A coat tree is a tall piece of furniture designed for hanging coats, hats, and umbrellas. Most coat trees are positioned in a entryway so that wet or snowy outer garments can be hung up before the mess is tracked into the rest of the house. In inclement weather or in large houses, a coat tree can be a useful organizational tool because it prevents entry rooms from being overwhelmed with wet jackets and other outer garments.
A coat tree differs from a wall hung coat rack because it is designed as a piece of stand alone furniture. The origins of the name become clear when you see a coat tree, because it resembles a tree, with a wide root like base and spreading branches which take the form of pegs or hooks to hang garments from. A coat tree is usually well over six feet (two meters) tall, to prevent garments from dragging on the ground when they are hung.
In some cases, a coat tree is built into a shoe bench, so that people can hang their coats and then sit down to remove messy shoes that have been outdoors. A coat tree may also include a hat rack which is mounted on the top of the tree to allow people to safely store hats. Because certain hats like bowlers are easily damaged by being compressed or hung improperly, a hat rack is vital to keep the hats from touching each other or being squished together.
Some people with extensive garment collections also use coat trees in the closet, to help keep coats organized. Coat trees are also frequently used by costume departments, because they allow a large amount of clothing to be compressed into a small space, and if the garments are hung properly they should not wrinkle. In some cases, a coat tree may be made with evenly spaced hangers so that garments can retain their shape, although this type of coat tree does not allow as much storage as a traditional coat tree.
Some caution should be exercised when placing and using a coat tree to keep it from falling over. Try to locate a coat tree in a convenient area close to the door, but not in a place where it is likely to be jostled. Encourage guests to counter balance their coats, so that the coat tree is not pulled over by uneven weight. Finally, make sure that wet garments are not buried at the bottom of the coat rack, because they can mold or mildew if now allowed ventilation.