Function, form get armoires back in the room

The Charlotte ObserverMay 16, 2014 

Sometime between 1950 and 1990, armoires stopped being attractive storage and display cabinets and became entertainment centers.

With the invention of affordable flat-screen TVs, people abandoned their armoires and started mounting their televisions on the wall. Thrift shops were overrun with used armoires, and many furniture manufacturers dropped them from their product lines.

Designers have always understood that the armoire provided more than just an attractive way to hide the TV; it also gave height and dimension to the room.

For an interior space to be interesting, your eye needs to flow up and down as well as horizontally as it surveys the space. Without taller, more stately furniture pieces or built-ins, the view is flat and boring.

Armoires are tools that set the tone and style of a room's décor.

Homeowners now are rediscovering the value of the armoire and its functionality. Furniture manufacturers are responding to this renewed interest by creating beautiful pieces in a wide range of sizes, finishes and styles.

As houses get smaller, storage becomes an issue. Unlike open shelving, armoires provide storage space that can be hidden from view but accessed easily.

In a kitchen, an antique armoire can be painted a fun color and become a handy pantry or dish cupboard. In a bedroom it can function as an additional closet for storing clothing, shoes, accessories or jackets. In the bath it adds height to a space and becomes the perfect storage solution for towels, linens and toiletries.

Pay attention to scale when selecting an armoire. What fits nicely into your living room might overwhelm your kitchen or bathroom.

Consider the width and height of the piece. You want at least 10 inches between the top of the piece and your ceiling to avoid it looking like it's stuffed into place. Keep the depth narrow enough that it doesn't interfere with your walkways. The width will depend on how much wall space you have.

My personal preference is pairing two armoires, one on each side of the room. Anchor the space between them by placing artwork or a decorative mirror over a sofa or long table.

If you have the space, consider using armoires to frame a room's architectural element such as a fireplace or wide window or doorway.

It is hard to believe that such a versatile piece of furniture could have fallen out of favor for almost two decades. Thank goodness we have rediscovered its value. The armoire is a room transformer and storage solver.

Designer Vicki Payne is host and producer of For Your Home, available on PBS, Create TV and in national and international syndication. It airs at 2:30 p.m. Wednesdays on KET2. Reach her at Foryourhome.com.

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