Updating a Chifferobe


I’ve had several pieces like this and just love updating them, but…I never knew the proper name for this style of furniture and just used the word “wardrobe” when asked.  I was so terribly wrong.

The proper name for a piece of furniture that has both a long space for hanging clothes and a set of drawers is a “chifferobe.”

The first chifferobe appeared in a 1908 Sears Roebuck catalog and was called a “modern invention.”  A wardrobe (the hanging clothes part) and a chiffonier (the drawer part) was combined into one multi-purpose piece of furniture.  Viola, the chifferobe was born.

(This may or may not have also been the first time in history when people started combining words to make new words.)

As an interesting sidenote, I’m wondering if chifferobes are a Southern thang.  To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Bastard out of Carolina, The Color Purple and Flannery O’Connor’s novel Wise Blood all make mention of chifferobes.  (Remember when the dignified Holly Hunter says that her missing wedding ring may have been left in her chifferobe in O, Brother, Where Art Thou?  Makes me chuckle just thinking about it.)

Nowadays we have closets big enough to house nuclear generators, so the chifferobe is kind of laughable to the modern woman if you only think of it as clothing storage.  An updated chifferobe, however, fits comfortably in the modern home in a brand, new way:

In a front or back entry hall.  Hang up your (or your guest’s) coats, store mittens, hats, scarves and other winter gear.

In a bathroom.  Use the hanging side for your robes and put a basket on the bottom for towels.  Use the drawers to house jewelry or make-up.

In a nursery.  My favorite idea since chifferobes are just so demure and precious.  The hanging side gives you plenty of room for all of baby’s clothing and the drawers are the perfect size to fold up tiny little t-shirts, onesies and socks.  As baby grows, you can add shelving to the wardrobe side and make it more versatile.


So this lovely girl, which I’m calling my Penny McGill chifferobe (after Holly Hunter’s character), has been updated thinking of a nursery or other area where you need a sweet or romantic piece.  I painted the outside in Luxe Grey One Step paint which is one of my favorite greys in the Amy Howard at Home line.  It is a gentle grey.  Nice and pale.

The inside is painted in Selznick Grey one step.  I added a stencil to the outside door to give it a little more somethin’.


Also, it still has its original key.


It does have its quirks.  Two of the drawers have some wood missing and as a result that bottom drawer is a little tricky.  But what do you expect from a chifferobe that is potentially 107 years old and from some crazy Southern woman’s bedroom?


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