A couple of weeks ago, as I was salivating over Corbett’s bedroom from the Brooklinen reveal, I decided to Google, once again, one of my favorite EHD blog posts of all time—the Parisian hotel suite Emily did with Sotheby’s. It’s where I first laid eyes on that beautiful burlwood armoire pictured above that I’ve loved ever since. At the same time, on a completely unrelated note (my brain tends to go down very random rabbit holes but I don’t think I’m alone here), I was thinking about how much I missed the Chronicles of Narnia series (yep, the movie and book franchise from long ago). I want to be Lucy Pevensie seeing that intricately carved wardrobe, feeling like she’s scored the best hiding place of all time as she turns the latch on the door, sinking through all the fur coats and suddenly falling through fir branches onto soft, magical snow.
I must’ve somehow been trying to subconsciously manifest something about wardrobes and armoires because, in that same week, Arlyn asked me if I’d be down to write a blog post about them hot off the heels of the secretary desks article from a few weeks ago. Coincidence? I think not. And so now here we are. Let’s talk wardrobes, or armoires if you’re feeling fancy, and how to bring it into our modern day lives because even though likely none of us are currently living in a sprawling French chateau, these heavier pieces of furniture can be used successfully (and VERY chicly) in nearly every room of the house. It’s one of those pieces that are often overlooked, but let’s all agree to stop that right now and consider the armoire.
And just you wait ’til the end of this post because we’ve got an awesome roundup for you with both vintage and modern pieces in large and small scale and budget. I made sure to include options for every style and real estate space here. (Teaser: there are some INSANELY great finds in there that I’m secretly coveting for myself.)
Sure, with a name like “wardrobe,” you’re thinking they have to be relegated behind closed bedroom doors. But we’re all for thinking outside the box around here at EHD and like to be trailblazers in anything if we can. We’re not in this instance, but we’re loving what we’re seeing from other like-minded people. Because really, armoires are essentially just cabinets for storing things so why can’t we use one anywhere and everywhere we need storage, right? Plus, because they take up more vertical space than horizontal, they’re great for smaller footprints.
A little fun fact about armoires: they started out as storage for arms (you know, like an armory where you get weapons from) and not clothes! There might’ve even been a time when they were used by cabinet makers as a place to store their tools, too. It wasn’t until much later on that the ruling French class thought to use them to hang their elaborate dresses and store their dressing accessories in. As with fashion today, the “fad” caught on with the lesser privileged French and they made their own less ornate armoires. That’s it for today’s history lesson. Let’s get to it!
I think a super ingenious way of using armoires is in entryways. It’s such an awesome way to make a statement and also so, SO smart. Huge coats that you want out of sight? Throw it in the wardrobe. Chuck in your boots and other work shoes that you don’t use often while you’re at it. All those drawers? Stash away purses, grocery bags, and even junk mail…new junk drawer, anyone? Think of it as one VERY large catchall for all the things that you need to grab or put down. It’s like having all the pros of a mudroom without having to build anything out.
Low on entryway space? You can do the same thing by placing a narrower armoire like in the image above right by your door, or maybe at the very end of your entry hall. The caning detail on those doors (from Colonel Shop) gives the illusion that the piece is a little lighter and it tricks your eye into thinking that it’s not your usual tall and imposing hunk of furniture. (Side note: GIMME ALL THE CANED FURNITURE. Who’s with me?)
Of course, if you have a foyer with high ceilings and a beautiful iron staircase, a fully closed, distressed piece like the one used here in a room designed by Amber Interiors will still feel light enough while injecting a WHOLE heap of character (and stashing all the things you want no one to see).
Here’s another fun little tidbit that I found out during my research: the hanging rods and side shelves/drawer combo that we see inside a lot of modern-day armoires were added by Sears. Yes, the same Sears that used to make those prefab home kits. Apparently, their chifforobe is groundbreaking in that it’s the first one to account for both hanging and folded clothes. Or so they said anyway. GREAT JOB, AMERICA.
Okay so this one’s probably not for me (I have a tendency to, um, put all clutter in Amazon boxes and shove them in every closet and cabinet to be sorted through and disposed of “later,” #noshame and also #shame), but if you’re a little bit more organized than I am, I absolutely love this concept of a totally sleek and modern glass/metal armoire.
This, of course, works for a contemporary space, but would also be great to see in an urban loft or even an apartment full of architectural character and classic panel work—I love a good juxtaposition. I can imagine someone who’s all about the capsule wardrobe (all the props to you!) having this bold setup… she’d be that totally put-together and chic #girlboss that I obviously aspire to be. If you get a glass armoire or wardrobe, please post photos and tag me in them so you can be my role model and I can live vicariously through you.
Now this…could it possibly be the secret entrance to my Narnia? Some might say that this look is a stretch, but I’m a lot in love with how the homeowner built this armoire into their closet. While I do love the aesthetic of a wall of built-in closets, sometimes it has the tendency of looking too new build (which could be the look you may or may not be going for). Incorporate this slightly unassuming and almost austere vintage armoire into your design plan and now you’ve got yourself a unique moment that gives your bedroom a ton of character and charm. With extra storage space not just your clothes, but also extra pillows and bedding. Two thumbs up!
This house by the ever-amazing Jessica Helgerson has been making its rounds on Instagram (and I’ve saved another vignette of this velvet green built-in sectional multiple times), but I didn’t see this shot of the dining room up until I was doing my research for this post. That right there on the right is definitely an armoire and it totally makes sense. China cabinet, armoire, same difference, right? What’s in a name? That which we call an armoire, could house linen and dishware just as well and all that jazz. (Bonus points for you if you can tell me who I quoted that from.)
In the project above, it looks like Jessica kept the original warm finish of the armoire which works in the space because, while the coffered ceilings offer a more traditional vibe, the ceiling’s fresh white paint and the other more modern pieces in the room keeps the dining room from looking dated. The key here is practicing restraint and going for more of a minimalist look so that the armoire stands out as lovely icing on the cake (that’s missing from the dining table obviously). If you already own a lot of traditional pieces, you can always balance it out by painting a vintage piece with a fresh pop of color. While I probably wouldn’t be able to bring myself to ever paint over a burlwood armoire, other more ornate pieces are a different story…especially if I got it for a steal.
So many possibilities. In the bathroom, an armoire is instant storage for all your towels, bath mats, extra toiletries, robes…again without having to go through building anything out (I feel like I keep talking about that as a selling point, but I mean, who wants to actually have to involve a contractor, ya know?). Find perfect vintage piece, take home, put in your bathroom. Done. Now, you can have comfy pajamas within reach as soon as you get out of your relaxing, aromatic bath. (Fun fact: did you know the French deemed a wardrobe proper only if it fit “eight small men.” How very specific. And odd.) Again, not everyone can do it because of space constraints, but if you’ve got the space, why not?
Remember when Emily Gilmore stealthily decorated Rory’s dorm room at Yale? That’s an armoire as their TV entertainment system! When built-in closets became more popular, people’s use of armoires shifted and they started being used to put things like TVs, radios, and even computers out of sight. Obviously, now with our gadgets becoming flatter and smaller every year (thanks, Apple), we’re not suddenly about to go back to storing our tiny TVs and laptops in huge cabinets. But any storage is great storage and it’s a hot commodity, people.
Look at those pretty cabinet doors. Behind them, you can stuff out-of-season throws or blankets, holiday decor, even an extra set of bedding for out of town guests, or maybe your Settlers of Catan…right within reach of your sleeper sofa.
And get the most bang out of your furniture piece by having them serve dual purpose. In the image above, the homeowner placed it between the living room and entryway so now it can serve as a catchall for BOTH spaces. Feel free to shove your junk and clutter into them whenever surprise guests show up at your door (who does that??).
BONUS INSPO: Hotels are a great source of design inspiration and this one from Hotel Peter & Paul in New Orleans is no exception.
Have fun with your piece. If you find one for cheap and you don’t like the finish, you can always paint it over, sand it down and refinish it. Like what Hotel Peter & Paul did in their armoires above. They either painted or stained it and added those almost cartoon-like 3D effects. When I first saw it, I thought it might’ve been a render or some computer graphic, but no, all the armoires in their guest bedrooms have this design. It’s a quirky but fun detail that balances out the more traditional elements in the room. I’m all for it and I’d love to see your guys’ own take on it.
OKAY, now it’s time to get shopping if you’ve been convinced you need an armoire in your home. Below are several roundups, by price, of our favorite armoires that you can use for ANY of your storage needs, not just clothes and not just in your bedroom. If there is a vintage one from Chairish (SO many amazing vintage and antique options, FYI) or Etsy that you’re into, be sure to scoop it up fast because those are one-of-a-kind. Also, don’t shoot the messenger, but before I completely let you go, I’ll tell you this: these armoire picks are a little more loose, meaning that some might actually lean more towards a wardrobe/tallboy dresser or a china cabinet, but their presence in the room will give you armoire vibes. Here ya go, ENJOY, and tell me in the comments below which one you get!
1. Idasen Cabinet | 2. Vintage Fancher French Provincial Style Armoire | 3. Manhattan Comfort Liberty Large | 4. Joy Vanity Jewelry Armoire | 5. Contemporary 2-Door Wardrobe | 6. Armoire | 7. Antique Wardrobe | 8. Tvilum Diana Wardrobe | 9. Nordmella Chest
1. Vintage Retro Armoire | 2. Mid-Century Chifforobe | 3. Marte Storage Cabinet | 4. Carved Wood Armoire | 5. Arch Wardrobe | 6. Peninsula Armoire | 7. Gentilly Armoire | 8. 1920s Art Decos Style Armoire | 9. Entertainment Armoire | 10. Grain Wood 3-Door Armoire | 11. Merriton Armoire | 12. Muse Cabinet | 13. Alba Wardrobe | 14. 1930s Art Deco British Wardrobe | 15. Astoria Wardrobe | 16. Vintage Chifforobe | 17. Carson Carrington Armoire | 18. Vintage 1920s-1930s Chifforobe
1. Mid-Century Walnut Armoire | 2. Hensley Armoire | 3. Danish Modern Bow Front Corner Cabinet | 4. Freestanding Cabinet | 5. Hudson Chifforobe | 6. Portland Carved Armoire | 7. Grove Armoire | 8. Gracia Cane and Wood Wardrobe | 9. Danish Mid-Century Armoire | 10. Burl and Chrome High Chest Wardrobe | 11. Carved Thalia Armoire | 12. Colette Driftwood Armoire | 13. Modern Wardrobe | 14. Mid-Century Armoire | 15. Maison Armoire | 16. Mid-Century Walnut Armoire | 17. Array Highboard | 18. Keane Wenge Armoire | 19. Fallon Cabinet | 20. Linear Two-Door Armoire | 21. Burl Wood Armoire Dresser
1. Linear Armoire | 2. Cane Wardrobe | 3. Shale Wardrobe | 4. Cuzco Bleached Yukas 4-Door Cabinet | 5. Walnut Armoire Dresser | 6. Besson Deeluxe Cabinet | 7. 1970s Brutalist Wardrobe | 8. Blackbird Cupboard | 9. Mid-Century British Colonial Cabinet
1. Inside These Arms Armoire | 2. Rosalind Cabinet | 3. ZZ Cabinet | 4. Kapelle Armoire | 5. Contemporary Brutalist Style Wardrobe | 6. D45 Tullia Armoire | 7. Maggie Cruz Home Calzada Armoire | 8. Charles Pfister for Baker Primavera Wardrobe Dresser | 9. Frame Cabinet