Design Matters: Graduated Drawers

Drawer-BankAncient architecture provides a starting point for tall chest design.

by George R. Walker
pages 16-18

Far back in our past, one of our early ancestors cobbled together a box with a lid and created a furniture form still in use today. Wooden chests, sometimes equipped with fancy locks and hinges, were used store everything from blankets to tools, toys, treasure and grain.

Chests perform basic storage tasks by keeping our valued possessions safe from the elements and unwanted critters, while providing a handy bench to sit on and don our shoes in the morning.
But as useful a piece of furniture as it is, the chest form has some drawbacks. For one, its height is usually limited to the length of our arm. Any deeper and we cannot easily retrieve items that migrate to the bottom. This also points to another drawback. A chest at its simplest is just a large cavity.

That’s perfect for storing flour or sugar, but it can be frustrating when we want to house sweaters and socks. That favorite pair of argyles will always hide in the most remote corner of a chest.

Then a genius came along and started filling chests with drawers. Drawers give us the storage advantages of a chest but allow us to keep underwear and socks in their own neighborhoods.

The blanket chest became a chest of drawers and was no longer limited in height by the length of our arms. We could stack up drawers as high as we could conveniently reach. Chest-on-chests, highboys and simple tall chests became the “walk-in closets” of their day, and they continue to provide practical and attractive storage solutions.

Blog: Read more from George R. Walker on his Design Matters blog.
In Our Store: George Walker’s DVDs “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design: Moldings” and “Unlocking the Secrets of Traditional Design.”

From the April 2026 issue #224
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