This past week, after sharing an Instagram stories tour of my favorite antique and vintage pieces, I decided it was time to find out the history of our antique chest (aka: everyone’s favorite piece). So, I employed the help of some new friends who specialize in unearthing the past life of furniture pieces, and what they found was very interesting.
I can’t wait to share it with you!
Before I do, I want to thank my friends over at Tilt Top Living, who helped me identify the age of this piece as well as the wood species, design style, and original use. They are a husband-wife team who know their stuff when it comes to antique and vintage furniture, and they’re now offering an exciting new service…furniture write ups. Basically, how it works is, you send them a direct message (DM) through Instagram, pay a small fee for their time and expertise ($15), and send them the photos they need to identify your piece. Within a day or so, you’ll receive a custom write up on your vintage or antique piece of furniture.
It’s like Ancestry.com but for furniture!
If you’re curious about sources, please see the original Hallway Refresh post.
Here is the Tilt Top Living write up for the history our antique chest:
“We love this piece – it’s so fun! It’s actually a washstand that would have been part of a bedroom set back in the day. It would have been located in a bedroom for washing up in the mornings and evenings. It would have kept a pitcher and bowl on top.”
History of Our Antique Chest – The Wood
Wood – This washstand is made completely from poplar. Poplar is an American wood, confirming this was made in America. Poplar is actually abundant east of the Mississippi River, and in the creation period, it was a top option for furniture that was being marketed for a “cottage” aesthetic. It would have been styled in an urban home to give a more rustic vibe, or used in the summer/lake cottages that were becoming vogue as wealth and leisure increased. Most poplar furniture would have been painted, so it’s likely this piece was painted at one point too.
I never would have guessed the wood was poplar and that it would have been painted at one point. It’s so gorgeously patinaed that it seems like it’s always been this way. Then again, when I stare at it (which I do often) and imagine it painted, I can totally see it.
The detail that stood out to me the most was the fact that this piece was designed for cottage style!
History of Our Antique Chest – The Style
Style – The style of this piece is distinctly late Victorian (1870’s -1890’s). The Victorians were obsessed with throwing back to styles of the past but putting their own twists on them! The undulating floral moldings on the drawer fronts and the scalloped skirt along the bottom of the piece are late Victorian reinventions of the Rococo style popular 100 years earlier. Also, the triple parallel lines routed on the drawer fronts and the raised escutcheons around the key holes are very much late Victorian vibes. Those floral moldings are less common and add so much charm to the piece.
Again, I would never have guessed Victorian, but I had my suspicions that this was, in fact, an antique…over 99 years old. So fun to confirm that I have an actual antique!
History of Our Antique Chest – The Construction
Construction Details – There are a number of construction clues that affirm the date and that it was made in a factory. This piece has machine cut dovetails. While we have been generally telling people to think about that clue as being post-1900, in this case, it matches with the late 1800s. Factories making machine-made furniture were still facing competition from the small handmade shops during that time, but by 1900, all furniture is by and large machine made. Additionally, there are circular saw marks on the boards on the back of the piece, which is another sign of machine-made furniture.
“Putting this all together, you have a lovely ‘cottage style’ antique washstand made to the late Victorian tastes of the 1870s – 1890s. It’s made of poplar and would likely have been painted originally. It is a fabulous piece!”
All those amazing details for only $15? Totally worth it, and more. I’m thrilled to know I own an actual antique that’s authentically cottage style…so perfect for my taste and our home.
Do you have furniture pieces you’re dying to know the history of? If so, I highly recommend contacting Tilt Top Living and paying for their furniture write up service. I know I have several more pieces that I’m excited to learn more about, so I’ll be utilizing their expertise in the coming weeks. And from now on, they’ll be my go-to source when I bring home an old piece of furniture…my favorite thing.
What did you think of the write up? I hope you liked it, and I’d love to hear if you plan to contact Tilt Top Living!
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