Antique Chest of Drawers: History, Styles, and Value

Antiques & Vintage, Chest of Drawers, Products

Any home can benefit from the elegance and history that an antique chest of drawers can bring. It’s crucial to understand the various styles and how to appraise them whether you’re a collector or just hunting for a special piece of furniture. This article has all the information you need to know about antique chests of drawers, from Chippendale to Queen Anne.

History of Antique Chest of Drawers

The first known specimens of an antique chest of drawers date to the 17th century, and they have been around for generations. They were originally built of solid wood with beautiful carvings and embellishments and used for keeping garments and other personal items. As time went on, other styles developed, each with its own traits and features. You can better appreciate antique chests of drawers and their relevance in furniture design if you are aware of their history.

Table of Contents

A chest with drawers in the base evolved into a chest of drawers in the middle of the 17th century. By the 1680s, the “chest” was fully built up of drawers: two small ones placed side by side on top of three long ones with varied depths. To increase the size of the table, occasionally a flat slide with two tiny pull handles was added to the top. Early chests of drawers were supported by bun, balls, or stands with stretchers connecting the legs. Drawer pulls were originally made of turned wood and then switched to brass with decorative shields, or escutcheons, whose designs changed with the times. often produced were double chests, often known as chest-on-chests or tallboys in England and highboys in America.

The rectangular shapes of the chest of drawers were frequently altered in the middle of the 18th century. Serpentine fronts and bow fronts gained popularity, and beveled corners with chinoiserie, or Chinese-style, fretwork (decoration consisting of thin straight bars intersecting one another at right or oblique angles), were introduced. throughout the Regency era, a heavier variant with corner pilasters (partially projecting columns) was produced, and turned wooden handles were once again popular throughout the Victorian era.

Styles of Antique Chest of Drawers

There are many different styles of antique chests of drawers, and each one has special qualities and features. The most well-liked architectural eras include Victorian, Chippendale, and Queen Anne. While Queen Anne chests are more straightforward in style with curving lines and cabriole legs, Chippendale chests are recognised for their detailed carvings and ornamental decorations. On the other hand, Victorian chests are frequently more ornate with decorative accents like marble tops and brass hardware. You can estimate the worth and scarcity of an antique chest of drawers by understanding the various styles.

Over the decades, antique chests of drawers have undergone significant change as a result of improved equipment, better cabinet makers, and wealthier individuals driving up demand. The coffer, or box with a lid, was the first type of ancient chest. The antique coffer, which dates back to the 13th century, is the earliest known piece of antique furniture. It was known as the six-plank coffer and was constructed out of six wood planks fastened together with crude old clout nails. Some coffers feature handles on the sides and are banded with iron for strength at the corners because they were made to be portable. The coffer evolved into the mule chest because it was inconvenient; the coffer included a drawer in the base to make it easier to access objects kept at the bottom.

The antique chest of drawers first became popular in the fifteenth century. They were made of plain Pine panels with mortise and tenon joints held together by pegged dowels. Antique chests weren’t made more decorative until the middle of the 18th century when diverse shapes like the serpentine front and the bow-fronted chest first appeared.

Georgian Chest of Drawers

A sturdy, well-built handcrafted piece of antique furniture from the 18th century, antique Georgian chests of drawers were. During the Georgian era, Britain became a major global player and was actively enlarging its empire.

As Britain’s economy grew more prosperous, more homes were constructed, which increased the demand for furniture. Georgian chests were manufactured to order by expert cabinet craftsmen since every home needed one to keep garments. The better pieces had hand-cut dovetail joints and oak linings, and the construction was sound overall.

The main materials employed were dense imported Cuban mahogany or locally found solid oak woods, together with extremely thick veneers for adornment. The chest would be finished by standing on sturdy shaped or Ogee bracket feet, decorative oval embossed brass handles, or swan neck handles. The famous Lancashire style with reeded quarter column embellishment, a lovely example of antiquity, is the most sought-after design from this time. Georgian chests have a straightforward design and, as you could expect from an antique more than 220 years old and hard to replicate, a delightful charm, character, and smooth patina. They can look stunning as the focal point of modern decor against a simple white wall, as well as in a traditional setting.

The antique chest-on-chest, commonly referred to as a tall boy, was another style popular at the time. It has at least eight drawers and is quite tall. Ogee bracket feet and a brushing slide are typical Chippendale elements. Early models have a bun or bracket feet, overlapping drawer moldings, and walnut construction with feather banding.

Regency Chests

From 1810 until 1830, antique regency chests were popular. At this time, handcrafting and meticulous attention to detail were still evident in the construction of antique furniture. Hand-cut Dovetail joints, cock beaded edges, and premium ornate brass fittings like Lion head handles or stringing would have been used in the construction.

Antique Regency chests typically stood on bracket feet, similar to the earlier Georgian form, but towards the later end of the Regency period, smaller turned feet also started to appear. Regency chests typically include an attractive and straightforward design, a genuine sense of delicacy and understated grandeur, as well as exquisite charm, character, and a magnificent patina that cannot be imitated.

Victorian Chest of Drawers

From the time of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), antique Victorian chests of drawers were sturdy, well-made pieces of antique furniture. The designs of early Victorian chests were rather straightforward. Despite having a square carcass, the brass handles were replaced by wooden knobs. The need for furniture to furnish homes increased towards the middle of the 19th century due to a surge in homebuilding.

Because the rooms in these homes were spacious and the ceilings were high, Victorian cabinet makers began to manufacture exceptionally tall antique chests to fit the space. Victorian chests of drawers featured gently curved sides, some carefully crafted with serpentine or bow front designs, twisted bun feet, and high-quality French polish.

Victorian chests started being mass-produced at the end of the 19th century thanks to new woodworking machinery. As a result, the Arts and Crafts movement was started by conventional cabinet manufacturers. Older designs that had unique elements were brought back and hand-built. These chests would be made of oak or ash, and the handles would be solid brass.

Edwardian Chest of Drawers

Antique Edwardian chest of drawers from the 1901–1911 British reign of King Edward VII. The use of innovative woodworking gear allowed for the production of Edwardian chests. Solid Mahogany, Satinwood, and Walnut were still employed as high-quality building materials. On their fronts, decorations would include boxwood and ebony string inlay and crossbanding made of satinwood.

Their interior design was influenced by earlier styles, such as Georgian Chippendale and Hepplewhite. They would typically be made by some of the best and most well-known cabinet makers, like Maple and Co., Waring, and Gillows, and finely French polished by experienced artisans. The Edwardian cabinet manufacturer recycled several of the older Georgian and Victorian chests. Since they were repaired, these tiny antique chests look great in any house.

Antique Bow Fronted

Due to the high level of artistry needed to produce such a design, fronted chests are particularly sought after. They had a short brushing slide and curved front when they were first introduced in the late 18th century. The greatest examples have decorative elements like the original brass knobs and turned-reeded columns down the sides.

The Serpentine Front

The Serpentine Front Chest of Drawers, which dates to the 18th and 19th centuries, has a bow front-like wavy edge and half-bow fronts on either side. Since they were not frequently constructed, only a very competent cabinet maker could produce such excellent craftsmanship, making them rather uncommon to locate. The most uncommon had canted sides, blind fretwork carvings, pull-out brushing slides, and brass lion paw feet from the Regency era. This gorgeously formed pattern was presented by Victorian cabinet builders in enticingly smaller sizes.

The Campaign / Military Chest

The campaign/military chest initially appeared during the Napoleonic Wars, frequently made of teak or camphor wood. They were made to be transportable between camps by disassembling. A group of army and navy officers established the Army and Navy Co-operative Society Ltd. with the goal of offering its members high-quality furniture and other things at extremely low prices.

Wellington Chest

The triumph of the Duke of Wellington in 1815 inspired the name of the antique Wellington chest. They are typically tall and slender with seven functional drawers—one for each day of the week. Each one includes a swinging locking arm that uses a single key to lock all the compartments.

Walnut Antique Chest

This antique walnut chest was built in the early 1900s in the Queen Anne style and was finished with, most likely, veneers dating to the early 1700s. Given that it was furnished with the most up-to-date furnishings at the time it was built, this genuine jewel of a piece is the historical equivalent of a listed building. This item exhibits a high level of craftsmanship, expertise, and attention to detail. With wonderfully figured cross and feather bands, the top is quarter veneered.

Materials Used in Antique Chest of Drawers

The most common materials used to construct antique chests of drawers were mahogany, oak, walnut, and cherry wood. These materials were frequently hand-carved and finished with complex detailing, and they were chosen for their strength and beauty. Some antique chests may also include decorative touches like marble tops or inlaid patterns. When estimating the value of an antique chest of drawers, it’s crucial to carefully consider the craftsmanship and materials used because these factors can have a big impact on the piece’s value and rarity.

Do you need a fantastic old antique dresser? If so, you should get a Victorian chest of drawers and appreciate both its beauty and usefulness. It can be used for anything, including keeping your collection’s smaller clothing items organised. Depending on who and why they were constructed, these pieces of furniture feature five to seven drawers.

What Is a Victorian Chest Of Drawers?

Victorian chests of drawers were produced in Britain between 1837 and 1902. As a result, they rank among the market’s most sought-after antiquities. Queen Victoria favored elaborate furnishings, which had a big impact on furniture design at the time. The Gothic, neoclassical, rococo, Elizabethan, and Tudor designs were significantly influenced by furniture builders during the Victorian era, thus there is nothing quite like a unique Victorian chest of drawers.

Types Of Victorian Chests Of Drawers

It could be challenging for you to recognise a Victorian chest of drawers when you encounter one unless you’re an expert in antiques. However, that doesn’t imply that picking one out of a crowd will be challenging for you to learn. A Victorian chest of drawers can be distinguished from other antiques by the nuances listed below:

The Wood

Furniture from the 18th-century Georgian era is not like those from the Victorian era. Victorian furniture was manufactured with Flamed Mahogany and Walnut for a more ornamental finish rather than mahogany and oak. At that time, mahogany was nearly exclusively imported from British colonies abroad and used to make chests of drawers. Designers used flame mahogany veneers to give a chest of drawers a regal aspect after the framework was completed.


Victorian-era chests of drawers had bow or plain square fronts with rounded edges and corners. The less ornate pieces frequently featured flame mahogany veneer finishing, although having pine veneers.

Block or turn bun feet were the two styles of feet used on Victorian chests of drawers. These two different kinds of feet are essential for giving hefty pieces of furniture stability. In addition, rather than the Georgian era’s metal swing handles, the drawers have turned knobs as drawer handles. As a result, one of the key differences between chests of drawers from the Victorian and Georgian eras is the handles.

A great illustration of a Victorian chest is the Scottish chest. It was built in Scotland rather than England, but it had the same fundamental components. The Scottish chest, on the other hand, is several inches taller than typical Victorian furniture and includes top drawers that are shaped or curved. Other chests of drawers from that time period don’t have the carved wooden mountings on the base and sides that it has.


You have a wonderful opportunity to decorate your home with a Victorian chest of drawers. You also have a functional piece of furniture for keeping your clothes. If you’re searching to purchase a Victorian chest, we have a number of exceptional items that will satisfy or even exceed your expectations.

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How to Determine the Value of Antique Chest of Drawers

Although estimating the worth of an antique chest of drawers might be challenging, there are a few important elements to take into account. Start by examining the piece’s construction components, such as the type of wood used, any inlaid patterns, and any decorative accents like brass hardware. The piece’s age, rarity, condition, and restoration work should all be taken into account after that. In order to determine the current market worth, look up previous sales of antique chests that are identical to yours. The worth of an antique chest of drawers can also be determined by speaking with an antique appraiser.

Have you spotted the ideal antique chest of drawers but are unsure whether the cost is excessive given its actual worth? Or perhaps you’d like to sell an old chest of drawers to fund your retirement? Identifying the piece’s value is the first thing you must do! Here are some recommendations about how to value antique chests of drawers:


A lot can be inferred about an antique’s value from its age! Even though it is plain and austere, an original William and Mary chest of drawers can sell for much more than a Victorian or Edwardian one.


What size is the chest of drawers? It grows more valuable the bigger it becomes. This is due to the rarity of finding large ones in decent shape.


Any ancient item that is rare is much more valuable. A unique item from the Queen Anne period can be worth more than three similar items from the William and Mary period.


Is the vintage chest of drawers well-made? Examine the wood carefully. Is it made of walnut, mahogany, or oak? These woods are of high calibre. However, it denotes a lower level of quality if the drawer interiors are built of pine. Pine furniture was typically of inferior quality.


Is the old chest of drawers in decent shape? How are you to know? There are a few factors that should tick the boxes when it comes to condition. Are the drawers simple to open and close? Do you have the keys to the locked drawers? Are there any cracked or damaged drawers? Do the scars and gouges on the chest of drawers affect how much it is worth? Its original luster has vanished, was it painted over? These inquiries assist in determining whether or not it is in good condition.


Are the drawer pulls and handles original? The value of an antique chest of drawers can be significantly diminished over time as pulls and handles are replaced. An item from the William and Mary era with original pearl drop handles will be significantly more valuable than a similar chest of drawers from the same era with brass handles (which were added later). Usually, the holes on the inside of the drawer can be used to determine if the handles are original or not. The original handle was replaced, as evidenced by additional nail holes.

Tips for Buying and Caring for Antique Chest of Drawers

An antique chest of drawers can be a terrific investment, but to ensure its durability, it must be well cared for. When looking for an antique chest, make sure to give it a thorough inspection for wear or damage. Think about the piece’s size and suitability for your needs as well as its style and time period. After making your purchase, make sure to routinely clean and maintain the chest by using mild cleaning agents and avoiding corrosive or abrasive substances. To avoid fading or warping, store the chest in a cool, dry area out of direct sunlight. Your antique chest of drawers can last for many generations if you take good care of it.

It’s crucial to keep your thoughts organised when researching a chest of drawers.

One of the first things you should consider is what kind of wood the chest is constructed of. Early 18th-century pieces may be constructed of walnut, whereas Georgian or later pieces are likely made of mahogany.

Next, examine the drawer linings. The quality of the chest will likely be inferior if it is made of pine as opposed to outstanding if it is built of oak or mahogany. Look at the bottom board’s grain as well; if it runs from front to back, the chest was likely built in the early 18th century; if it runs from side to side, it was presumably made after 1750.

The chest’s handles should also be examined to see if they are authentic. Some chests will have had two or three different types of handles over the years because handles were frequently altered to make a piece of furniture look more stylish. The rear of the drawer front is the spot to look; if there are holes there that don’t seem to serve any purpose, the handles have likely been changed. Original handles frequently produce scratches on the drawer front from rubbing against the wood over many years, or they may even leave a shade mark from obstructing the sun, as seen in this picture.

Original swan neck handle with bruising and shading

The age of the chest may be fairly accurately determined if the handles are the originals. A swan neck handle would be found on items that postdate 1750, whilst a pear drop handle would indicate the chest will be from the William and Mary or Queen Anne period.

A walnut cabinet on a chest from the Queen Anne era with its original pear-drop handles.

The age of the chest can also be inferred from the drawer moldings. The carcass was given moldings in the 17th century, and as the 18th century developed, these elements were added to the edges of the drawers. Drawers frequently have ovolo moldings (quarter-round edges) throughout the George II era, and by 1760, bead molding was the norm.

A wood tallboy from the George II era with ovolo moldings

To make a chest look more trendy, the feet were frequently modified as well. Bun feet were very popular at the start of the 18th century, but a bracket foot had become more common by the 1740s. This bracket foot was created during the Sheraton era to give it a more exquisite contour consistent with the period’s elegance.

A unique bun foot

After giving consideration to all of these factors, you must assess the chest’s proportions. A chest of superior quality will have graceful proportions, a decent progression to the drawers, and good, crisp moldings, whereas a chest of inferior quality will feel more functional.

The flat-fronted chest is the most popular style of the chest, while serpentine and bowfronted chests gained popularity in the late 18th century. Due to the additional labor required in its construction, a serpentine chest is rarer and more valuable than a flat-faced chest of the same quality.

Other improvements to chests will affect their value. While some chests are veneered and others are constructed of solid wood, veneered chests are often of higher quality and are therefore more desired. This is due to the cabinet maker’s deliberate selection of certain timber cuts to breathe life and intrigue into the chest. To improve a chest’s beauty, cabinet makers also added bandings, stringings and even carving; if these additions are original, they will raise the chest’s worth.

You must take all of these factors into account when determining a chest’s value. A chest will be more expensive if it is more unique and elaborate, but it is also crucial that the chest has nice colour and patination.


When purchasing an antique chest of drawers, there are a number of factors to take into account. The piece’s condition, including if the drawers open and close easily, whether there are any loose veneers or handles, and whether it has woodworm, is arguably the most crucial factor.

It’s always worthwhile taking one of the drawers out to take a closer look because a chest of drawers is a useful component and the drawers need to be sturdy enough to carry goods you might want to store. Check to see if the drawer bottoms are firmly attached to the drawer sides. If not, when completely loaded, they will crumble. Additionally, check for splits in the drawer bottoms’ wood; these are almost always present in antiques due to natural shrinkage, but they ought to have been filled with a wooden fillet or, as is frequently the case, taped with fabric to keep objects from slipping through.

Does the drawer make a clunk noise as you push it one last inch? If it occurs, the drawer runners need to be replaced since they are worn and the runners will be damaged.

Additionally, search for any loose feet and inspect the backboards, which are almost often made of softwoods like pine but need to be securely fastened. Plywood should never be present because it wasn’t employed in Georgian architecture until the 1930s and has no place there. Last but not least, rub your palm over the top to check for any loose veneers. Age-related scuffs and marks are completely acceptable [as long as they’re not offensive] and frequently indicate that the patina is authentic. It will probably have been repolished if it is very brilliant and shiny, which not only lowers the piece’s value but also defeats the purpose of purchasing an antique.

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