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The Antique Chest of Drawers

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Antique Chest of Drawers

Antique chest of drawers date back to the 17th Century. They are now also known as Dressers or Bureaus, and are pieces of furniture which have multiple drawers stacked one above each other.
There are lots of variations of these which makes them so popular. The top Drawers may be narrower in width allowing two drawers side by side in the space of the wider ones.  There may also be two columns of drawers side by side.

Chests of drawers are usually made for storing clothing, especially lighter garments like socks and underwear, and any other items not normally hung up in a wardrobe. They are normally kept in a bedroom for this purpose, but they can actually be used to store anything that will fit into the drawers and can be kept anywhere suitable in the house depending on what is kept in them.  Chests of drawers have through history been used as tool cabinets in a carpenter’s workshop.
A typical chest of drawers is approximately rectangular in shape and usually has some form of short legs at the bottom corners for standing on the floor.

An antique chest of drawers will often come in 5, 6 or 7-drawer styles, sometimes with a single or double top drawer. Although a chest of drawers can be quite plain in appearance, they can be made with an ornamental or fancy appearance, which includes various colors and wood tone finishes.  This is often the case with a good quality antique chest of drawers.

Most antique chests of drawers fall into one of two kinds. The kind which are about waist high and those which are about shoulder or head high. Both types normally have a flat surface on the top.  The waist high chests can often have a mirror fitted on top. This can be a valuable aid to the user to assist when dressing or grooming to see their appearance. Photographs, candles, lamps and other personal items are often used to decorate the surface of the chest of drawers.

In Europe in the middle ages the chest became widespread in use, especially in the homes of the wealthy and the nobility. The type of chest at this time was known as a coffer. It wasn’t much more than a simple wooden box with a hinged lid, and it may or may not have had feet. An early change in the design of the chest was the fitting of a single drawer underneath the main box.  Some early pieces from the seventeenth century which have survived were manufactured in England and made from oak, and some seventeenth century pieces from France are made in walnut.
Some of the earliest surviving English pieces are from Charles I period and are dated as before 1649.

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Georgian Furniture. Antique Chest of Drawers

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Georgian Furniture 1714 – 1800

During the very long reign of England’s three Kings, Georges, I, II, and III, from 1714 to 1800, there developed a style of furniture known as Georgian.

An Antique Chest of Drawers or any Georgian furniture are well designed pieces and are built to a very high standard. They are made using good quality woods such as mahogany and oak and the screws were made by hand.
The style of English Georgian furniture was mostly plain and simple and had a similarity to the architectural lines of buildings. Furniture was hand crafted, and good quality solid woods were abundant, and along with good metalware fittings, quality was of the utmost imortance.

As the British Empire expanded more and more, new and different woods were discovered and became available. One of the main changes to furniture fashions occurred during the reigns of George I and George II by the replacement of Walnut with Mahogany.
Mahogany was mainly imported from Cuba and Honduras. This new close grained wood which is much harder and less prone to woodworm, became very popular with cabinet makers and was in high demand, as it was more suitable for the grander pieces also in high demand for the newer and taller buildings.

Early Georgian

Early Georgian furniture was mainly of a simple design. Pieces like the cricket table, would have had a plain solid top and three simple turned legs. Hanging corner cabinets made from oak were popular and also simply designed oak settles and refectory tables. More elaborate pieces of furniture were constructed from walnut, for example, a chest on stand, sometimes had cabriole legs and ball and claw feet. Card tables also became popular using the same construction and style.

Mid Georgian

Some of the greatest furniture designers were around by Mid Georgian times. George Hepplewhite and Thomas Sheraton were well known cabinet makers both of whom made a huge impact on furniture design in the 18th century. There were also Robert Adam who introduced the “Greek” neo-classicism to Britain, and Thomas Chippendale, who promoted more French Rocco style.
The simple straight lines were starting to change to more curved styles with ornamentation and motifs, but the more classic designs still lasted throughout.
The Chippendale and Hepplewhite tea tables, chair sets and dumbwaiters were now very popular. The style of Bookcases changed and became more delicate and less architectural in design with astragal glazing and swan neck pediments. Chest on chests with canted corners, rococo swan neck handles and rococo designed carvings were all popular and usually made from Mahogany.

Late Georgian

There was widespread use of painting, light carving and marquetry, inlay and veneer by the late Georgian period. Mahogany was still the principal wood of choice for the cabinet makers, but satinwood was beginning to become popular.
George Hepplewhite had the famous Prince of Wales crest of three feathers on pier tables and the backs of chairs with beautifully painted neo classical designs. Mahogany was still the preferred wood of choice, though satinwood and marquetry inlay was often used. Cylinder shapes, concave fronts and bow fronts were becoming very popular and fashionable. Much grander pieces than before were being made such as large pedestal desks and huge break fronted library bookcases.

How to date a Georgian piece of furniture by the construction and style.

The very early pieces may have used mortice-and-tenon joints which were held by pegs or dowels instead of using screws or glue, and the most common foot was the bracket foot. From the earliest Georgian times the most common method of construction was hand cut dovetail joints which were glued together. Clout nails which were hand cut were used for the backboards and sometimes hand made screws were used. Ebony and brass were more commonly used for decoration in the later Georgian period, as were banding with string inlay. The later pieces sometimes had an ogee bracket foot, and the most popular handles were the drop and swan neck.

 



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Dating Antique Furniture

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Antique furniture is usually named by the periods of the British Monarchy in which it was made.
Here is a list of the dates –

 

Dates

1558 – 1603
1603 – 1625
1625 – 1649
1649 – 1660
1660 – 1685
1685 – 1689
1689 – 1694
1694 – 1702
1702 – 1714
1714 – 1727
1727 – 1760
1760 – 1800
1800 – 1820
1820 – 1830
1830 – 1837
1837 – 1901
1901 – 1910

British Period

Elizabethan
Jacobean
Carolean
Cromwellian
Restoration
Restoration
William & Mary
William III
Queen Anne
Early Georgian
Early Georgian
Late Georgian
Regency
Regency
William IV
Victorian
Edwardian

British Monarch

Elizabeth I
James I
Charles I
Commonwealth
Charles II
James II
William & Mary
William III
Anne
George I
George II
George III
George III
George IV
William IV
Victoria
Edward VII


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