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Lingerie Chests

©2003-2010 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas, USA

Lingerie Chest with jewelry drawers

This is a large, dramatic piece of furniture, with walnut crotch veneers on the front of solid walnut drawers, with the special grain pattern flowing across all the drawers, circling out at the top, and back in at the bottom. The overall height is just over 49 inches, the overall width about 22 inches, and the depth 18 3/4 inches not counting handles or overhang of the top.

Handmade wooden handles are mounted vertically in the center of each drawer to avoid hiding the flowing grain pattern. If the drawers are going to be heavily loaded, I recommend larger handles or a different style.

You can see nine drawers, in three different sizes, in this picture. But there is a tenth hidden drawer. The total amount of storage provided by this chest is very large... there are no panels between each of the drawers to take away space (except one cross-brace in the middle) - the drawers ride on narrow wooden rails in the side of each drawer.

The sides of the drawers are solid hard maple, with half-blind dovetails to attach the sides to the solid walnut drawer fronts. The drawer bottoms are plywood, but you could upgrade some of the drawers with aromatic cedar or Spanish Cedar bottoms.

The top drawers are intended for jewelry storage, and are lined with felt. Each of these three drawers includes sliding trays with wooden dividers to allow jewelry to be sorted in varying size spaces, and to give access to the storage areas under the trays.

The top is four-way bookmatched walnut burl, finished and waxed "ooh so smooth" - everyone who has seen it loves to run their hand over the surface, and admire the wonderful pattern provided by nature.

The dark glossy walnut sides and the short tapered feet are a tribute to the rest of the bedroom set - certainly this piece is unique, but it can "blend in" with the rest of the furniture through little things like this.

The top three drawers and the hidden drawer can be latched closed with a discrete knob on the back of the cabinet. Certainly it isn't a burglar-proof storage for the jewelry, but can keep cleaning people and nosy friends at a party from playing here. A hasp allows the drawers to be locked with a small padlock, if you have shown the secret lock to too many of your friends.

The drawers here are three different sizes... the top three of nine drawers are each 3 inches high. Drawers 4, 5, and 6 are each 4½ inches high, but drawer-front 6 is taller, to hide the cross-brace just under that drawer. Drawers 7, 8, and 9 are each 6 inches tall.

If you include jewelry trays for the upper drawers, I normally make them about half the height and depth of the drawer, and place small rails in the drawer sides so the trays can slide forward and back to access the area under the trays. Of course if you have bulky pieces, the tray will need to be removed. Unless you have specific requirements, I will build the tray dividers with random sizes (based on my wife's jewelry collection).

This piece, as shown, in your choice of furniture wood and veneers, can be built for you for $2,650. The sides are flat - but could be hardwood floating panels, raising the cost to $2,800. A very simple version, with all drawers the same size and no trays, locks, or veneers, could be built in your choice of wood for as little as $1,200.

Background on Lingerie chests

Most bedrooms seem to be designed to hold the "standard bedroom set" - bed with night stands, a tall chest of drawers for him, and a low, wide dresser (often with a mirror) for her. Most bedroom sets don't have good storage facilities for the things that are hard to stack or organize - whether slippery undergarments or athletic socks. After identifying the problem, we looked at dozens of bedrooms, and usually found a narrow area, often under a light switch, where a small chest of drawers could be added.

Historically a lingerie chest has 7 drawers, and was placed in a dressing area to hold expensive corsets and other specialized undergarments. Coming to modern times, scarfs and athletic socks may require more storage room than corsets. Jewelry collections are getting larger, whether a priceless collection of fine pieces or a large variety of costume jewelry. The little 6 inch jewelry chest is no longer adequate. The number of drawers, and the depth of each, can be whatever you want - no need to stay with the traditional 7.

Our recommendation is to add a modern lingerie chest, like those below. A lingerie chest can be fairly simple, like the one at the bottom, or can be quite elaborate... a special piece of furniture, perhaps added on a special occasion. It needs to blend in with the other furniture, but does not need to "match" the basic bedroom set... this is an opportunity to do something unique and special.

Compact Chest with Entertainment Center

A gentleman from New York City, with a compact apartment, needed a compact chest to fit in an available space - we were able to create a design with drawers only about 12 inches deep. He chose to have legs (attractive, but eliminated some storage space), and was anxious to have the front with a particular edge treatment. Fine, this is custom furniture!

The key design was the veneer on the front of the cabinet... after weeks (or months) of searching, the customer selected this walnut veneer, and this pattern - horizontal on the drawers and vertical on the doors. The sides and top were built from furniture grade walnut plywood.

The top two drawers have dividers with a felt lining, with sliding jewelry trays as an "upper" layer. The other four drawers had dividers to keep various items arranged during storage.

The jewelry drawers (top two drawers) have a hidden latch - raise the hasp and slide the lever to the right to latch the drawers. Not burglar proof, but ample to keep nosy guests or cleaning people out of the jewelry. If you have shown the trick to too many friends, you can put a small padlock on the hasp.

The area behind the doors was to hold electronic equipment, so there was a hole at the bottom for speaker wires, and an air vent at the top back.

$2,600 as shown

Lingerie Chest with mirrors, scarf, and jewelry storage

This walnut lingerie chest with integrated jewelry, necklace, and scarf storage has 6 drawers for lingerie or other clothing. The top opens as a jewelry box, with a mirror under the lid. Felt-lined jewelry trays with wooden dividers organize the jewelry in various size compartments, with additional storage under the trays. The left side opens for scarf storage; the right side is for necklace storage and has a full-length mirror inside the right door. The scarf storage on the left consists of a padded/quilted back with 7 wooden rings to hold scarves. The right side has a similar quilted back that holds small metal hooks for necklaces.

The six drawers have solid walnut drawer fronts, surfaced with shop-cut walnut veneer (all cut from a single piece of figured walnut, with the pattern alternating left-to-right between drawers). The handles are turned walnut. The drawer bodies are solid maple, with half blind dovetails to the drawer front, and ride on oak rails.

Plesums Lingerie and Jewelry chest from the 2006 Texas Furniture Maker's Show

Lingerie and Jewelry chest shown closed - 3467

When the top is open, the sides are released... The top may be latched or locked closed with a hidden mechanism, thus also locking the sides. When the unit is closed, it is not obvious that the top or sides open - it appears to be a simple 6 drawer clothing chest.

The cabinet sides are flat solid walnut panels floating in a walnut frame with tenon joinery.

The overall size is 18 1/2 inches deep and 50 inches high. When it is closed it is 21 1/2 inches wide, but with both sides open, it is 52 inches wide. (Since it will not normally stay open long, it can open in front of the window or fireplace.)

The top of the cabinet is 4-way bookmatch shop cut walnut veneer with a figured walnut "front edge" (lifting handle) and walnut sides. The top opens to reveal a mirror, the jewelry storage, and to release the sides.

This piece was accepted and displayed at the 2006 Texas Furniture Maker's ShowTM at the Kerr Arts and Cultural Center in Kerrville.


This piece, with sides and top that open, could be built for you from walnut or other your choice of prime furniture wood, but no veneers, for $2,100. With veneers on the top and front, and the hidden locking mechanism, it could be built for about $2,600 (depending on your choice of veneers and features).

Simple Lingerie Chest

This was our first lingerie chest, designed to fill the storage need for hard-to-organize clothing, and to fit in a special spot in the bedroom, between the fireplace and window, without blocking the light switch or electrical outlet. We fell in love with the unit - it has pleasing proportions and is very functional. It contributed substantially to the design of subsequent lingerie and jewelry chests such as those above.

This also represented a painful lesson. It was made from inexpensive birch plywood, then stained walnut - the lesson where we finally learned that no matter how you tried, cheap wood and stain don't make a piece of fine furniture. And by the time you put all the energy into trying to make something cheap look fine with the finish, it would have been less expensive and far better to use good wood with clear finish in the first place.

If you want a simple unit like this, it would be made with solid hardwoods, or a mix of hardwood and furniture grade plywood. Overall the unit is 46 inches high, 17 inches wide, and 18 inches deep. Each of the 6 drawers is about 6 inches deep and glides on a waxed hardwood guides. The drawer sides in this unit are baltic birch plywood, which isn't bad, but they could have been hardwood such as maple or poplar. The bottom of the drawers are plywood, but could be built with aromatic cedar or solid hardwood if desired. There are dust panels between each drawer. The drawer hardware is antique brass color.

$900 in fine hardwood

Designing your own Lingerie Chest

The lingerie chest is an "extra" set of drawers in addition to the traditional clothing drawers, with relatively small drawers to hold socks, underwear, and other garments that are not easily stacked and organized. The unit goes in "extra" space in the bedroom - it doesn't seem to be part of the standard architectural plan like the bed, chest of drawers, dresser - there isn't an obvious place for it in every bedroom. For both of these reasons it should be relatively small.

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©2003-2010 by Charles A. Plesums, Austin, Texas USA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

We primarily serve Austin and the Central Texas area, but travel to the DFW area periodically and are glad to serve the Garland, Plano, Dallas, and other North Texas areas, and are willing to ship anywhere.