EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT VINTAGE ARMOIRES
Despite the fancy French name, vintage armoires are practical pieces of furniture that add useful storage to virtually any room.
An armoire is a large, freestanding cabinet with two doors that conceal a main section equipped with a mix of both hanging space and shelving. Below are additional drawers. Although armoires are usually used for storing clothes, a used armoire can hold much more than shirts and sweaters. Use a large armoire as TV armoire, or use it to house other electronics like DVD players or sound equipment. You might even consider a desk armoire if you’re looking to conceal a computer workstation behind doors. In the kitchen, an armoire with drawers is the perfect place to stash linens and dinnerware.
Due to its size, an antique armoire is naturally striking. When you consider an armoire’s style, color and embellishments, it can serve as the main focal point of a room. Eye-catching details like hand painting, latticework, and patinated hardware can increase the appeal.
HISTORY OF THE ARMOIRE
Dating back to medieval times, armoires were first used to hold weapons and armor. The name is believed to come from the Latin word “armorium,” which refers to a chest for storing arms.
In France, early storage armoires were heavily decorated and featured gilding, intricate painting and architectural elements. The armoire cabinets designed by cabinetmaker Andre-Charles Boulle for Louis XVI in the late 17th Century were celebrated as some of the Western world’s grandest pieces of furniture.
Non-royal, less affluent people also owned armoires, though they were usually small armoires. Still, they were often considered one of the most prized possessions in a home. Armoire’s high value was demonstrated through masterful construction and elaborate wood carvings.
In pre-20th century America, many homes did not have built-in closets. Clothes were contained in either wardrobe cabinets or closet armoires. Clothes armoires are still useful for city-dwellers living in small apartments, or those residing in older homes that lack ample closet space.
Feeling l’amour for a vintage armoire? Here are some things to consider before buying one.
First, determine the purpose of your antique armoire. If you need an armoire or wardrobe for organizing clothes, blankets, towels and other linens, a typical clothes armoire should work fine. A freestanding wardrobe can be used in a bedroom, while a corner armoire or wardrobe is ideal for saving space in a hallway or space-pinched laundry room. To up the function of a wardrobe cabinet, you can consider installing mirrors on the inside of the doors.
If you’ll be using your armoire as an entertainment armoire or media armoire, you should make sure that the armoire you select can accommodate having holes drilled in the back for wiring. If you’re considering a vintage armoire, you should also make sure that it can support the weight of a TV (as well as accommodate your TV's dimensions).
Thinking about using a vintage wardrobe or armoire in the dining room? A secondhand armoire can be used for a wide variety of storage needs, including linens, dishware, and even liquor. If you’re inclined to display whatever you’re storing, look for a wood wardrobe with glass doors (or have them installed). Glass doors ensures your collection of vintage china, glassware, or even rare bottles of booze will truly shine.
If you’re considering using a vintage armoire as a desk armoire in the office, make sure that the main cabinet can accommodate a computer, keyboard and power strip. Look for an armoire or wardrobe with drawers to keep office supplies and paperwork accessible. Keep in mind that space for a printer is valuable, too.
After you’ve confirmed what you’ll be using your antique armoire for, it’s important to identify what style you’ll be on the hunt for. Love minimalist and modern design? If so, opt for a sleek, Mid-Century Modern or Danish Modern armoire. Furniture from the mid 20th Century was known for clean lines, smooth surfaces, and teak wood.
Looking for something a bit more ornate? Try an antique Louis XV armoire. The romantic French Rococo style features elegant curves and elaborate wood carvings. Or try the Chippendale style, named after 18th century cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale and recognizable for its dark mahogany wood, S-shaped curves ,and triangular pediments.
Do you go for glam? Consider an Art Deco armoire, which will likely feature rounded edges and geometric wood patterns. Chevron and sunburst patterns will hark back to the extravagant Jazz Age.
Skew more simple and rustic in your tastes? A used armoire in the 1700s American Shaker style fits perfectly with the farmhouse aesthetic. Shaker furniture is known for clean construction in maple, pine and cherry with simple, wooden knobs. The Mission style, which arrived after Shaker in the 1800s, is similar in that its lack of adornment but features darker stains, parallel wooden slats, and black or metal hardware.
After selecting what style armoire you’ll be searching for, consider your space. In a small room, a large armoire will feel overwhelming, while a smaller armoire can help tie everything together without dominating.
Once you have a specific armoire in mind, determine if it will physically fit in your space by measuring its length, width, height and diagonal height. If you’ve selected an armoire or wardrobe with drawers, open the drawers to see if you can do so without bumping other furniture. Keep in mind ceilings, wall fixtures, windows and door openings. If you find yourself short on space, again, consider a corner wardrobe closet or armoire. Lastly, if you’ll be using your armoire as an entertainment armoire, consider access to power outlets. With a bit of consideration, your home can easily fit this stunning source of storage and character.
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