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Armoires & Wardrobes: What’s the Difference?

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Most of the time, if you ask someone to imagine an armoire and a wardrobe, they think of the same furniture. Are wardrobes and armoires really the same? No, they are different in how they look and what they are for.

Now, let’s learn about the history of wardrobes and armoires to understand more about them.

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The term “wardrobe” originates in three Old French words: warderobe, wardereube, and garderobe. “Warder” means to protect, and “robe” means clothes. So, initially, a wardrobe was for keeping and protecting clothes.

Early Wardrobes

The earliest wardrobe looked more like a chest. It was also called a press, made of oak. Only rich and powerful people, like kings and nobles, used it.

As time passed, rich people wanted a better way to organize their clothes. So, the chest turned into a standing closet. This closet had doors, drawers, and other features that nobles wanted. Wardrobes gained popularity because they made more space in bedrooms. This extra space was precious in Medieval Europe.

Modern Use

Nowadays, wardrobes are mainly for storing clothes and accessories. They work like traditional closets. People with small homes or limited closet space often choose wardrobes for more space and bedroom options.

Modern wardrobes often have mirrors inside the doors and small shelves for shoes and jewelry. Many people get ready in the morning using their wardrobe, especially when it has a big mirror for them to see themselves.

The term “armoire” comes from the French language. It might mix two Old French words: armaire and aumoire. Armaire might be from the Latin armarium, meaning a cabinet for storing weapons and armor. Armoires were first used for storing tools, shields, helmets, and more, not clothes.

19th-century-country-french-armoire-wardrobe

Early Armoires

Armoires first appeared in 17th-century France. They have been one of the finest types of furniture to own.

Armoires were always large and wide. They used to sit on the floor because they had no feet. The earliest designs were simple. However, they became more decorative over time, with intricate details. Some armoires are so beautiful, like art, with painted insides, embossed marquetry, and elegant carvings.

Modern Use

Despite changes, armoires’ large size and decorative design have kept them as home focal points. They are used for various purposes, not just storing clothes.

Nowadays, most homes have built-in closets. So, people don’t need extra space just for clothes. Some use armoires for clothes, but many turn them into entertainment centers, office desks, or extra storage.

Then, what are the differences between an armoire and a wardrobe?

Armoires and wardrobes are different. An armoire is wider and more decorative than a wardrobe. Armoires are often made of dark, quality woods like mahogany and have detailed carvings. Conversely, wardrobes can be made of less expensive materials like imitation wood or plastic. They tend to be slimmer and simpler.

Design and Features

Armoires have shelves, drawers, and rails for hanging clothes. Wardrobes mainly focus on rails for hanging.

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Function and Use

Armoires are versatile. People use them for many things, not just clothes. They can be entertainment centers, home office desks, or even for storing china or books. Wardrobes are mainly for clothes and linens. They offer less storage space compared to armoires.

How to Identify

To see if you have an armoire or a wardrobe, stand before it and stretch your arms out. If it’s too wide to touch both sides and has many detailed carvings, it’s likely an armoire.

Armoires, with their antique charm, are no longer seen as old-fashioned. They have been reinvented over centuries. Look for antique Chinoiserie, vintage wicker, and Art Deco burl wood styles. They offer both style and storage space. An armoire isn’t just for bedrooms; it can be a beautiful and functional addition to many areas in your home.

Living Room

The living room, often a hub of activity, is an excellent place for an armoire. Its large storage capacity is ideal for storing board games, toys, or even a television. For a strong visual impact, position the armoire opposite a door to create an elegant atmosphere for the whole room.

Bedroom

Armoires are great for storing clothes, linens, and blankets in bedrooms. They can also hold a TV, useful if you want a tech-free bedroom. To keep the focus on your bed, place the armoire on the wall with the doorway or on an adjacent wall to keep the room balanced and the bed as the central feature.

Entryway

Placing an armoire in the entryway is an intelligent way to create storage for shoes, coats, purses, and other essentials. It makes a convenient spot for quickly grabbing items on your way out. Ensure enough space between the armoire and the door’s swing path to avoid obstruction.

wardrobe-cabinet-in-the-entrance-space

Kitchen

An armoire in the kitchen can hold dinnerware, tableware, and items used for hosting. Position it near appliances, in a corner, or opposite your main kitchen area. It can also serve as an unconventional, stylish hutch for your china, adding character to the kitchen.

Bathroom

Armoires are also suitable for bathrooms. They offer storage for towels, robes, toiletries, and bath mats. Just make sure to place the armoire at a safe distance from the shower or bath to prevent mold and mildew. Placing like this can bring a touch of elegance to your bathroom while keeping essentials organized.

Deciding between a wardrobe and an armoire depends on your personal preferences. You might prefer the practicality and simple style of a wardrobe. Or, you might like a more decorative piece, which makes an armoire a better choice.

Find Your Style

Consider both armoires and wardrobes, available in various styles. Armoires might be painted with glamorous murals or have artisan carvings. For a more functional approach, a simple wardrobe could fit well. Look at your existing furniture and find a piece matching your style and home interior.

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Measure Accurately

Before purchasing a wardrobe or armoire, measuring your space accurately is essential. Take note of the intended area’s height, depth, and width. Also, measure doorways, stairs, and hallways to ensure the furniture can be delivered and placed without issues.

Invest in Antiques

Consider an antique or vintage armoire or wardrobe. These pieces are often more unique and durable compared to standard items. An antique piece not only adds character but can also be a lasting investment.

Choose What You Love

The key to selecting the right piece is to choose what you genuinely love. Ignore current trends and avoid copying others. Choose a piece that truly resonates with you.

Now, think about what would suit your home better: a practical and simple wardrobe or an armoire that has the elegance of grand French châteaux?

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