Illustrated FURNITURE Glossary .

come MODE

1 - A chest of drawers or a cabinet, usually low and squat

2 - Night stand, a bedside cabinet or chest

3 - A washstand, typically crying a washbasin and jug

4 - A chair with a built-in chamber pot


In about 1700, in the Louis XIV period the term "bureau commode" was used to describe a large table with drawers.

In the Regency and the Louis XV periods, the commode was often bombé in shape and it is considered the most typical piece of furniture of that time.

The finer pieces showed no dividing rail or strip between the upper and lower drawer. The later units often had only, two drawers.


Before the introduction of indoor plumbing, almost every American home had a dry sink and a washstand or commode.

The washstand and commode were used for personal hygiene; they were made for the bedroom or an adjoining chamber and held a pitcher and bowl, as well as soap and brushes. In addition, the commode had a cupboard, which was often used to store the chamber pot.

Because they have a cupboard, commodes are more practical than washstands.

America: Federal

The first American examples appeared in the late 18th century. These rare Federal pieces are usually demilune in shape, and have long, turned legs.

America: Empire

By 1820, boxlike Empire commodes with one cupboard door and ball feet were fairly common.

America: Victorian

But it was in the Victorian era that commodes reached their greatest popularity. The majority were factory made. The most common form had a flat top with a splashboard; below were one or two full-length drawers, then a one- or two-door cupboard. A lift-top version with a concealed stepped well was also widespread.

Examples from Buffalo:

Photos and their arrangement © 2006 Chuck LaChiusa
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