If you are looking to begin collecting antique furniture, a fantastic place to start is with an antique chest or commode. Not only are they wonderful storage solutions (clothes, linens, candles, and flatware are just the beginning), but they can be used in so many different settings. In addition to serving as true dressers, we have used them next to a bed, in a foyer, in a dining room, a living room … the list goes on.
Jim, Phoebe’s husband, is a brilliant study of antiques. He is a wealth of knowledge on the subject, and it is so much fun to learn from him because he is so passionate about it. Jim was kind enough to share some of his insight with us. Here are some basics about chests/commodes and what you can look for next time you are shopping:
First, chests are from England and commodes are from France and Italy. Most chests everyone runs across shopping are either from the British Isles (mostly England) or the Continent (mostly France or Italy). The main division of style is classical (straight lines, symmetrical, balanced) or non-classical (curved, commodious). The rulers of each country had very particular views on how furniture should look, and they almost always flip-flopped (e.g. In England: George I =classical; George II = non-classical …. In France: Louis XIV=classical, Louis XV=non-classical).
As for woods, from England, we mostly see mahogany or oak and very occasionally pine. From France, it is nearly always walnut or beech. English chests often have thinner drawer sides and very well-crafted interiors of the drawers. French commodes frequently look more handmade.
Also, wood pieces are called “brown furniture” in the industry for their brown, wood look (as opposed to painted wood furniture).
Because the prices can be very, very high for some antiques, it is best to shop at a store where they buy furniture in line with your budget. The reason is they will know that level of furniture well … a more high-end seller might not know more affordable pieces as well as a lower-end seller and vice versa.
This is such a sliver of a start about the history and importance of commodes and chests. But, the main thing to remember is that buying antique is nearly always a good idea. Industry standard is that a quality antique chest or commode will increase in value through the years. Adding antique pieces into your home will bring you a warmth and patina that new furniture can never provide. And, you know your piece is absolutely one-of-a-kind!
We will continue to share insight into antiques and how you can incorporate them in nearly any setting. Below are a few of the chests and commodes we currently have in our shops!