1940s Art Deco Chifferobe

1940s Art Deco Style chifferobe with a waterfall top

Today's project is a 1940's chifferobe that I picked up at an auction during the summer.  A chifferobe is a combination of a wardrobe or armoire along with a set of drawers. This one was dark and dreary, but I knew I could lighten it up and make it shine again.



Before

I suspected it was a 1940's era piece of furniture based on the design and materials. However, I was really excited to see that there was a sticker on the back that gave the exact date! January 24, 1942 to be precise. Of course that was during World War II, and knowing the date really made me stop and think about all the events going on throughout the world during that era.

Label on chifferobe dated January 24, 1942
Label on chifferobe dated January 24, 1942

The top of the chifferobe has a waterfall top and the cabinet itself sits on 4 wood wheels. One of the wheels broke while I was working on it, so I ordered 4 replacement wheels. Luckily I was able to find brand new wood wheels with a vintage look. It has a wood frame with wood panels and was stained in a walnut finish. The interior was unfinished wood.
1940s chifferobe before
Before
Unfinished interior
Unfinished interior

I painted the chifferobe in my garage back in July. And boy was it hot! So hot in fact that I wasn't able to take any "during" photos because I was focused on completing the project and getting out of the heat. But I'll give you the short step-by-step:
  • Cleaned the cabinet and vacuumed the interior.
  • Applied two coats of shellac (interior and exterior)
  • Applied 3 coats of Old White paint to Exterior (sanding between coats)
  • Applied 2 coats of custom mixed pink to interior wardrobe and cubby (sanding between coats)
  • Sanded the paint smooth and applied distressing and wear for a vintage look
  • Sealed with soft clear wax
  • Replaced hardware
  • Added a tassel to key
  • Replaced wheels
I bought a white tassel for the key but thought it wasn't enough contrast. So I diluted some of my custom mixed pink paint water and dyed the tassel to match the interior.

Dying white tassel pink
Dying white tassel pink.
The color is a very soft and subtle shade of pink. The photo below gives a better idea of the color contrasted next to the original white.

Original white next to custom dyed tassel
Original white next to custom dyed tassel.

After

The new look is definitely much brighter than the original dark finish. The chifferobe has an amazing amount of storage: the wardrobe, the cubby, four drawers, and even the top can be used to store extra items. 

1940's chifferobe painted in Old White
1940's chifferobe painted in Old White

The waterfall top has a graceful curve which softens the otherwise straight lines of the cabinet. The top itself is flat which will allow for additional storage on top of the cabinet such as pretty baskets or boxes.

Waterfall top on chifferobe
Waterfall top on chifferobe
The new hardware helps lighten the feel and adds a feminine touch to the piece. When replacing hardware I try to find something that will match in scale and design.

New hardware can change the look and feel of furniture
New hardware can change the look and feel of furniture

The tassel on the key gives a hint of what color to expect when the cupboard is opened. I added a silver bead cap to the tassel to give it just a little bling.

Hand dyed tassel on vintage key.
Hand dyed tassel on vintage key.
The interior was previously unfinished wood. Now it has a subtle soft pink color with a beautiful clean and smooth finish.

Chifferobe interior painted in a soft pink.
Chifferobe interior painted in a soft pink.

There is a wooden rod at the top of the wardrobe for hanging clothing.

Wooden rod in wardrobe section of chifferobe.
Wooden rod in wardrobe section of chifferobe.
There is a false drawer front that runs along the bottom of the chifferobe. It provides extra storage space in the wardrobe section, but it also adds a perfect spot for secret hidden storage underneath the bottom drawer.

Secret storage in chifferobe.
Secret storage in chifferobe
To the left of the wardrobe and above the drawers is a cubby for additional storage.

Extra storage in cubby.
Extra storage in cubby.
The bottom of the chifferobe has streamlined details reminiscent of the art deco style. New wood wheels were added.

Art deco style and new wood wheels

Art deco style and new wood wheels
Before and after 1940's chifferobe
Before and after 1940's chifferobe

Behind the Scenes

So you might be wondering why I'm just now posting the project if I worked on it in July. A few reasons actually, but the main reason being it was difficult to find a spot to photograph the piece. Because it's a larger piece I need enough room to fit it in the camera's frame. I did a couple of shoots, but the lighting just wasn't capturing the color correctly. I prefer to use natural light, but I couldn't get the right location with the right amount of light. So in the end I brought out my photography lights.

Use photography lights to improve lighting.
Use photography lights to improve lighting.

I used shades on the lamps to diffuse the light. The background wasn't ideal, but sometimes done is better than perfect! The lights are attached to tripod stands which are adjustable.

Illuminating furniture for photography
Illuminating furniture for photography

I'm also working on improving displays of my furniture photography. Nothing earth shattering yet, but here is one before and after of the new drawer knobs. Maybe the hearts are too much, but I was feeling cheerful and pink hearts seemed appropriate to my mood today!

Transform furniture with paint and new knobs.

I hope you enjoyed this project and appreciate you stopping by my blog today! I'll include a supply list below for anyone that might be interested in creating a project with a similar look.

Supply List (Some links are affiliate links; some are not)

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