Armoire History

Armoire History

So, you think you know what an Armoire is? You probably think of an armoire as a large piece of furniture for hanging clothes. And you would be right, but an armoire has been and continues to be much more useful. But before we talk about the versatility of the armoire let’s talk about its origins.

french-carved-armoire

French Carved Armoire

Armoire is a French word.  So that means the armoire originated in France, right? That’s a reasonable guess, but in fact we can trace its origin back to the late 12th century Old French word armarie, which came from the Latin armarium, a closet or chest or a place for implements, tools and arms. In the 14th century the English changed the name to ambry, A storeroom or cupboard; pantry. And then, some 150 years later the French reclaimed the name from the English for this piece of furniture and it’s been called an armoire ever since.

The modern day dictionary definition of an armoire is:

“A large two-door cupboard, usually movable and containing shelves, hanging space and sometimes drawers.  It is often highly decorated. It is also known as a wardrobe. It was originally used for storing arms.”

The armoire has served many purposes throughout the years. It was a slow transition from weapons storage to clothing closets. One way that the upper class and nobles distinguished themselves from the lower classes was with extravagant clothing. Rather than filling chest after chest with luxury garments and crushing everything together, they built huge rooms with closets to hang all their wonderful clothing. Something new was on the horizon in the form of an upright, freestanding closet with hanging spaces and shelves to neatly fold their clothing. There were two doors for easy access and this piece of furniture was tall and wide. There were hanging bars and shelves inside and sometimes drawers at the bottom. An armoire was the right size if it could fit eight small men inside. This was the rule of thumb and was actually tested using men of diminutive stature. This new creation would evolve into the present day armoire.

Cupboard Armoire

Cupboard Armoire

Not only did royalty pretty much influence the shape of the new armoire, it can be argued they inspired the names and styles of the armoire. The Rulers who reigned at the time of the furniture’s re-creation lent their names to the new designs… Louis Philippe, Louis XIII, Louis XIV and Louis XV. Their influence prevails to this day. Perhaps the most famous cabinetmaker, Andre-Charles Boulle’s design of an armoire for King Louis XIV is still a classically popular design.

Most of the 17th and 18th century pieces were made from oak. At some point oak became kind of scarce in Europe and therefore expensive. Here was a chance for the newly formed Colonial America to cash in. They had a surplus of Walnut timber and they started to export it to England and France to build furniture, and that included armoires.

Today armoires are varied in design and constructed from many different kinds of woods.

Deco Armoire

Deco Armoire

The popularity of armoires grew to encompass more than just storage.  They became beautiful cabinets to hide televisions, computers & liquor. But with the advent of flat screen TV’s and lap top computers the armoire started to lose favor. The new TV’s no longer fit inside and people were buying lap tops computers and didn’t need the extra space a desktop computer required. That’s when manufacturers cut back production on building armoires. It was the end of an era for the store that started out as a little antique shop specializing in armoires.

“Twenty One Years ago we opened our doors as Armoires & More. Today you know us as A&M Home Furnishings,” says owner Lynn Blaser.  We still like the armoire, of course, but our focus and purpose has led to some big changes over the years. We now offer the newest and most exciting lines of furniture, rugs and accessories from more than 40 worldwide manufacturers. But, there are some things that will never change… we will always be steadfast in our total commitment to working with customers to ensure their complete satisfaction. Our professional staff is dedicated to providing a shopping experience that is both enjoyable and stress free. We’re always after the “I love it!’ reaction.”

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