The Difference Between an Armoire & a Chifferobe

Adding extra closet space to a bedroom is simple when you add a freestanding piece of furniture to hold more of your clothes. What gets complicated is sorting out the names for those tall cabinets with hanging bars and doors. The words armoire and chifforobe -- sometimes spelled chifferobe or chiffarobe -- are often used interchangeably. But there is a difference between them, and knowing it may save you some time in your search.

Antique Armoires

The armoire is a large, freestanding wood cabinet with one or two doors and a hanging bar. It might or might not have shelves but, technically, it has no drawers. The word "armoire" comes from the medieval French for a cupboard for storing arms or tools. Armoires may be fairly large and are repurposed to serve as decorative hall closets, media cabinets, or storage for toys and games in a playroom. Fine examples of armoires are museum pieces that command a high price and feature inlays, rare exotic woods, hand-wrought hardware and painted scenes on the doors. Armoires may have convex or inset door panels in elaborate frames. But you can find examples that are plainly built -- in Shaker-style designs -- or just homely and utilitarian enough to paint and embellish to match your decor.

Le Chifforobe

The chifforobe is an elided term from the words chiffonier, a high narrow chest similar to a highboy and "wardrobe," another word for an armoire. So the correct spelling is chifforobe -- "chiffonier + wardrobe." The chifforobe is a slimmer tall cabinet with drawers behind the door or doors. If you add drawers to an armoire, you have created a large chifforobe. Some chifforobes have cupboard space over the drawers. The furniture is ideal for small spaces in which you need a good-looking cabinet to stash clothing that would fit in a dresser. Chifforobes are not roomy enough to convert to other uses as easily as armoires do -- the drawers are the point. So you might repurpose one to hold supplies or papers in a home office, but it won't have a hanging bar or large empty spaces for media equipment shelves.