Armoires & Wardrobes Buying Guide
Centuries ago, European furniture makers created armoires for rooms that lacked closets. Initially designed to house weapons, the freestanding cabinets evolved to hold clothing and came to be known also as wardrobes. Today, armoires perform a variety of functions, turning the bedroom into a home office or media room, for example. When the armoire doors are closed, however, it is possible to forget those tasks and let the bedroom be a restful retreat.
Types of Armoires & Wardrobes
Armoires have the distinction of being a focal-point piece of furniture. This designation is given to elements in a room that you are compelled to look at, either for their stature, appearance, or functional importance. Aside from the bed in a bedroom, the armoire is usually the largest piece of furniture, and thanks to elegant styling -- from rich wood finishes to carved embellishments to jewelrylike hardware -- it commands attention. This scene-stealer is also a hard worker, housing not just garments but televisions, gaming systems, or computers, too. Here's information to help you decide what kind of armoire would be most at home in your bedroom.
If you need more closet storage, an effective solution is an armoire (which you might call a wardrobe or chifferobe, depending on where you live). Some have one compartment behind top-to-bottom doors, which is designed for hanging long clothes such as coats and gowns. Others combine one compartment for hanging storage with drawers underneath or on the side. Still others are outfitted with drawers and inner cubbies that fill the space from the top of the cabinet to the bottom. A nice feature for a clothing armoire is built-in mirrors, which may be on the inside or outside of the doors.
More structured and organized, an entertainment armoire has a large cabinet on the top to house the television. Inside the cabinet will be a TV stand, which may swivel or pull out, and there may be shelves for cable boxes or gaming systems. Below this upper cabinet, entertainment armoires offer a number of storage options -- from drawers to open shelves to doors concealing shelves. Because you'll need to get them out of the way to watch television from various points in the room, the upper cabinet doors are hinged in the middle to fold back or are mounted on tracks that let them slide back into the cabinet.
These armoires are encapsulated home offices. Pull up a chair to the table-height surface, which may slide out to meet you, and you can get to work. There may be file drawers, a printer compartment, or storage for supplies in the lower cabinet. In the upper cabinet, there will be room for the computer and additional equipment, including the tower and keyboard. There is usually a power outlet or strip easily accessible in one or both cabinets. On the inside of the upper doors, there might be other helpful features, such as cubbies for papers or a bulletin board.
The children's furniture marketplace has expanded in recent years to include armoires that match children's bedroom furniture styles, or that are simply bright, functional additions to any kids' room. They come in many varieties and can hold clothes, toys, or both.
Size matters when it comes to purchasing an armoire. Will the piece fit in your bedroom door? Can you open the doors and pull out the drawers freely without bumping other furniture? Will it accommodate the clothing, TV, or computer you have? Careful measuring -- and taking stock of the following considerations -- will help you pick the perfect piece for your home.
Since there are a variety of different orientations for armoires that store clothes, you can choose one with a hanging rod or drawers that suits your specific needs. Other options that are nice to consider include: interior lights that come on when you open the doors, satin lining for drawers to protect fragile items, compartments designed to hold jewelry and accessories, and a drawer or cabinet that is lined with cedar, a wood that naturally repels moths and other pests.
In purchasing an entertainment armoire for the bedroom, know that the size of the armoire must fit the size of the television. Usually armoires are sold with recommendations about the size of TV you can put inside. Don't be tempted to get a larger TV than advised. The stand might not be strong enough to hold a bigger TV, and there might not be enough airflow around the television, which could cause it to overheat. Take stock of your system: Do you need room for speakers, a gaming system, a DVD player, or a modem? The armoire should have enough protected outlets for you to confidently plug in all of your equipment, and a few extra outlets are nice to have, too. Finally, are there any obstructions in the room that hinder viewing, or do you have to avoid glare from windows? Armoires with TV stands that pull out and swivel will help with these issues.
Like entertainment center armoires, power accessibility is key for a home office armoire. There should be surge-protected outlets and plenty of them. Is it easy to string cables through openings from one piece of equipment to another? Are the compartments roomy enough that you can easy reach back to add a plug-in to the computer tower or to load cartridges into the printer? Also, keep in mind ergonomics as you sit at the armoire to work: Is the computer screen at a comfortable viewing distance? Is the keyboard at a healthy height?
As with any piece of furniture for a child's room, safety is your first consideration. The finish must be free of lead paint or any kind of coating that can flake or peel off. If the armoire has drawers, they should have drawer stops to prevent them from being pulled out too far. Hinges on the doors should have safety catches so the doors cannot be slammed shut on little fingers. All hardware should be securely attached so it cannot become a choking hazard. And finally, the entire armoire should be attached to the wall with safety straps to prevent it from being tipped over by a climbing child. If the armoire doesn't come with its own anchor kit, buy one at the hardware store.