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There are several differences between a wardrobe and a cupboard, including appearance, intended use and where the piece is typically placed. A cupboard can be any piece in a wide range of furniture used to store kitchen tools and utensils or other items for display; these include plates, porcelain, religious items and small pieces of clothing that can be folded. During Medieval times, cupboards were used to display items that showed the wealth of the homeowner. Wardrobes are a specific type of cupboard used for storing clothing that creases easily or is used for everyday wear. Cupboards are typically placed in living rooms or kitchens, while wardrobes are placed in more private spaces, such as bedrooms.
Looking at both pieces carefully can yield clues to help distinguish between a wardrobe and a cupboard. During the 18th century, the standalone cupboard typically had four doors on the upper portion and three drawers on the bottom part. Kitchen cupboards — then and now — are smaller and simpler, consisting of only one or two doors with shelves inside. A wardrobe also has only one or two doors but is rather large and often has a mirror attached to at least one of the doors.
A wardrobe is only one of several types of cupboard that have evolved over the years. The development of this piece of furniture is derived from the hanging press and the linen cupboard. Both the hanging press and the linen cupboard are types of cupboards used to store linens or small pieces of clothing. A wardrobe stores clothing that needs to be hung or is worn every day. During the 18th century, the wardrobe was used to store clothing that was heavy and creased easily.
Location is also important when identifying between a wardrobe and a cupboard. Standalone cupboards are placed in areas of the home frequented by visitors, such as the living room or the front hall. Built-in cupboards are more common in the kitchen. Wardrobes can be freestanding or built-in but are typically found in more private areas within the home, such as the bedroom, the attic or a quiet corridor.
A wardrobe and a cupboard are both similar types of storage furniture. They are both boxy pieces, which can make it tricky to tell the difference between a wardrobe and a cupboard. Looking more carefully into the features of the storage pieces and identifying their use and where they are positioned can help in distinguishing one from the other.