The antique chest of drawers has changed dramatically over the centuries due to better tools, better cabinet makers and wealthier people leading to larger demand. The earliest form of antique chest was a box with lid, known as the coffer. The antique coffer is the earliest type of furniture on record, seen as far back as the 13th century. It was made of six planks of wood joined by primitive old clout nails, called the six plank coffer. The coffer was designed to be portable, so some have handles on the sides and banded with iron for strength around the corners. The mule chest was a development of the coffer being impractical; it was difficult to reach items stored at the bottom of the chest so the coffer was fitted with a drawer in the base.
In the 15th century, the first antique chest of drawers started to appear with drawers of simple panelled construction, with mortise and tenon joints, held by pegged dowels. Pine was used in many pieces of old county furniture and many pine chests would have a decorative paint finish which remarkably can still be seen on rare pieces today. By the 16th century drawers had become a common feature in furniture and the chest of drawers was becoming more popular.
The Chest on Stand
, also known as highboys was often seen from the William & Mary or Queen Anne period in beautifully figured burr Walnut. They stand on cabriole legs with pad feet or turned stands with bobbin feet.
Different designs started to appear, in the early 18th century, antique chests were still plain in shape and rectangular, but from the mid to late 18th century the serpentine shape
was produced. The bow fronted chest
did not emerge until the 1770s in the Georgian period.
Georgian chests can be a wise investment, made in many different timbers with the lovely charm and character, seen in original period pieces from years of use and waxing. Georgian chests of drawers have brass, oval, swan neck or simple turned handles and bracket feet including splayed or ogee designs. Although they are simple in style they are quality pieces of furniture with a distinctive fine look and usually constructed using quality timbers. The Antique Oak Chest of Drawers is popular from this period as oak was readily available in Britain. Drawers from these periods have hand cut dovetail joints and old clout nails in the back boards. Important furniture designers built chests in this period like Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. Even though these pieces are over two hundred years old, many are still in good condition with a fine patina and would grace any home.
The antique chest on chest
, known as the tall boy is very tall with at least eight drawers and you often see Chippendale features like ogee bracket feet and a brushing slide. Earlier models are in walnut with feather banding, overlapping drawer mouldings and bun or bracket feet.
After the Regency and William IV periods came the Victorian chest dating from the late 1830s to 1901. Early Victorian chests are simple in design with a square carcass and detailing like turned handles and solid timber construction. In the Mid Victorian era larger houses were built with larger rooms so tall chests with lots of storage were made. They had rounded curved corners; some intricately made with serpentine or bow front shapes and turned bun feet. They were highly French polished with Inlay depicting shells and floral designs. Carving and distinctive detailing like carved corbels, quarter columns or spiral shaped sides were seen along with String inlay or brass inlay on the drawer fronts.
The Campaign or military chest
was first seen in the Napoleonic wars, they were made to dismantle as an officer would have these pieces transported anywhere he was at camp so usually come with brass carrying handles. You can often see these pieces in camphor wood or teak. Some military chests have the makers stamp Army & Navy CSL, which stands for The Army and Navy Co-operative Society Ltd. This was formed in the late Victorian period by a group of army and navy officers as they wanted to supply good quality furniture and other items to its members at very low cost. They supplied items such as furniture, guns and golfing equipment. There stores was worldwide and was a huge success.
The Wellington chest
was named after the Duke of Wellingtons victory of 1815, they tall and narrow, usually with seven working drawers, one for every day of the week. They are English made and have a swinging locking arm that locks all the compartments with one key. This was also a campaign piece of furniture that was often in the officer’s tent whilst at war.
The Edwardian Chest
was produced between 1901 and 1910. These wooden chests used influences from earlier periods along with the French new Art Nouveau and traditional Arts and Crafts designs. They were mass produced with machine cut dovetail joints, but still of good quality with oak linings and solid timbers.Below are a few examples of previously sold Antique chests but if any particular style looks of interest please let us know as we do get many similar designs in stock and we can try to locate something similar.Queen Anne Design Strikingly Figured Walnut Antique Chest of Drawers.
This walnut antique chest of drawers was constructed in the early 1900s to a Queen Anne design and finished, using most probably, veneers from the early 1700s. This true gem of a piece is the antique equivalent of a listed building having been fitted out with the most modern of interiors for its time. Looking carefully at its construction it would appear that a skilled craftsman in the early 1900s has constructed a carcass for a chest of drawers out of quality oak and then painstakingly finished it with, what looks to be, and most probably is, genuine Queen Anne veneers and mouldings from the early 1700s. This practice of applying old veneers to new pieces, or vice versa, was known to be carried out in the early 1900s and this is the best example we have come across to date. The level of skill, craftsmanship and attention to detail is evident through-out this piece. On the outside it has the beauty, patina and feel of a true Queen Anne piece but with the cleanliness and tidiness found in a piece from the early 1900s. If this was 100% Queen Anne then it would fetch in the region of £8000!
The top is quarter veneered with beautifully figured cross banding along with feather banding. The sides also display this mix of cross and feather banding. It has two over three graduating oak lined drawers with quality brass handles and key escutcheons with key and working locks. The drawer fronts display delightfully figured walnut edged with elegant feather banding. 17th Century William & Mary Antique Oak Chest of Drawers.
This 1690 oak antique chest of drawers is in the typical William & Mary design. With a rectangular moulded top above four oak lined drawers, all with brass handles and key escutcheons. It has a moulded lower edge and delightful turned bun feet. As can be expected in an antique aged over 320 years old, there are some minor old repairs (not noticeable) consistent with age and adding to its character, charm and authenticity.William & Mary Antique Period Oak Chest of Drawers.
This 17th century, William & Mary, period oak antique chest of drawers dates from around 1680 and is full of character. It has a rectangular moulded top above two over three oak lined drawers with geometric design moulded fronts, later brass handles and brass key escutcheons. It stands on raised feet and has fielded panelled sides. This antique chest is of pegged construction and is full of charm from its 330 years of life……a real piece of history! It has at some point in its lifetime been restored and re-polished and is a medium dark oak with a striking grain, good patina, is in very good condition and has been beautifully cleaned using a traditional form of wax finishing.Small Victorian ‘Heals’ Quality Antique Mahogany Chest of Drawers.
This wonderful antique chest of drawers dates from around 1870 and is in the style and quality of the renowned makers Heals. It has a rectangular top with rounded corners above two over two graduating mahogany lined drawers with original turned handles. The chest stands on a plain plinth, has the original back boards and is a rich medium mahogany. Although this particular chest does not retain its makers label, the quality and style meets the standards set by Heals. It was quite common for Heals not to label every piece and our experience tells us it is most likely to be a genuine Heals piece. Without the label however we are unable to say for definite. Technicalities aside, this still remains a lovely chest of drawers in its own right with relatively small proportionsGeorgian Mahogany Antique Chest on Chest
Dating from the Georgian period, circa 1770, this delightfully proportioned chest on chest is constructed from mahogany. It has an unusual rope twist carved cornice with reeded frieze over graduating drawers. The drawers are positioned in a two over six configuration, all display cock beading, period brass swan neck handles and are oak lined. The drawers are flanked by canted corners with reeded detailing while the whole piece stands on ogee bracket shaped feet. The chest does have some old repairs, consistent with age and use, but these do not detract from the overall beauty of the piece.Rare 17th Century Period Oak Antique Chest of Drawers.
This wonderful and rare example of a William & Mary antique chest of drawers is constructed from oak and dates from around 1690. The rectangular moulded top sits above a two over two graduating drawer configuration. The drawer sides being constructed from 1″ thick solid oak drawer linings and having the traditional side runners that run on bearers. The drawer fronts have Jacobean style geometric designs including the very unusual and striking eight pointed star. The drawer fronts also display later brass key escutcheons and the piece stands on 18th century turned feet. This wonderful piece has panelled sides and very early back boards, it is constructed using clout nails and wooden pegs, overall a fine example of its type with a beautifully designed front.This Fine quality Large George III Mahogany Antique Chest Of Drawers dates from ca. 1790 and has such fine inlay detailing along with quality timbers used in its construction, it can only have been built by a true Georgian craftsman. It has a rectangular moulded top above a frieze with beautiful shell inlay along with a banded edge, with string inlay surround. The chest has two over three drawer configuration with cock beaded edges, diamond key escutcheons and decorative brass, swan neck handles. It stands on Ogee bracket feet and benefits from the original back boards.Early 18th Century Period Oak Antique Chest.
Oozing charm and character this beautiful 18th century period oak antique chest is one for the antiques enthusiast. It has a rectangular moulded top above four oak lined drawers displaying geometric moulding in the Jacobean style. The early tear drop brass handles are accompanied by ornate brass key escutcheons. The piece has a moulded lower plinth, stands on raised feet and has lovely panelled sides and back. It has also been designed to split into two sections, as often was the case during this period, to enable easy transportation. This gorgeous oak chest is a piece for the real antiques enthusiast, being almost 300 years old it oozes charm and character from years of use adding to its authenticity.
Limed Oak 18th Century Antique Chest of Drawers
This beautiful oak antique chest of drawers dates from the 18th century, circa 1740, and has a very early limed finish. It has a rectangular top over a two over three graduating drawer configuration. All the drawers are oak lined with geometric shaped mouldings to the front along with period style handles and key escutcheons. The chest stands on shaped bracket feet and is in a very clean condition considering its age. It is the perfect example of an antique piece that, style wise, would fit wonderfully in modern surroundings. The early lime finish gives the oak a lovely medium shade highlighting the striking grain.