What is a Cedar Chest?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2019
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The cedar chest has an extensive history that includes their use by the Ancient Egyptians to store precious things. These chests continued to be a valuable piece of furniture, and now are usually thought of as hope chests. Hope chests became a popular piece of furniture to store things a girl would use in her home after her marriage. Though the modern woman typically doesn’t enter a marriage with a dowry or all her worldly possessions in a hope or cedar chest, they can still be lovely pieces of furniture with hidden storage capacity.

There are many types of cedar chest and size can vary with each style. The typical chest is made of the fragrant cedar wood, which keeps things on the inside smelling fresh and sweet, and can supposedly provide protection from moths. The chest usually has a large compartment for storage, may feature a few drawers that can be removed, and it has a flat lid. Some lids are rounded but flats lids are usually more practical, because you can then use the chest for sitting when it is closed.

Due to variance in size, depth of the cedar chest can also be different. Most have a depth of about 19-20 inches (48.26-50.8 cm). Greater depth does translate to greater storage capacity.


You’ll also find that you can buy cedar chests in a variety of styles and designs. Some are highly decorative and reference some particular period in furniture design. A few even offer a back on the lid, which converts the cedar chest into a bench of sorts. Finishes on the chest can range and you can even buy unfinished chests and apply your own varnish at home. Interiors are usually unvarnished, since this allows the aroma of the wood to circulate inside the cedar chest.

Prices will very much depend on the style, quality and maker. Expect to pay over $100 US Dollars (USD) and some chests cost several thousand USD. If you’re looking for a better price, you may want to consider searching for used cedar chests. Estate sales are a good place to look for them.

In homes, both boys and girls’ bedrooms may benefit from a cedar chest at the foot of the bed. Just make sure the locking mechanism on the chest is disengaged so small children can’t lock themselves into chests. You can also convert cedar chests to fine coffee tables, or place a pillow on the top for comfortable bench seating by a window in a living room. If you plan to add or remove things from the storage compartment frequently, you may not want to cover the top with knickknacks and photos or the like, since you’ll have to remove these each time you open the chest.

To protect the top of cedar chests, especially if people are sitting on them, you may want to place cushions or some type of throw on the top. This can help keep the lid free of scratches. As, for what you can store in cedar chests, use your imagination. These chests are terrific places to store memorabilia, winter sweaters, photo albums, and children’s toys or games.


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