Antique Mid-18th Century French Commodes and Chests of Drawers
Finding the Right Commodes and Chests of Drawers for You
Commode is the French term for a low chest of drawers, but it is also sometimes used to denote a piece with a particularly intricate design. The commode dates to circa 1700 France, where it was used as an alternative to a taller cabinet piece so as to not obscure paneled, mirrored or tapestried walls. Coffers, or chests, which were large wooden boxes with hinged lids and sometimes stood on ball feet, preceded chests of drawers, a fashionable cabinet furnishing that garnered acclaim for its obvious storage potential and versatility.
As time passed, French and British furniture makers led the way in the production of chests of drawers, and features like the integration of bronze and ornamental pulls became commonplace. Antique French commodes in the Louis XV style were sometimes crafted in mahogany or walnut, while an Italian marble top added a sophisticated decorative flourish. This specific type of case piece grew in popularity and double chests — tallboys and highboys, which were essentially one chest on top of another — followed.
So, what makes a chest of drawers different from a common dresser? Dressers are short, and chests of drawers are overall taller pieces of furniture that typically do not have room on the top for a mirror as most dressers do. Some chests of drawers have one column of four to six long drawers or three long drawers in their bottom section that are topped by a cluster of small side-by-side drawers on the top. To further complicate things, we sometimes refer to particularly short chests of drawers as nightstands.
Even though chests of drawers are commonly thought of as bedroom furniture to store clothing, these are adaptable pieces. A chest of drawers can house important documents — think of your walnut Art Deco commode as an upgrade to your filing cabinet. Nestle your chest near your home’s front door to store coats and other outerwear, while the top can be a place to drop your handbag. Add some flair to your kitchen, where this lovable case piece can hold pots, pans and even cookbooks.
When shopping for the right chest of drawers for your home, there are a few key things to consider: What will you be storing in it? How big a chest will you need? Speaking of size, don’t dream too big. If your space is on the smaller side, a more streamlined vintage mid-century modern chest of drawers, perhaps one designed by Paul McCobb or T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings, may best suit your needs.
At 1stDibs, we make it easy to add style and storage to your home. Browse our collection of antique and vintage commodes and chests of drawers today.
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