Did you know that much of the furniture we have today in our homes and offices has evolved from the chest?

The chest has got to be one of the most versatile and practical innovations throughout the history of furniture. Originating in Ancient Egypt and taking its journey through the Italian Renaissance period, the humble chest has borne us an array of furniture from tables and desks through to chairs, wardrobes and tables.

In this post we’re taking a look at the origins of the chest, how they were crafted and the furniture they inspired.

Chest Origins

Chests were originally established in Ancient Egypt and it is no surprise to learn that Egyptian chests were works of art, with striking gilding, jewelled inlays, dovetailed joints and beautiful carving.

Moving over to Europe, medieval chests were crafted from a solid piece of timber, hollowed out and fitted with a rounded lid that followed the shape of the log. From the 1500s, chest evolution went down two different routes. One was somewhat rugged; a plain plank style box nailed together that wasn’t all that great at standing up to warping and splitting.

Antique open chest

Thankfully, the second route involving framed panels that worked along the grain of the wood making allowances for shrinkage and expansion. From this point, the future of furniture went through an epiphany, with stools and chairs following suit.

Chests get Decorative

It was also at this point that chests started to get decorative, with friezes and panels incorporated into the design. Gothic architecture would form the inspiration and you would find marquetry and painted surfaces taking shape.

Metal coffret

The Elizabethan period was possibly one of the greatest turning points for the chest. It was during this time the storage piece evolved into drawing tables, cupboards, stools and chairs. Coffers developed from here: leather topped with a nailed trim and something that led to the ‘coffer maker’s chair’, a very notable piece of Elizabethan furniture.

Taking Things Higher

The dawn of the Renaissance period saw a new demand for specialist pieces of furniture. In the dining room, the chest had become a strikingly decorative piece known as the Elizabethan court cupboard. It was used for storing and serving food and dinner ware and featured a lower cabinet area and two shelves at the top. From here, the first buffet, or sideboard, was born.

Chest on legs

Legs were the next innovation, taking chests into the realms of side tables, consoles, settles and chairs. Now the chest was so much more than a general piece of furniture used for eating or seating or whatever it lent itself to; now we saw purpose-made furniture being introduced, and this was the beginning of a brand new era.

You can browse our range of beautiful furniture from Oficina Britannia