American Armoires

Unlike many of the armoires produced in Europe, which were created by members of heavily-regulated furniture-making guilds, American designs were a product of the creative freedom of their craftsmen. Although early American armoires were heavily influenced by English and French designs, they eventually diverged from their European counterparts.

Up until the end of the 19th century, most American homes did not have closets. Clothes were kept almost exclusively in dressers, cabinets and armoires called wardrobes (households of lesser means had to rely on simple wall-mounted hooks). The turn of the 20th century saw the arrival of a uniquely American armoire in the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog called a “chifforobe.” The word is an amalgamation of the words chiffonier and wardrobe. The piece featured a divided interior with a space for hanging clothes on one side and drawers or shelves for storing folded items on the other.

When it comes to furniture, few pieces have as large an impact as the armoire. American armoires, from pediment-topped, serpentine-legged 18th-century Queen Anne highboys to clean-lined, mid-century examples, continue to attract interest at auction.


Quick Facts

  • In 2004, a native Louisiana Federal painted cypress armoire brought $15,275 at a Neal Auction sale
  • In July 2004, an American-made Continental Provincial-style polychrome decorated two-door armoire sold at Skinner for $940
  • A Classical cherry armoire from Indiana (circa 1840) sold at Sotheby's in January 2013 for $2,188

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