An antique armoire is a large cupboard, originally designed to hold clothes and other items in an orderly fashion. They are generally used nowadays as bedroom dressers. The word “armoire” comes from the French meaning “wardrobe.” An armoire typically stands six feet tall or more; some antique armoires are nearly seven feet high! Armoires date back to at least the late Middle Ages (about the 15th century) when chests of drawers became common in Europe. Many early examples were highly ornate, decorated with expensive woods such as walnut, oak and mahogany; today these economic materials are much less expensive but still have that elegant air that suggests a formal look just right for your home’s decor.
What is an Antique Armoire?
Antique armoires can be found in just about any room in the house. They are often used in the bedroom as a dresser, but have also been used to store linen in homes with larger kitchens or dining rooms, and they were even popular in formal parlors for china storage. Many antique armoires feature quite a bit of hand carving on drawer fronts, legs and other elements. The handles are usually made out of brass or another metal, though some early examples have wooden pulls.
Antique armoires are built very solidly; typically there is no drawer that can slide open without pushing or pulling on it first! These examples also tend to be heavy when moving them, which adds to their stability against tipping over.
History of Antique Armoires
While the word “armoire” is French, most antique armoires are actually of English origin. Around the late 15th century, chests of drawers became more common in England; by about 1600 larger pieces called “wardrobes” were available as well. One popular style has a structure that resembles a castle with towers on either end and an arched doorway between them. The door usually has carvings depicting flowers, leaves or other ornate patterns; often there are also carvings on the drawer fronts as well. Many original armoires were quite tall to accommodate long dresses and coats for both men and women during different historical periods.
Some period styles of armoires include:
English Armoire: This is a wardrobe style that was popular from the late 15th century into the early 17th century.
Chinese-Style Armoires: These very ornate armoires can be found throughout Europe and even in America. They became popular during the 18th century and often feature bright colors, gold trim and dragons or other figures from China.
French Rococo Style Armoires: These elegant armoires date from about 1720 to 1760 and typically have very ornate carvings on both drawer fronts and doors.
American Federal Period Armories: In this period, which spanned from about 1800-1830, American cabinetmakers were influenced by French designs for their furniture; these armoires are both simple and elegant, with a very symmetrical design.
Other Antique Armoire Styles
In addition to the six aforementioned styles of armoires, there are also other shapes and types from various other periods in history. For example, some period English armoires have carvings on just one side while American Federal period armoires were often made with no carvings at all.
In France during the 18th century there was a brief vogue for neoclassical style armoires that featured classical figures such as cupids or griffins between layers of carving; these pieces became popular in America as well, though they never achieved quite the same level of artistic expression.
Armoires from earlier centuries (like early 17th century) sometimes had small drawers inside the main cabinet that could be used for storage (especially in the bedroom or other small room), while some Italian armoires from during this same period featured cabinets with doors on both sides.
Some examples of antique armoires are:
Birdcage Armoire: These unique pieces were made during the 19th century and often feature birdcages (complete with live birds!) as part of their design; these cages not only let light into the interior through their many bars, but also added an interesting aesthetic element to these rather whimsical creations. Balloon Back Armoire: This 18th century style is named for its very tall straight backs which come up to shoulder height; it was typically made with a single row of drawers and an arched top, which was decorated with carvings on the front.
Cabinet Armoires: These were actually just small cabinets that often doubled as nightstands and sometimes held a chamber pot inside. Usually they were very plain and unadorned, though occasionally some had wood paneling or carvings on them. Some examples even have mirrors attached to their doors; these pieces are generally from the early 18th century.
Different Uses for Antique Armoires
Most antique armoires (especially those from before 1900) were made to stand against a wall in somebody’s bedroom; casual furniture like chairs, tables and upholstered couches didn’t come along until the early 19th century and before that most people in Europe (and in America) simply slept on the floor. Thus armoires were used for storage of clothes, linens and sometimes even foodstuffs.
In general antique armoires from around the 18th century are larger than those from earlier centuries because it was during this time that dressmakers began making dresses with trains or other elaborate trimmings at the back; thus women’s clothing became bulkier to better accommodate these extra flourishes, so naturally they also needed a piece of furniture to store all their belongings inside.
Armoires typically have a series of drawers which can be pulled out for use or closed to keep a room looking tidy while company is visiting. Even if it contains no clothes, an armoire can still hold bedsheets, blankets and other linens which are kept folded inside.
Many French antique armoires also have hinged mirror doors on one side of their front panels; these pieces are often called “toilet armoires” because they could be used to temporarily close off a bedroom when guests were over for dinner or whatever.
With the advent of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century many people had more money to spend on furniture that was larger, grander and even more ornate than before; thus large furniture became both possible and desirable all at once. These days antique armoires are much less common than dressers since few people actually live in houses with wall space that will accommodate such an oversized piece of furniture.
Antique armoires and other large antique pieces of bedroom and dining room furniture tend to be incredibly expensive; some examples can cost as much as $65,000 or more if they are unique enough to attract the interest of collectors. Still, antique armoires make great conversation pieces and look wonderful in a study area where they serve as both desks and storage areas (if there is enough floor space for them).
What are Armoires Made out of?
The inside of an armoire can vary greatly. There usually are shelves towards the top of the piece, sometimes with small drawers underneath for storage smaller items like gloves or other accessories. Some units also have cubbyholes on the sides for easy access to belts or jewelry, and sometimes there are particular compartments that will hold specific types of clothing, such as long dresses. The bottom of the unit is often left bare for larger items like hats or shoes if desired by the owner.
Other examples will have fabric-covered sliding panels so hats can be stored vertically instead of laying down flat; this allows them to be quickly removed without taking up space in other sections. If an armoire has no back at all, you might even be able to install a light kit for use as a makeup cabinet!
Types of Antique Armoires
There are three primary types of antique armoires; one is French in origin, another English and the third was made in Germany. Here is a little information on each style:
The French Armoire
The French type armoire has two doors which open up to reveal several rows of shelves inside (usually with drawers along the bottom). They are generally tall enough that they can be used as an adult clothing storage piece, but they are also sometimes styled low enough for children’s use. Inside there are generally smaller compartments similar to those found in other types of antiques furniture, but these pieces tend to have more overall space so you can help yourself to plenty of room without worrying about where items will fit.
The English Armoire
An English style armoire is made up of two large doors which open to reveal three or four rows of shelves. There are often compartments at the very top for hats or smaller pieces, but most of these units have larger cubbyholes in between each shelf to help keep things organized neatly. Sometimes there are also drawers inside along the bottom where you can store gloves, scarves or other items that will not benefit from being hung on a nearby rack.
The German Armoire
German armoires are similar to French-style cabinets in that they tend to be tall and built more for adults rather than children; however the insides are much simpler with only a few shelves for storage instead of multiple levels. They have compartments in them as well, but are generally just one wide space that runs front to back with no divisions.
Common Terms for Armoires
Here we will explore some basic terms and phrases when it comes to antique armoires. A little knowledge of the language will help you understand exactly what your cabinet is capable of and how it can benefit you in your home!
The term “Armoire” alone refers to any large, ornate piece of furniture that has more than one door or drawer for storage inside while still being relatively low in height (this makes them better suited to taller adult use rather than children). If there are no drawers present then the cabinet may be referred to as a wardrobe instead.
Both French and English armoires have been known by many other names over time, such as highboy chests, Kastenkastenschränke or GardeMeuble. You might also see them called chiffoniers or chifferobes instead.
A wardrobe is an English armoire without any drawers inside, so it’s basically just a tall storage piece that has multiple doors instead of only one. It may also be referred to as a dresser if there are no shelves present.
The term “tallboy” is sometimes used in place of the words “armoire” or “wardrobe.” This can be very confusing because it can refer to both French and styles! To make things easier
Another popular type of vintage armoire is the 1920s Armoire, which is characterized by having a mirrored front with an intricate door design. These are often seen in vintage or antique stores, especially in smaller sizes that are good for using as bedroom furniture.
A popular type of antique armoire is a vintage armoire with mirror, also known as an antique mirrored armoire. Often you can find an antique armoire with mirror and drawers or an antique armoire with glass doors.
If you’re looking for an antique french amoire for sale, make sure you know what is the classic french armoire style – lots of curly ornamentations and carved details on furniture pieces. A french provincial style armoire has a subtle design or ornamentation – curved shapes, but is less elaborately carved.
An antique chifferobe dresser or cabinet is one that has small shelves and drawers, but does not have any doors for closing.
A vintage chifferobe is an antique piece of furniture with 4-8 drawers but no door or the door doesn’t close completely.
When it comes to vintage armoires, there are many things to keep in mind before you make your purchase. You should start by knowing exactly what you plan on using the armoire for – if it will be free standing in a bedroom then larger styles may suit your needs better than smaller ones intended for use as living room storage space.
A vintage chifferobe with mirror (or mirrored chifferobe) is an antique chifferobe with a mirror on the front. These antique chifferobes with a mirror were popular in the 1920s, during the Art Deco period. A 1920s chifferobe with mirror will add glamour and sparkle to your bedroom.
An antique chifferobe with drawers is an antique dresser or cabinet that has several small drawers instead of one large drawer in the center – for example, three small drawers beside each other in the middle.
Vintage child’s chifferobes are smaller than adult armoires but larger than vintage toy chests – making them a great alternative to full-sized furniture when children are ready to move into their own room. If you’re looking for nursery storage ideas then these cute armoires can work well for storing toys, clothes and more! Children’s cabinets were often made from wood and had pull-down ladders that could be used to reach the high shelves.
These days, determining an antique chifferobe value isn’t easy. The value of the antique chifferobe is based on several factors, including size, condition and rarity.
A popular type of antique wardrobe is a vintage or antique wardrobe with a mirror. A vintage wardrobe with a mirror is an antique wardrobe with a door that has a mirror on the inside of it.
Other popular types of wardrobes include:
- Antique French Armoire Wardrobe
- Vintage Metal Wardrobe Closet
- Victorian Antique Wardrobe
- Knock Down Wardrobe (Knockdown Wardrobe) – also known as fold away wardrobe (folding wardrobe, folding closet).
- Murphy Cedar Wardrobe – also known as a wall wardrobe, pull down wardrobe, wall closet.
How to Date an Antique Armoire?
A vintage armoire is a type of American furniture that combines storage and display functions. The term “vintage armoire” dates to the 1850s, when these large cabinets were introduced as bedroom furniture.
Before you start looking for an antique French armoire, it’s important to know what you’re looking for – specifically, if you want a vintage French ar moire or something completely different such as a Victorian wardrobe or 1920s Chifferobe.
If your old dresser has feet at each corner with scrolls on each pedestal and drawers in between, this piece was probably made before 1900. This makes it a Victorian antique dresser
. If there are no feet visible and four straight joined by stretchers, then you probably have an American Chifferobe. This style can be either 20th century, or late 19th if it has the mirror on the inside of the doors.
Another big distinction is to look at any writing stamped into the wood – this will tell you how old it is and where it was made. French antique dressers were often signed at one end by a professional craftsman who would also add his city and date (“Rouen, 1899”). Many English dressers (160-1800) bear a stamp with three letters “WSR,” which stand for William Stephen Raikes – he worked in London from 1828 until 1860 and presumably marked all his work. Other marks might indicate newel post makers, merchants and cabinet makers.
How to Refinish an Antique Armoire?
It is not difficult to refinish an antique chifferobe. If you are able to strip the existing finish off and sand down the wood, you can also apply a new finish.
If you intend on painting your armoire, be sure to use high-quality paint and primer in order to get the best results. Make sure that all surfaces of the furniture has been properly cleaned and given ample time for any loose or peeling veneers to adhere again before attempting any painting project. Always work from top to bottom when applying paint so as not to drip any excess onto finished surfaces below. It’s best if fresh coats of paint do not overlap old ones – this may cause peeling or bubbling issues.
Many people believe that antique armoires and chifforobes are hard to refinish because the wood is likely to crack and chip, and it may be difficult to mix paint colors for matching purposes. It really isn’t all that complicated to restain an antique wardrobe if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
You can add new hardware (hinges, pulls, locks) or leave existing ones – whatever suits your taste. It might take some work to get a reproduction lock fitted, but most of the original hardware is salvageable–just clean it up with steel wool or paint thinner before re-installation.
How to Disassemble or Assemble an Antique 1800s Armoire?
Make sure that you have access to the armoire you are planning on disassembling or assembling.
It is not unusual for antique armoires to be locked, so make sure you have the key, lock removal tools (if necessary) and instructions before taking your piece apart if need be. Also make sure that all of the original hardware (hinges, pulls) remain with your unit.
Follow these steps in order to successfully disassemble an old Victorian wardrobe: Remove all drawers by lifting carefully while depressing the side buttons until they are free of their slides. Lay each drawer face down on a blanket or other soft surface – this will keep them from getting scratched. If there are any small pieces still attached temporarily remove them until you are ready to re-assemble your dresser. Remove the two back screws that attach each hinge of the door – be sure to save them for later. You can now gently lift and remove the doors from their hinges. Open each door, lay it on its side and keep face down for protection.
Remove all remaining hardware (drawer pulls, locks) by unscrewing or unclipping closures as needed until complete. Lift all muntin bars out of grooves in case of French armoires. If you intend on re-using any muntin bars, mark where they were attached so that you know which direction is up when reassembling your project later on. Disassemble all other pieces according to your needs and instructions.
Decorating with Antique Armoires
Before you begin any decorating project that involves an antique armoire or chifforobe, first ensure that the piece is structurally sound. Remove all drawers and set them aside before removing any muntin (mullion) bars – this will make your task easier.
If possible, move smaller pieces into their desired location to see how they look. Lay down rugs, place furniture items on top of the area where you plan on putting your new armoire – anything that can assist you in visualizing your design options (mantels, lighting). Once you are satisfied with the placement of small items, arrange larger ones.
When decorating with an antique wardrobe it’s best to incorporate into a well thought out room design plan. Antique armoires and chifforobes are best suited to be the focal points of a room, so they should only have minimal decor surrounding them in order to avoid clutter.
You can add historical or ornamental accents that match your piece, such as a mirror with a beautiful frame, paintings picked specifically for their colors and size, lamps etc. If you’re unsure of how to decorate with armoires, start with pieces that compliment the existing structure – they will serve as an anchor for your design plan once everything else is in place.
When matching antique dressers, buffets & armoires to the specific theme of a room it’s important not to go overboard on color palettes. For example, mixing vintage armoires with contemporary or brightly colored furniture can look garish and make your room appear cluttered. Instead, stick to the dominant color scheme of your home (beige, browns, ivories etc.) using items that are more antique looking than others.
Adhering to the prevailing theme of your home will ensure that any antique wardrobe looks as if it belongs in its proper place – not something thrown into a room just for decoration.
Examples of where to place a vintage armoire include:
- Antique Wardrobes in the Living Room
- Antique Armoires in the Kitchen
- Old Armoires in the Bedroom
- Antique Statement Armoires in Foyer
How much are Old Armoires Worth?
Prices vary depending on condition, size and rarity of the armoire. Check antique furniture dealers listings to see what kind of prices they are asking for their pieces – this will give you an idea of how much you should sell yours for.
You can also check out various online market places such as Craigslist or eBay to get a feel for current market value. Keep in mind that many times there is no right or wrong way to price your particular piece – it’s really more about what someone is willing to pay at the time of purchase.
The more ornate/original hardware an old wardrobe has, the higher its sale price could be. Also, if it comes with any unusual storage features (elegant wine glass holders; hidden compartments; secret panels etc.) the price could be any where from $1,000 to several thousand – depending on who’s looking and what they perceive its worth to be.
Where to Buy an Antique Armoire?
Antique armoires are available from online dealers or high-end furniture stores. New, modern armoires will not have the same traditional feel as an antique piece, but they can be made of great materials and still give you years of use and style. Many people like to mix and match new pieces with vintage styles; this is especially true when we’re talking about storage.
The best way to approach antique armoires is on a case-by-case basis: some people prefer using them in their bedroom as dressers while others like the look of several set up as shelving units. If you find one at an estate sale or flea market, the price will vary depending on the condition of the unit. A piece that needs some work can be restored or painted for a great look; just make sure you check it over carefully before buying, especially for any staining or insect infestation!
Armoires are wonderful space savers in bedrooms big and small. They not only provide storage but also give rooms an elegant feel because of their classic lines and well-carved details.
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