Every family has that one piece of furniture they've passed down for generations; it looks timeless and was built to last forever. You get both of these for the price of one with antique commodes. A French way of describing chest of drawers, these 200+-year-old stationary closets made organizing your clothes a stylish affair. Nowadays, these old pieces of furniture can be worth a pretty penny, but they're so useful that they're not something you'll want to pass up on anytime soon.
Antique Commodes Made Organizing Stylish
Not to be confused with every southerner's favorite term for the toilet, commodes were wide chests of drawers that were used to store clothes and other goods. While they gave way to less decorative and cheaper drawers in the 20th century, this European furniture was a hallmark of 1700s and 1800s. Specifically, commodes refer to French drawers that were wide, flat topped (often with marble or other stone), and low to the ground, although you'll see that many antique commode listings don't refer to just French pieces.
Commodes refer to French drawers that were wide, flat topped (often with marble or other stone), and low to the ground.
Ways to Identify an Antique Commode
Generally, old commodes have a distinctively squat shape; they're low to the ground, and much wider than they are tall. They can hold anywhere between 2 to 8 drawers, on average, and they come in many styles. Between the 1700s and 1800s, there were so many design revivals happening that if there's a historic style you can think of, chances are there were commodes inspired by it. This can make authenticating difficult for the everyday person, but there are a few things you can be on the lookout for to know you're getting a real antique.
- Maker's marks/signatures - Not every piece you come across would've been stamped or signed, but it's important to look underneath, in the back of, or inside the drawers of an antique commode for a manufacturer mark or signature. Newer pieces have modern logos, so if you find an old-looking stamp, chances are it wasn't made yesterday.
- Wood quality - People weren't using compressed wood to make commodes in the 18th century, so you want to look at the wood to see if it's real. Real wood usually has an uneven grain, is heavy/solid, and has minute cracks or crevices in it.
- Signs of age - If you notice a foggy patina on any of the metal fixtures or warm signs of wear on the wood, then you might have an older piece. Beware of finishes that have been manipulated to look aged, and double check the type of wood and fixtures used to ensure it's real.
Guide to Antique Commode Styles
Because you can find antique commodes from multiple centuries, you're going to run into a ton of different design styles. Thankfully, if you know anything about historical furniture or interior design, then you'll be able to place a commode's style based on what it looks like. Despite the bells and whistles being different, they all do share the general characteristics of being a shorter, wider chest with a bunch of drawers and a flat piece on top.
- Louis XV - Often termed Louis XV commodes because they were made during his reign, these French pieces of furniture have a distinctive 'w' shaped front, a lot of gilding around the edges, and decorative motifs painted or sculpted throughout.
- Provincial - French provincial pieces were made in the 18th century alongside Louis XV ones, but they were constructed in a simpler, more rustic style. They have little decoration and are usually a straight-forward rectangle.
- Victorian - Interestingly, the English Victorian commodes weren't all that decorative compared to a lot of furniture, fashion, and style created during the period. They focused on clean lines, luxury woods, and overall function more than fashion.
How Much Are Antique Commodes Worth?
Depending on when it was made and what it was made out of, antique commodes can sell for a ton of money. High-quality furniture isn't known for being cheap, and people are always willing to pay for what they want. If you want something to last, you'll shell out the cash. Some of the major factors that impact how much an antique commode will sell for are style, condition, and size.
The typical French style from the 18th century with heavily bowed center fronts on the commodes is usually the most expensive because it immediately reads as an antique. When looking for these, check to see if the commode's center noticeably juts out. In comparison, provincial pieces aren't worth nearly the same amount. Take this 18th century Louis XV commode that's selling for $4,750 on 1st Dibs. It's still worth quite a bit, but not near the amounts that the ornate ones are.
Style goes hand-in-hand with decoration and ornamentation. Pieces with a lot of gold or metalwork, painted imagery, marble tops, and so on are going to be worth more than simple wooden commodes. Think of it like ordering from a menu: the more pieces you order, the more expensive the total's going to come out to be.
Condition is a seriously important thing to look at in old furniture. Check the legs, drawers, and drawer tracks for cracks, breaks, or signs of rot. People want to use the furniture they buy, and if it's not in a good condition, they won't pay a lot for it.
The larger the commode, the more expensive it is. Valuable decoration can be outweighed by size; take this very narrow 19th century mahogany commode, for example. Mahogany is a valuable wood, and it comes with a marble top, but it's only 2' wide, making it not worth nearly as much as much larger ones - it's worth a little over $1,000. In comparison, this larger, less-decorated rosewood Portuguese commode from the late 18th century is on sale for nearly $13,000.
Mix and Match Antique Commodes With Your Personal Style
The best part of having your own space is getting to decorate it. Whether you like bold prints and bright colors or stick to calming, neutral tones, there's furniture that can enhance the decorative style you're going for. Because antique commodes were designed with so many different styles in mind, they can make for a perfect (and sustainable) way to customize your space.
- Modern Farmhouse - If you're a fan of the modern farmhouse style, then you should look for provincial pieces. These commodes have rawer looking wood, are designed simply, and usually come in larger sizes.
- Mid-Century Modern - MCM fans love furniture that's really natural looking and highlights the materials used to make it. In this case, you'll want to find 19th century European commodes with straight edges and warm woods.
- Bohemian - Traditionally, Bohemian style focuses on colorful patterns, mixing textures together, and enjoying a sense of whimsy. Early 18th century commodes with floral and mythical motifs painted on them can partner well with this looser interior style.
Dress Up Your Home One Dresser at a Time
Antique furniture is something that's passed down from generation to generation, and an antique commode might be among the pieces you've collected from various family members. These stylish and functional dressers are perfect for adding a sense of luxury to a budgeted environment, especially if you didn't have to pay for it. But if you haven't been gifted one, antique commodes are well worth their price because of how long they'll last and how many compliments you'll get on yours.