One way to store, display, decorate

A long, low chest, whether old or new, is a wonder of versatility. If it is antique and richly carved or paneled, it has a character that can add interest to any room. If it is a modern, unfinished chest, or a new or vintage cedar chest, it can still be decorated or refinished to serve as a pivotal point of a delightful arrangement against some wall.

Chests are said to be one of the earliest articles of domestic furniture. They stored food, clothing, bedding, money, and other family possessions. They were usually sturdily built, with stout wooden frameworks, nails and pegs, and lift-up tops. They were mostly made of oak, pine, maple, and walnut. Some were carved, paneled, or hand-painted with decorations. Many were ship chests that made the crossing from England and the Continent to America.

Here are four ways in which old and new chests can add to the decorative appeal of rooms.

A huge oak chest flanks the back of a checkered modern sofa in a Mendocino, Calif., home and holds extra bedding and the family's supply of games.

A family in Milan, Italy, has placed an old Italian Provincial chest in its entryway. There it is a real focal point, giving weight to modern painting above it and chunky old candlesticks and fat candles atop it. The large ornate chest stores the family's big, bulky pieces of silver, such as punch bowl, large platters, and other serving pieces.

A Swiss family shows off a paneled chest using three oval-ended shelves of different lengths fastened to the wall above to display attractive pots, plates, mugs, and the like.

Another way to use an old chest is to place it between twin beds as an oversize night stand.Its top can be used for lamps, clocks, or vases of flowers; and its spacious interior can hold the extra blankets.

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