A bachelor's chest, or bachelor chest, is a small, shallow and relatively low chest containing three to four drawers. Although the term came to mean any small chest of drawers, originally the bachelor's chest was a multi-purpose piece of furniture, perfect for a single gentleman occupying a small bachelor's pad.
Bachelor's Chest Features
Bachelor's chests are English in origin and traditionally had graduated drawers. In the first models, which date from the late 17th century, the top was hinged and could fold out to become a writing surface, supported by runners or knobbed slides, called lopers. Later versions in the 18th century had a brushing slide—a pullout surface for writing or laying out of clothing—just underneath the top. The most common type of feet on early bachelor's chests were bun feet. These were replaced by the more fashionable bracket feet as the 18th century progressed.
Bachelor's chest drawer handles were traditionally made of brass and featured escutcheons, often with swan neck pulls.
Bachelor's chests typically were made of walnut, oak, elm, and, less commonly, mahogany. While attractive hardwoods such as these were used for all exposed parts of the piece, the frame and other internal parts may be made with lower-grade materials such as poplar and pine.
Modern Bachelor's Chests
Today, bachelor's chests remain a staple of major furniture manufacturers. Most examples are small, low chests with three or more drawers. Many are small enough to be nightstands. Looking back over the 20th and early 21st centuries, bachelor's chests have evolved with the predominant style movements. The most distinctive examples tend to be midcentury modern.