THERE is a piece of furni ture dear to my heart, which I recall out of the first depths of child hood. It is known as "The Hall Chest." In any house we had, I remember it was always some where near the front door with a Sheffield card tray upon it. The chest was the proper place for a guest to lay his or her hat and cloak; the high arms on either side an admiralle place to rest a cane. In its capaci ous depths were kept fine bed spreads and other pieces of special linen, the prize ex hibit of which was an applique quilt with amazing handstitching. It was only a quarter of an inch thick, and the bits of colored and various materi al arranged and stitched in queer design on its sur face, must have dated back to the days of great-great grandmothers. I forget, now, whidh one of us has that quilt, but at any rate, I have the chest!
Gibraltar is No More Solid
GIBRALTAR ÍS no more solid than the hard, clear walnut of this old Dutch treasure. Its surface is inlaid in a mosaic of blueyblack stain which
brings out a design in the background of natural walnut, and arms of raised brass reach across its lid. On either side are heavy, brass handles. Somehow, these brass trimmings have never suggested polishing. They seem more in keeping in the natural color that they have taken on through the years.
Floor chests ante-date by many years the chiffonnier or bureau as receptacles for clothing. They were long enough to hold almost the entire length of a gown, and so deep that tier on tier could be laid away in their roomy depths.
The chest, with the chair and the bedstead, was one of the primitive pieces of furniture. It served not only as a wardrobe and seat, but as a traveling necessity, hence the provision for “handles” on so many old chests. In the capacity of trunk or strong box it did service for many years, often leathercovered and blazoned with heraldic emblem. As houses became less sparsely furnished, however, the chest became more and more a stationary article of furniture and took on more definitely the shape in which we know it—that of an oblong box with raised feet.
Chests make admirable window-seats; they are charming for the hall, doing away with the necessity for a “rack,” and anything can be packed away in them safely and locked—from silver to trousseaux. Then, too, they are so decorative! Often I leave a red scarf hanging on the arm of my old veteran, just because it looks so adventurous and piratical.
I saw a chest in a dining-room the other day, in a bay window. It was carved in black, glossy oak—a Spanish Renaissance piece. Across the end was flung a long, fiat, orange satin cushion from one end of which dangled a slender tassel—a wonderful effect of color and contrast.
Another beautiful type is the mahogany Chippendale. These are set up from the floor, a foot or more, on the characteristic curving, slender legs, and are usually table high, sometimes higher. Naturally they are deep; I have seen them provided with trays. They are particularly lovely for the dining-room, furnishing a splendid place for table linen. The heavy table cloths can be laid at bottom; while serviettes, centrepieces and luncheon
sets can be distributed among the trays. One of the most effective high or “leg” chests I ever saw was the quondam case for an old music box. It was perhaps as much as four feet long and two feet deep. Of light, Circassian walnut
it _ had undoubtedly been one of the prize “musical novelties” of its day (about 1865-9), radiating an “elegance” which the disguised phonographic cabinets of to-day might£emulate. Its fittings had doubtless been deep and intricate, for the spaciousness of its interior when at last removed, furnished a magnificent “lay way” area. Another of its attractions was a series of three long drawers, directly beneath. I never understood what their exact use might have been in the old days, until I saw another similar cabinet still intact. The various musical “rolls” or cylinders were laid away in just such drawers, like our “records” of to-day.
Of all the chests I ever saw, the quaintest were a pair on wheels, to be pushed under the beds. They had been made by an old cabinetmaker who did special work for the family, and were five feet long, a foot deep, and two feet wide.
Four wooden wheels, one on
each corner, which barely lifted them off the ground, made it possible to pull them about. They were so low and flat that they could be shoved under bed or sofa or even put in the bottom of a narrow closet to do extra service as shoeshelves. They were solid, heavy wood, painted white, and never caught dust because they could be pushed aside so easily for mopping wherever they chanced to be. Most of the time they were filled with sewing materials, but they were long, wide and deep enough to hold dresses. And all these chests are entirely distinct from the ordinary cedar chest for safely storing winter clothes, now a part of every home, and of the time-honored cretonnecovered “shirt waist box,” long a favorite bed-room appurtenance, There are many opportunities for cultivating the chest idea in the interior finishing of new homes. Bay window-seats
furnish a splendid setting for chest finishing. Single or twin fire settles furnish splendid coal and wood boxes. In the kitchen, where the dining alcove is now a popular feature, the seats of the white painted settles provide a convenient vide a convenient home for kitchen accessories. One of the cleverest examples of this idea is the utilization of a hollow step at the foot of the kitchen-stair, as a hiding place for cleaning cloths and oil or wax preparations. In a cottage combined living room of unusual originality, which I know, a tall-backed oak settle stands directly beside the door which opens directly from the porch. Its back is so high that, with the wall on the other side of the door, it forms a natural vestibule, protecting the room-proper from draughts. Beneath its ample lid is kept the wood supply for the fire.
The Chest of Drawers
IN A like class with the chest, because of its huge upper drawer, is that pride of Colonial days, the high-boy or chest of drawers. It is, in every sense, the direct, lineal descendant of the mediaeval “chest.” For, the chest, developed more and more as a household fixture, drawers were added beneath the body, and its height increased. This type finally became an article with one deep, chestlike upper drawer and lesser drawers below; thus an entirely new piece of furniture was evolved.
The first drawer in a genuine high-boy is twice as deep as others below and projects two inches above the lower body. This projection furnishes the topping for the posters which are also a characteristic. The lower drawers in a genuine old piece of this kind are seldom uniform.
The high-boy here shown his a long history. It originated in England, a n¿ was brought at an early period of Colonial history to Virginia. When settlement developed farther west it was carried into Kentucky, where it mellowed for seventy-five years. It was at last presented to Kentucky’s poet painter as a wedding gift, and later traveled to New York, where it remained for eighteen years. Now it is again on British soil, in Toronto. Note the glass knobs, which I recommended in a previous article, as greatly enhancing old furniture. The crystal against rich mahogany is a truly lovely sight. Another addition to the original antique are the slender turned feet. The original ones were considerably damaged in transit and (shades of our fathers!) not half so graceful. You will notice the old pitcher on this high - boy. There is nothing under it to prevent the carrying out of the reflection in the highly polished wood — a point in arranging articles on such fine wood. A light or metal vase will be almost mirrored in a well-rubbed piece of mahogany. There is no more charming effect. It is a pity to spoil it by a pad or doily. If carefully set down, and proper precautions taken to insure water-holding urns or vases being dry, no damage should occur in placing ornaments so unprotected.
A Renaissance for Chests
IT WOULD be a lovely thing if the A custom of the “marriage chest” were revived to the extent of furnishing a bride with at least one such beautiful piece, as a concrete manifestation of the "hope chest.” Indeed, it was in this capacity that the primitive chest finally became a thing of richness and beauty in the seventeenth century often inlaid with precious woods, metals and ivory. At that time, Boulle and his imitators so glorified the marriage chest that it became a sort, of gorgeous casket, as did the Italian cabinet-makers of the same period. Even the old English chests were often carved with names and dates and friezes of gallant deeds and flowers.
Useful and gracious, spacious but never cumbersome, what a eulogy could be written on chests! Down the centuries they come, varying in richness and ornament with man’s moods and needs, accompanying him even in hazardous, primitive travel. Guardians of man’s first wardrobe, coffers of his first wealth and treasure, receptacles of the vestments and vessels of his religion, the iron-bound protectors of his pillaged riches, the carriers of his gifts of friendship, the symbols of his love and marriage, objects of beauty and repose in his early, austere home—how they follow him!
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