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Differences between Armoires and Dressers

Wooden Dresser

Armoires and dressers are furniture pieces that have roots in Medieval Europe, mostly being used in the bedrooms of the nobility as various needs arose for storage. Dressers have typically always been used to store clothes, while the original purpose of armoires was to store weapons and armor. Both are made from wood, originally oak, until the massive English wood shortage in the 17th Century that prompted the American colonies to export walnut instead. Today, armoires and dressers can be made out of any wood, including the much sought-after mahogany.

But besides the differences in their original purpose, what else distinguishes armoires from dressers? The answer mostly involves differences in appearance and differences in function.

Differences in Appearance

The most notable difference between armoires and dressers is the difference in height and width. Though some dressers stand shoulder high with relatively small widths, often referred to as "highboys," most dressers stand about waist high and have widths greater than a grown man's arm span. These dressers are referred to as "lowboys" by American furniture collectors. Armoires, on the other hand, stand taller than most people. Original armoires probably boasted about the same width as modern dressers, but today they stand a little narrower, though they're still imposing in size. Both armoires and dressers are rectangularly shaped, but while (most) dressers resemble a horizontal rectangle, armoires resemble a vertical rectangle.

The second most notable difference between the two pieces of furniture is the dresser drawers and armoire doors. Dressers are known for their visible and parallel stacks of horizontal drawers, though the size and number of these drawers can vary from one dresser to another. For example, some dressers have one top drawer with a width spanning the width of the dresser itself while featuring a series of smaller shelves below; other dressers have six drawers of equal size, three on each side. If dressers have doors, they are very small and usually sit in the piece's bottom corners. Meanwhile, most armoires are drawer-free, though some armoires may feature small drawers near the piece's bottom, and some will even include small drawers inside the main doors. Armoires are famous for their two central doors that nearly span the length of the armoire itself and for their roomy interiors. The reasons for these differences in appearance relate to the differences in function between armoires and dressers.

Differences in Function

Both armoires and dressers were made so that people could store clothes in their bedrooms, but each furniture piece is meant to store different kinds of clothes. For example, dressers are built with drawers so that you can store clothes that you don't mind being folded, like pajamas, undershirts, undergarments, and socks. Because armoires have two long doors and a lot of space, they can store clothes you would rather hang to keep those clothes wrinkle-free, like dress shirts, dress pants, gowns, and coats. As mentioned earlier, some armoires do feature shelves and drawers within the interior as well so that you can also store folded clothes. Frequently these drawers are located at the bottom, but each piece is different and unique in its own way.

Dressers were also created to feature an attached mirror, like a vanity. The nobles would place the dresser with its back against a wall and sit in an ornate chair to view themselves in the mirror. Ideally, they would be able to sit and groom themselves while getting ready for their day. While armoires also sit with their backs against a wall, being accessible only through the armoire's front, and while it is possible to install a mirror inside an armoire, this is a much more modern idea; armoires were not designed with that function in mind.

Similarities Between Armoires and Dressers

There are indeed significant differences between armoires and dressers, but there are also some similarities. The first similarity involves the parallel evolutions of function undergone by both armoires and dressers. Both pieces of furniture were built to be used in the bedroom to store clothes, but modern homeowners have found other creative functions for each piece. For example, armoires have been used as entertainment centers in living rooms and home offices to store televisions, computers, and even DVDs. In contrast, dressers have been used to store precious dishware, antique utensils, and cloth napkins in dining rooms and kitchens alike. Both armoires and dressers make beautiful accent pieces in any room, no matter their function, and can be used to store anything that will fit inside.

Because armoires and dressers have such rich histories, they can be built from many types of wood and decorated in many unique styles, featuring exquisite carvings and intricate details. For example, Laurel Crown makes armoires in Victorian, French Normandy, and Louis XIII styles, but they also make Chippendale and Wide French Sleigh dressers.

Finding the right dresser to match the rest of your decor can seem impossible. Our museum-quality dressers blend well with any design scheme to complement contemporary and rustic furnishings alike. Explore the wonderful variety of styles we have to offer, including Chippendale and Colonial dressers that feature hand-carved effects, and find an heirloom that you'll be proud to pass down through the generations to come.

If you consider yourself to be a vintage furniture collector, you absolutely must purchase an ornate dresser. Owning an armoire will give you bragging rights in your circle of fellow vintage reproduction enthusiasts. Our line of vintage reproduction armoires is carefully, lovingly, and skillfully crafted by cabinet makers and artisans who are passionate about their creations. We recreate authentic antique designs in meticulous detail and offer our reproductions in several sizes and configurations to accommodate your needs.

Whether you're in the market for vintage armoires, dressers, or both, our impressive collection of vintage reproductions, as well as our customizable design options, will allow you to supply your home with only the highest quality antiques that are as unique as you are.

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