Because closets were not included as a standard feature of new homes until late in the 20th century, furniture makers developed a range of freestanding storage for clothing and linens. Personally, I love the look (and practicality) of a rich mahogany armoire or linen press.
If you are on the lookout for an antique armoire or wardrobe it is worth your while to check out Judith Miller's Antiques Guide as well as Antiques Atlas, a UK-based antiques directory and catalog. Once you have a better idea of the age, wood type, and appearance you prefer you can start perusing other websites, from Craigslist to Ruby Lane to 1st Dibs.
So, what is the difference between an armoire and a wardrobe? And what is a "linen press"? Here is a little glossary.
Armoire: Armoire is a French term for a tall storage cabinet enclosed by a large door or doors. Inside, there is usually a main section for hanging clothes and sometimes shelves or drawers below. Armoires are also known as wardrobes, particularly in England and other Commonwealth countries. The name dates back to the 13th century from the Latin "armorium", a chest for storing arms or weapons. Rails for hanging clothes (on coat-hangers) were not commonly used until after 1900. In recent years, armoires were being used to store gargantuan TV sets but since the introduction of the flat-screen TV many people are again using their armoires for clothing.
Linen Press: A linen press (image 2) is a cabinet or cupboard that is usually divided into two sections, almost like a mini wardrobe atop a chest of drawers. Originally, linen presses were used to store linens so the top half had sliding trays. Armoires or wardrobes started to replace the "linen press" by the mid-19th century.
• 1 Here two rustic armoires make up for the lack of closet space in this bedroom-turned-storage room featured in House Beautiful.
• 2 I love this gorgeous Regency flamed mahogany linen press circa 1810, which I found at the England-based Driscolls Antiques.
• 3 Painted vintage armoire in a serene, muted living room found on Decor Pad.
• 4 Armoire from Former Furniture in Los Angeles. Uncertain as to the kind of wood and age of this piece but it looks sturdy and is a good bargain at $650.
• 5 19th century George III mahogany armoire from House Beautiful.
• 6 I love this simple pine armoire from Desire to Inspire.
• 7 Another from Desire to Inspire.
• 8 A stunning Danish Modern teak armoire circa 1960. From Modern Living Supplies on 1st dibs. $3,800.
• 9 Lonny via SF Girl by Bay.
• 10 Pair of solid teak narrow armoires from Sri Lanka circa late 19th century. From G4 Decor on 1st dibs. $5,500.
Images: as linked above