1930s Art Deco Wardrobes
As the tallest and most striking piece of bedroom furniture, wardrobes set the tone of the whole room, and in the years between the wars there were plenty
of styles to choose from.
Three types of wardrobe were available or reasonably well-off buyers in the years between the wars. Many people preferred revival styles; designers paid homage to Queen Anne (with pale veneers and cabriole legs), Sheraton (with maple veneers instead of more expensive satinwood) or Chippendale (in mahogany). It was even possible to create a complete Tudor or Georgian bedroom, though many of the pieces in it would be unfamiliar to someone who lived in those times.
The second type, championed by Heal & Sons, was all functional simplicity, with neat, stylish outlines and fumed or polished oak veneer. The range went from basic hanging
cupboards with one door to two- or three door wardrobes with drawers below, or with a bank of drawers between hanging sections.
ART DECO WARDROBES
The third type, inspired by art deco, had clean lines, flat, glossy surfaces, smooth curves and minimal surface decoration. Most of them had full-length double doors and great expanses of usually pale veneers - satinwood, walnut or maple - relieved by an occasional discreet line of inlay and by the handles. These often took eye-catching geometric shapes echoed in the detail of other pieces in the suite. The plainness of the doors masked interiors that were elaborately fitted with drawers, shelves, mirrors and hanging spaces.
As a alternative, wardrobes were finished in striking colour combinations - green with a gold trim, for instance - and unusual materials - satin
and other fabrics, or mirror glass - for a really modern look.
The styles of the 1930s were virtually the last hurrah of the wardrobe as a well-designed piece of free-standing furniture. By 1950, built-in and fitted wardrobes were standard in new housing, and were one of the first projects attempted by the legions of householders caught up by the contemporary craze for DIY.
Elegant clothes require an elegant setting, and in the 1930s, more often than not, this meant a well-figured walnut wardrobe.
Most wardrobes made in the inter-war years, from the most outrageous to the most formal, were originally sold as parts of suites, with chests of drawers, beds, dressing tables and bedside tables. Complete suites are rarely if ever encountered today, and if you've a yen for creating an entire art deco or
jacobethan bedroom, you'll have to make do with putting together pieces in the same broad style.
Specialist furniture dealers and art deco shops may have the odd 1900s wardrobe for sale; limited pace usually precludes them from keeping larger stocks on the
premises. The best place for you to find a bargain is probably a large second-hand furniture warehouse.
Wardrobes are generally bought for use rather than for ornament, and many buyers are content to put up with small imperfections in the exterior provided that the storage space is in good order. Check inside. To warrant the top prices, all the original interior fittings should be there and preferably intact. If they're damaged, check that they aren't beyond repair.
The wardrobe may still be worth buying for use, provided the price is reduced, as some repairs to the fittings are possible. Chrome hanging rails, for instance, can be replaced fairly easily, though you'll be very lucky to replace a missing or broken moulded plastic handle with one exactly like it.
Pre-war wardrobes took many forms, ranging from revivals of classic styles to futuristic art deco designs.