feet. Many have three doors, and they may be white or brown in color.
  • Renaissance: European countries had their own version of Renaissance furniture, but it is usually massive and heavily carved, with architectural details. There's plenty of storage room, including space for hanging apparel.
What are the wardrobes and armoires made from?

Woods include:

  • Walnut: In some pieces, the walnut has beautiful burls, which comes from a wart-like growth in the root of the tree.
  • Cedar: Cedar is a fragrant softwood with a fine grain.
  • Pine: There are several types of pine, but yellow pine is often used for furniture.
  • Oak: Wardrobes can be made of several species of oak.
  • Tiger wood: This is golden brown to grayish brown wood with black stripes that recall the pelt of a tiger. It is also called African walnut.
  • Mahogany: This wood is prized for its lovely grain and reddish color.
  • Cherry: This light to dark reddish wood can resemble mahogany.
  • Teak: This is a tough but beautiful wood. It is a tobacco brown color with pleasing black streaks.
  • Satinwood This is a beautiful golden wood with a satiny luster. It’s often used as veneer in works by Chippendale.
What are some outstanding features of these armoires and wardrobes?

Some interesting features include mirrored doors, hand-carved elements, and bronze or gilded mountings. These included bronze foliage, wreaths, and guilloches. A guilloche is a geometric band or border pattern with overlapping circles. You may find a piece with a beautiful finish or one that comes equipped for hanging clothes. Armoires and wardrobes can be adorned with marquetry, which are designs made of contrasting woods or other materials such as horn, tortoiseshell, or mother of pearl. Others have beautifully painted exteriors, like white. In more provincial pieces, the paint maybe antiqued. Some examples have windows in the doors which may have embedded grills. There may be curtains behind the windows to conceal the contents of the armoire. This is largely found in French provincial armoires. Besides broken scroll pediments, armoires and wardrobes might have round pediments, swan neck pediments, or American bonnet top pediments.

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