Feature: Commode comes from the French word for convenient. Strictly speaking, it's the French name for a chest of drawers. Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Chatelaine's Antiques & Appraisals Magazine > Furniture > Our Opinion: Commode Confusion

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Dear Chatelaine's Antiques,
On eBay I find listings for commodes, small cupboards with doors and drawers. What else might they be referred to as? What exactly were they used for?

A Louis XV provincial walnut <br>commode, mid-18th century.Dear Phyllis,
"Commode" comes from the French word for "convenient." Strictly speaking, it's the French name for a chest of drawers. In English, the term is also used to describe a piece of furniture with a chamber pot. But the most common use in the antiques sense is the French definition.
The first commodes appeared around 1700. As storage, commodes were more convenient than a chest; as decoration, they were short enough that they didn't interfere with decorated, mirrored, or painted walls. What was stored in them depended on the room they were in. A commode in the bedroom might hold blankets or linens, while one in a common room might house spare candles.