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Furniture 101: Dorothy Draper Chests

It’s rare to find a designer who doesn’t love a Dorothy Draper Chest

The most well-known of these, the España Bunching Chest, was designed by Dorothy Draper in the 1950s at the request of the Spanish government who sought to raise the profile of Spanish design in the international market. Originally manufactured by Heritage Furniture Company, this iconic chest is known for its sleek, modern, and glamourous style. It’s hard to find a lot of information about the original chest as designed by Draper, but a hallmark of a vintage original is its Cherry frame construction, wavy, gold-leafed lines on front drawers, and a signature stamp inside of the drawers. Vintage chests can be found on Ebay and 1st Dibs at prices ranging from $1100-$3500, while current reproductions (licensed through Kindel Furniture Company) will set you back a cool $5600. Steep? Yes. But this is what you’d call heirloom furniture–something you keep to pass down to future generations–so if you love it, I’d say it’s definitely worth it.

The original!

Reproduction from Kindle Furniture

Refinished in juicy orange!

España knock-offs or Dorothy Draper imposters, as they’re often known, are almost as sought-after as their genuine counterparts.  If you’re not adept at identifying various types of wood (or even plywood from solid wood), the main way you’ll know you’ve stumbled upon an imposter is that the back is unfinished.  This means that, although it may be painted, the back is not finished with the same material as the top & sides and is meant to be placed against a wall or another piece or furniture instead of on display (an authentic España will always have a finished back). The lines on the front of the drawer are less fluid & probably not gold-leafed (though I’m not 100% sure about  this), and there’s no stamp on the inside.  Depending on the condition, you can find one of these knock-offs for as little as $50! 

It’s an imposter, but I’d love it just the same!

I was lucky enough to find one myself a few weeks ago (it needs refinishing), and though I haven’t touched it yet, I’m excited about getting started and finding a place for it in my home (possibly a bedroom).  I’m also on the lookout for another one, so if any of you happen to know of one available or have one you want to sell, please, please email me!

Here’s a great time-lapsed video from Kindel Furniture on the construction of the España Bunching Chest. It’s a lengthy one, but it’s interesting to watch, especially if you enjoy refinishing furniture.  If you really can’t stand it, skip to about 5:30 and watch from there. Enjoy!

Also, a big thank you to Sherry Hart of Design Indulgence who gave me a Stylish Blogger award last week–thanks, Sherry!

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15 Comments on Furniture 101: Dorothy Draper Chests

  1. Fran
    January 24, 2011 at 8:45 am (6 years ago)

    Such a gorgeous piece of furniture!! I would DIE to own a piece! Good luck on your hunt!

    Reply
  2. L.Duncan@Home23DuncanBoys
    January 24, 2011 at 9:14 am (6 years ago)

    Girl you know that is my ALL time favorite chest! I blogged about NEEDING 2 back in 09! I was so jealous when you tweeted your find. I was like dang she is good!
    Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

    Reply
  3. Mr. Goodwill Hunting
    January 24, 2011 at 9:18 am (6 years ago)

    I think I have seen these in boutique shops going for like a million dollars! No, not really, but close. I like yours as is, but then again, I like anything that is black.

    Mr. Goodwill Hunting

    Reply
  4. Diamonds Pearls and Crazy in the world of Barbie Jones
    January 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm (6 years ago)

    Girl I’ve been dying for one of these dressers for like ever u hear me!!!!!??? and now this makes me hunt again! I keep hoping to find one in the thrift stores but seriously, whos that damn lucky lol

    Reply
  5. Diamonds Pearls and Crazy in the world of Barbie Jones
    January 24, 2011 at 4:04 pm (6 years ago)

    Girl I’ve been dying for one of these dressers for like ever u hear me!!!!!??? and now this makes me hunt again! I keep hoping to find one in the thrift stores but seriously, whos that damn lucky lol

    Reply
  6. Doug Eash
    January 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm (6 years ago)

    Dayka,
    What a great video and great chest
    I used to build cars and the furniture factory reminded me of being employed, that was pretty much how I envisioned furniture being built. I had no idea that style chest was so sought after.
    I’ll be looking for them now.

    Reply
  7. Niki McNeill
    January 26, 2011 at 2:41 pm (6 years ago)

    You always find the BEST pieces! I agree, I think it’s great as is, but I know you’re itching to make it your own. 🙂

    Reply
  8. Elisa @ What the Vita
    January 26, 2011 at 8:02 pm (6 years ago)

    Wow what a great video. I have a better appreciation for how quality furniture get made now.

    Reply
  9. Erika at BluLabel Bungalow
    February 3, 2011 at 8:52 am (6 years ago)

    Thanks for the history lesson. Really enjoyed reading this post and even more excited that you scored a look alike at such a good deal.

    Interested in seeing how your refinish it, but I pray that you highlight the wavy pattern on the doors. I really think it’s what makes the piece iconic!

    Reply
  10. Sarah (Matters of Style)
    February 3, 2011 at 10:52 am (6 years ago)

    I was watching one of those lame “sell this house” shows on hgtv the other day, and the homeowners had 2 FAB Dottie Draper chests. The “designers” told them to get rid of them and replaced them with junk that looks like it’s from Big Lots. CRAZY.

    Reply
  11. Margaret
    September 17, 2015 at 9:09 pm (2 years ago)

    I purchased one of these chests recently. It is not stamped Heritage anywhere but the back is finished as pretty as the rest, solid original brass hardware and it has a sliding tray in the top drawer with green felt lined dividers. I can tell it is pretty old. How can I find out who made this piece?

    Reply
    • DaykaRobinson
      September 18, 2015 at 9:58 pm (2 years ago)

      Hey Margaret:

      Your best bet is really Google. I’m tempted to say that if it doesn’t have the Heritage stamp it’s probably not the real thing, but….you never know!

      Best of luck!
      Dayka

      Reply
  12. Dale
    October 22, 2015 at 10:46 pm (2 years ago)

    I have chest that I was told was placed by Dorothy Draper in someones Grandma’s NYC apartment in the 50’s as she did the decorating. It is not marked but is distinctly different being as the routered design is not routered as the later Henredon and the like but instead made of solid brass pieces. Also the brass ring pulls are much heavier than those mass produced Espana versions. Does anyone out there have the same or know where to go to get info? I do know this is an older piece, definitely not from the 60’s. I appreciate the input.

    Reply
    • DaykaRobinson
      November 8, 2015 at 2:01 pm (1 year ago)

      Hi Dale:

      Unfortunately I don’t have much information about that, though your piece sounds beautiful! Ebay might be a good help as you might find a similar piece like it to get a gauge for pricing. Also, try calling Again & Again in Texas, owned by Leslie Pritchard. She sells a ton of incredible vintage furniture and she might be able to provide additional information. Best of luck!

      Dayka

      Reply

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