Buyer’s Guide to Antique Wardrobes
Introduction to Antique Wardrobes
Below we look at a number of factors to consider when buying an antique wardrobe.
Expert Antique Dealers Advice
There are a number of considerations to factor in when purchasing antique furniture, Robert Hartley from Antique Furniture Direct has suggested the following tips to consider
- How deep is the wardrobe? Lots of antique wardrobes are not deep enough to accommodate a normal sized coat hanger.
Tip: You can adapt your wardrobe with 2 short hanging poles running front to back - poles and brackets can be bought online quite cheaply. Alternatively, you can purchase smaller sized hangers.
- Does your wardrobe come in one or two sections?
Tip: Wardrobes that have a drawer base and separate top section which come apart are much easier to transport and install in your home. Wardrobes that are one fixed unit can be quite heavy and difficult to transport.
- Getting your wardrobe delivered? Many couriers only offer one-man "kerbside" delivery.
Tip: Request a two-man delivery to a named room in your house - opt for the "white glove" delivery service where possible. Moving antique wardrobes can be back breaking!
Also worth considering is the craftsmanship involved in the production of the antique wardrobe and what to look for when dating the piece.
- Dating your wardrobe
Tip: There are a number of ways to date your antique wardrobe, firstly look at the joinery, if the wood is machine cut it would indicate it was made after 1860. The finish of the antique wardrobes wood is also a factor to help determine the age of the wardrobe. Previous to the mid 1800’s shellac was the only clear surface finish that was used, varnishes and lacquer were not used until the middle of the Victorian era. Furniture before the 1700’s was generally oak, it was a little later that walnut and mahogany became more widely used.
- Unique Craftsmanship
Tip: Antique wardrobes that were handmade generally feature beautiful marquetry, parquetry, gilding or inlays. A machine made newer wardrobe is missing such unique features that all contribute to the attractiveness of an antique wardrobe.
Interior Designers Guide to Buying Antique Wardrobes
Before purchasing your antique wardrobe make sure you take accurate measurements of your space, including ceiling height, which is sometimes overlooked. If you live in a smaller apartment or flat you may wish to choose a more refined, slimmer wardrobe so as not to appear too imposing on the space.
Wardrobes are a classic item of bedroom furniture, often large and durable. The designs of antique wardrobes are expansive, make sure to match the design of your chosen wardrobe to your needs. If you need more space for hanging clothes or folding garments for example, make sure the design reflects this. A French armoire design would work well in a softly decorated room, the wardrobe reflecting the mood of the interior.
Sometimes one of the most important consideration and one that is often overlooked is lifestyle. Your antique wardrobe is going to need to be functional and practical for your families or your own needs. There is no point buying a wardrobe, with plenty of shelving space, when what is really necessary is an abundance of hanging space, a large three panel sturdy Edwardian wardrobe would suit perfectly in this case.
Storage is key to a home. An antique wardrobe can provide for a much needed storage solution. If you have an unused alcove in a room, it is the perfect spot to place a beautiful antique piece of furniture. One that then provides space for you to place your belongings is an added bonus, as well as attractive visually.
- Inject a Story
By purchasing an antique wardrobe for your space, you are not only buying something that will be useful for storage, you are injecting character into the interior. Let an antique wardrobe tell its own story, whether it be a timeless classic oak wardrobe or an ornate Gothic style Victorian wardrobe.
Extra Considerations When Purchasing Antique Wardrobes
Craftsmanship, condition and age are all practical considerations when looking to buy an antique wardrobe. If you are looking for a wardrobe that will last then the craftsmanship is key; was it was built to last with solid, good quality wood such as mahogany, walnut or oak? The condition of the wardrobe will also be dependant upon the care and attention paid to it over the years, it is easy to spot signs of wear, or cracks in the wood panelling or woodworm. Be careful of antique wardrobes that have been over restored or upcycled, they can sometimes lose their charm and value during this process if it is taken too far; if the patina of the wood has unduly been destroyed it will affect the antique wardrobes value and appearance.
A continuation with the past, ageless and timeless, antique wardrobes were generally made from long lasting woods, by purchasing an antique wardrobe you are recycling pieces of the past; ensuring the wardrobe does not end up in landfill. Purchasing antique items of furniture also means there is no environmental impact as there is no need to use machinery and materials to manufacture new items of furniture. Not only is it environmentally friendly to purchase an antique wardrobe it is also an attractive option, as often antiques made from wood age beautifully over time, ensuring there is a nice colour and patina to the piece is something that cannot quickly be recreated.
Valuing Antique Wardrobes
Antique wardrobes that were made pre-1860 would not have been machine cut, but handmade. Exact symmetry of the wardrobe also indicates that the item of furniture is man-made, antique wardrobes that were hand crafted are often more desirable and unique. The finish of the wardrobe will also impact its value, as will the period in which it was made. An antique wardrobe that is a rarity will inevitably be more expensive than those that have been mass-produced. If you are able to find out the provenance of your antique wardrobe it will also help you in determining its value.
Delivery of antique furniture such as wardrobes often requires specialist care, it is important to ensure that it will not be damaged in transit. The best way to ensure it is transported and delivered safely is to use a reputable delivery service. Alongside this it is a sensible idea to insure the antique wardrobe before delivery, in the unfortunate event it is damaged you can then recuperate some level of compensation. Some delivery services offer a wrapping service at collection to ensure the furniture’s safety; it is also advisable to ask an antique dealer their delivery policy before the item is sent.
Wooden antique furniture can be cared for and treated ensuring that the item of furniture maintains its appearance. The best way to polish a wooden antique wardrobe is with beeswax; it is best to avoid harsh chemical products that will unduly affect the surface of the item of furniture. You can keep dust and dirt at bay by regularly dusting the antique wardrobe and wiping it down with an incredibly weak solution of vinegar and water. When you apply wax to the wood try not to apply too much at a time, as it is then difficult to buff up and the surface will attract dust.
There is a myriad of beautiful, charming antique wardrobes to chose from for your home from a wealth of periods. Be it a Queen Anne wardrobe, an Art Deco wardrobe or a French armoire, there is something to suit everyone’s taste and interior.
Antique wardrobe 1 (first image): copyright[IrianaShiyan]/AdobeStock
Antique wardrobe 2 (second image): copyright[salita2010]/AdobeStock
Antique wardrobe 3 (third image): www.loveantiques.com/antique-wardrobes/breakfront-wardrobes/burr-walnut-breakfront-triple-wardrobe-c1860-32770