The original antique chest of drawers was a 17th century piece made of oak. They were tall, with four flights of gradated drawers, the largest being at the bottom. The drawers allowed a three inch space at the back to allow for air to circulate. Some drawer fronts had mouldings, many had drop brass handles, plus each drawer had a lock as valuables as well as clothes were often kept in these antique chests.
The first 30 years of the 18th century was the age of walnut and many fine marquetried and veneered examples were made at this time. Walnut was veneered onto a pine carcass, rather than oak, but the drawers were made of oak. Initially these chests were placed on stands, usually made of solid walnut. The change from walnut to mahogany produced more lavish pieces of antique furniture which were designed for display in drawing rooms. The curving front of the serpentine chest was cut from a solid piece of mahogany and the curvilinear extended to the bracket feet and apron, creating a wonderfully flowing design. Again there were four flights of gradated drawers similar to the earlier pieces.
The bow fronted chest formed the English shape from the middle of the 18th century onwards. All these chests were made from mahogany and predominately for the male rather than the female dressing room. Again it had the four flights of drawers, often with a writing drawer. From 1820 and onwards into the Victorian era, steaming and clamping rather than hand sawing and chiselling was used to bend and bow wood which made pieces generally much more affordable.
When looking for antique chests in Lancashire and Cumbria, visit local antiques dealers who can advise on style, design and shape.
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