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The Norman wardrobe

Armoire Normande

«Dear Wardrobe» - I like to repeat these words of Chekhov's play "the Cherry Orchard", when referring to the Norman wardrobe. These wardrobes were made solely in Normandy, North-West France. This piece of traditional French furniture, however, unlike other regional furniture, exists not only in Normandy, but throughout the whole of France and even in other countries.

The Norman wardrobe is more than a simple piece of furniture in a traditional French house. It has its own history and a particular significance in the daily life of a French family.

Before, this piece of furniture was so famous that the French expression "As strong as a Normand wardrobe" ("Fort comme une armoire normande") was invented. However, the Norman wardrobe impresses not only by its size (a very practical feature but never however higher than 240 cm), shapes and lines expressing strength and power, but above all by its elegant and powerful decoration, beautifully sculpted wood, a life-affirming artistic expression.

Norman wardrobes are quite old, going back to the 18th C, with its "golden age" in the middle of the 19th C. Over 70 different models of Norman wardrobes are known to date. Each village or town has its own personal model - different models at distances of 10 or 20 km away!

As such, the item 4299 of our website is a typical model of Pays de Caux, a limestone plateau north of Rouen (with Yvetot for capital, where we live). It is a model of a Norman wardrobe with a cornice called "policeman's cap", « en chapeau de gendarme ». Indeed, each local model has a specific and recognizable detail. This original feature is one of the wonderful characteristics of these wardrobes.
Other than the beautiful decorative aspect of Norman wardrobes, their actual structure is something remarkable. Even though they undergo constant improvements over the years, their fundamental structure remains the same, flawless and outstanding! It is indeed created without a single nail, enabling it to be assembled and disassembled in 5 to 10 minutes with only a small hammer and a tipless large nail.

Upon delivery of these Normand wardrobes, we promptly remind their owners, how hard the mounting task will be! i.e. effortless and enjoyable...!
The Norman wardrobe as a piece of furniture in France has long earned a special respect. First of all, because it is a wedding wardrobe, a traditional gift from father to daughter at her wedding, of which the richness and sophistication of its decoration reflects the family's high social level.
The various sculpted patterns were associated with the father's trade, of which the attributes where represented in flower arrangements, such as roses and rose bushes, or bunches of grapes and flower baskets. Agricultural symbols and musical instruments were also popular: harvesting tools, violins, horns, cellos, music scores...
The story of each wardrobe began the day a girl was born into the family. On that day, the father chose and cut the strongest oak on his estate. After seven to ten years, on the day of his daughter's first communion, this oak was cut into boards and dried. 8 to 10 years later, on the day of his daughter's engagement, the master cabinetmaker set to work. Thus, the tree was dried and aged for about 20 years before passing into the hands of a cabinetmaker (hence the irreproachable quality of old wardrobes: the perfect fit of the parts and their strength). The manufacture of a wedding wardrobe took at least six months of ongoing work (a master could not manufacture more than two of these cabinets per year), and the wedding day was chosen once the wardrobe was ready.
What's more, no one was allowed to see this wardrobe before the actual wedding day and it was only on the day of the celebration itself that the parents presented the Norman wardrobe to the parents and guests in all its splendor as one of the main "characters" of the celebration. During the years thereafter, the newlyweds ceremoniously used this gift and it was passed it on from generation to generation.

Today, in France, cabinetmakers who have kept the secret of ancient craftsmanship still build these famous Norman cabinets but with modern tools and exclusively upon order..... It is unlikely however that they will use a 20-year-old tree to make these 150-year-old Norman beauties that are sought after everywhere in France and that we proudly present to you on our website (units 4297, 4299, 4301).

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