How to make this antique piece functional?


We inherited this beautiful antique. I would like to make it functional while maintaining the integrity of the piece. I do not want to paint. I would like to be able to display items such as vintage glassware and possibly picture frames. I am thinking some kind of shelving? But I'd like to avoid nailing or screwing anything to it. Maybe something free standing that could sit in front of the mirror.

Also - if anyone knows the name for this type of furniture, I'd love to know! Guessing it is a wardrobe of some kind. Door opens and there is a bar to hang clothes.

q how to make this antique piece functional

Preview is cropped. Click to see full image.

  14 answers
  • Janice Janice on Sep 21, 2020

    Hi Sarah, I believe the name of your antique is a "chifforobe" or "chifferobe". Several different spellings are common and the piece would have been used when there were no closets in most homes. I hope others can supply you with ideas of how to best make use of the beauty! Free-standing custom built shelving would be grea to store dining room materials, books, extra accessories, etc.

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Sep 21, 2020

    It is a chifferobe and I think it's a smart move to try and leave as is, as much as possible. The tiger wood is so lovely.

    As for shelving, you might be able to add something in front of the mirror but make sure it is anchored well, perhaps with clips.

    You might consider removing the door and put shelves in there. You could store the door between the piece and the wall and put it back on later.

  • Recreated Designs Recreated Designs on Sep 21, 2020

    Hi Sarah, the above are correct, it is a chifferobe. You could definitely find a small, era similar shelf to place on the drawer that would be in front of the mirror. It would look beautiful to display glass and china wear in front of the mirror. What a gorgeous piece!

  • Michelle Michelle on Sep 21, 2020

    What about building a shelving unit with the back behind the mirror and thin brackets coming on either side holding glass shelving

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Sep 21, 2020

    Not sure if there is an adequate space above the drawer for you to pull out the drawer and place it under the mirror, then take beautiful glassware, crystal antique items and put them in the newly placed drawer, maybe with a velvet liner. Then put some period accessories-like a frilly bonnet in the drawer space.

    You are fortunate to have this beautiful piece, brings back pleasant memories of my grandmother and the spare bedroom filled with interesting reading material. I would sit for hours and read medical books.

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Sep 21, 2020

    Hello. I would suggest considering making a custom shelving unit broad-based at the bottom for structural integrity to make into a - temporary display situation in front of your mirror.

  • Sharon Sharon on Sep 22, 2020

    Yes don't paint, lovely quarter-sawn oak aka tiger oak

  • Johnavallance82 Johnavallance82 on Sep 22, 2020


    Utility Furniture? Maybe stack small glass toped tables in the space as shelves?

    Best wishes.

    • Flipturn Flipturn on Sep 24, 2020

      I would not say this piece is Utility Furniture because the wood is not plain, and the mirror is large and bevelled.

  • Lisa Hunt Lisa Hunt on Sep 22, 2020

    If you want to use it as a display, you could cut out the inside panel of the door and replace it with glass. Then, remove the bar inside and add shelves, possibly even glass shelves.

    As far as anything in front of the glass, I am afraid anything you just set there freestanding will look exactly like you just set something in front of a mirror. Is there solid wood behind the mirror? If not, you could replace that with glass and display photos there...

  • Mandy Brown Mandy Brown on Sep 22, 2020

    It’s actually an antique Gentleman’s Wardrobe. I have one as well that’s been passed down on my mother’s side. Mine is a little different than yours in that I have a walnut two over two dresser with a small cabinet on one side and a mirror on the other. I took mine apart (it was just screwed together) and I’m using each piece separately. I didn’t care for the look of all three attached because it looked as if someone just stacked furniture on top of each other.

  • Maura White Maura White on Sep 26, 2020

    I'm not sure you need to change it to make it functional! You could hang up some special event clothes in it, use the drawer for storage and just make this your room mirror! I think it's a great piece!!

  • Kathleen Walker Kathleen Walker on Sep 27, 2020

    Gorgeous treasure, don’t change it

  • Agnes Chrzanowska Agnes Chrzanowska on Sep 29, 2020

    I would not change it at all .. it is simply beautiful .. I would try to push away from the corner so it is beautifuly showcased