One traditional purpose of a cedar chest was providing a young woman a place to keep belongings that would one day be part of her married life; it was called a hope chest. Cedar chests also once were traditional gifts for a newly married couple. These chests are primarily used for storage and are preferred for specific reasons.
A traditional cedar chest typically measures 3 to 5 feet long, about 15 to 28 inches tall and about 15 to 42 inches wide. It usually has a hinged lid. Some cedar chests sit directly on the floor while others have sturdy legs.
Cedar chests sometimes are made from a different wood on the outside, but lined with cedar. Cedar is a preferred wood for storage because it repels insects and fungi, and has a fresh aromatic scent. It is especially beneficial for storing fabric items, including heirlooms.
Because cedar chests are attractive and sturdy, they double as furniture. Cedar chests most commonly are placed at the foot of a bed to be used as a bench. A cedar chest also adds charm to the living room as a coffee table or an area for plants, as long as its surface is protected.
Historically, people used cedar chests as luggage when moving from one part of the country to another. Because early homes did not have closets, the cedar chest functioned as an extra wardrobe or linen storage space.
Cedar chests can be found in furniture stores and are also sold by woodworkers. Vintage cedar chests can be found at antique shops and auctions.