Page 1 - 0518
P. 1

Florida’s Best Newspaper for Antiques & Collectibles                                                 TAKE ONE

                                    MAY 2018 • Volume 31 No. 9

                                 Chifforobes Were Gentleman’s Closets

        By Larry LeMasters
        LeMasters’ Antique News Service

           A  chifforobe  (pronounced  “shif-uh-rohb”),                                                   had dovetailed drawers.  If the drawer is simply
        also spelled chifferobe and chifforobe, is, in its                                                nailed with butt joints, then the piece was cheaply
        simplest form, a two-sided, closet-like piece of                                                  constructed or possibly repaired.
        furniture with a wardrobe on one side and a chest                                                   As furniture goes, chifforobes are considered
        of drawers on the other side.                                                                     modern  conveniences.  Sometime  in  the  17th
           The  term  “chifforobe”  is  a  blending  of  the                                              century, armoires or wardrobes replaced cedar
        words  “chiffonier”  and  “wardrobe.”  Chiffonier                                                 chests in wealthy homes. As people, in the mid-
        is a French term, used to describe a tall, narrow,                                                1800s, acquired the means to own more clothing,
        elegant chest of drawers.                                                                         a place to store clothing became necessary.  In
           Typically,  the  wardrobe  section  runs  down                                                 fact, the clothes hanger was not invented until
        the full length on one side, quite often the left                                                 1869, so up until then closets were only used for
        side; although, some chifforobes have a drawer                                                    storage, not to hang clothes.  Many older homes
        beneath the wardrobe. Some chifforobes, called                                                    have  little  or  no  closets  in  them  since  people
        Lady’s Chifforobes, have a built-in hatbox atop                                                   stored their clothing in furniture—wardrobes—
        the chest of drawers.  Gentleman’s Chifforobes                                                    instead  of  closets.  This  made  wardrobes  and,
        have a mirrored hatbox that is tall enough to use                                                 later,  chifforobes  quite  popular.  During  the
        as  a  shaving  mirror. Also,  the  drawers,  on  the                                             Great  Depression,  1930s,  chifforobes  were
        chest of drawer side of a chifforobe, are often                                                   popular  among  lower-income  families  where
        exposed;  however,  some  chifforobes  have  two   Mid-century, modern, chifforobe, circa 1950s,   they  became  known  as  “poor-man’s  closets.”
        doors,  one  covering  the  drawer  side  and  one           that is valued at $1,400.            And  chifforobes  were  easily  transportable,  so
        covering  the  hanging  side.  Some  chifforobes                                                  your portable closet moved with you. By the late
        also have cupboard or bookshelf space above the                                                   1940s, following World War II, closets became
        drawers.                                                                                          features  in  newly  built  homes,  eventually
           Door handles and drawer pulls on chifforobes    The hanging side of a chifforobe often had a  making chifforobes obsolete.
        vary  from  beautiful  Bakelite  pulls  to  elegant  full-length “dressing” mirror on its door. Most   Sears  and  Roebuck  advertised  the  first
        metal pulls to simple, wooden pulls, depending  chifforobes originally had beveled mirrors, so if  chifforobe  in  its  1908  mail  order  catalogue,
        on the design of the chifforobe.                 you find one today with a plane mirror surface,  describing  the  chifforobe  as  “a  modern
           Many chifforobes are veneered, so cracks and  the mirror has probably been replaced. This is  invention, having been in use only a short time

        missing pieces are common in older chifforobes.  often used as a field test to see if the piece is  and designed to hold both hanging and folded
        Solid wood chifforobes tend to be walnut, oak, or  original.                                      clothes,”  making  chifforobes,  in  many  ways,
        pine, and when refinished have a deep, luxurious   Another  “field  test”  is  how  the  drawers  are  an American furniture invention.
        finish.                                          constructed.  Quality,  vintage  furniture  always                           Continued on Page 3

                                              Florida’s Largest Monthly Antique Event!

                                                       300                     South Florida Fairgrounds                      MAY
                                                                                    9067 Southern Blvd.
                                                VENDORS                         West Palm Beach, FL 33411                       4-6

                                                  EARLY BUYERS:  “1st Pick” Friday 9AM-12PM • Admission $25 - Good All 3 Days • GEN. ADMISSION: FRI 12-5PM, SAT 9AM-5PM, SUN 10AM-4:30PM • Admission $8
   1   2   3   4   5   6