eastlake furniture

Eastlake Furniture Once Over: 1890 Eastlake Chest

eastlake furnitureHey Guys!  Welcome to our educational feature where we give a piece of inventory the once over so that you can learn more about the stories of the stuff that ends up in our store.  Each “Once-Over” will have a video at the end to give you a visual of what we share in this article.

Today at New Leaf we got in a beautiful piece of Eastlake furniture: a four drawer marble top chest.

Charles Eastlake was an English architect from the late 19th century;  his importance to furniture design can not be underestimated.  In response to the over decorated and elaborate Victorian Era, Eastlake  designed furniture that was simple in style and functional in use.  The Eastlake period actually marks the end of the Victorian period and is often referred to as Late Victorian.  This bold response was the catalyst that caused the pendulum of furniture style to swing to a simple straight line functional design, and  the Eastlake name became a furniture design era.  In England, the Eastlake period is considered to be from 1870-1890.  In America, the periods run about a decade later, so Eastlake style furniture was most popular from 1880-1900.eastlake furniture

This particular piece can be dated between 1890-1900.  There are a few clues that let us know the approximate date.

Circular Saw Marks:

The saw markings on the wood in this piece of furniture tell us that the piece was built after 1860 when circular saws were invented.  Anything prior to 1860 will show straight line marks indicating the use of a handsaw.  Check drawer surfaces and larger pieces to look for circular saw marks– the back of a furniture piece can be particularly helpful in determining sawing techniques.

eastlake furnitureSymmetrical Parts and Cuts:

The symmetry that we see throughout this piece in both the art and the structure give us a clue that this piece was machine-made in a factory.  Anytime you see inconsistencies in art, joins or matching pieces you can assume that the piece was hand cut.  The unquestionable proof of this will be covered later in the dovetail section, but even without examining the dovetail it is obvious that this piece is machine cut.  Factories that mass-produced Eastlake style furniture popped up in America in 1890 and continued until 1910.  This style was massed produced but was short-lived.  A factory that produced the earlier Victorian style furniture would have had to completely retool their shop in order to transition to the straight lines of Eastlake.

Pin and Cove Dovetail:eastlake furniture

This is the tale-tell sign of the date of this piece of furniture.  The drawers of this piece are joined with a pin and cove dovetail.  This joining technique was the very first dovetail for factory manufactured Eastlake furniture.  It only lasted 10 years and one can be quite sure that the date of a pin and cove joined Eastlake drawer is between 1890 and 1900.

     Read Writings by Charles Eastlake Here…

Other Notes:

Once I determine the approximate age of a piece of furniture I begin to look for modifications and repairs.

This particular piece of furniture has several clues of repairs and modifications.


One of the first things that antique furniture buyers look for is original hardware.  On the Eastlake furniture the drawer pulls were usually rectangular with some decoration.  There are two ways we can tell that this piece does not have its original hardware.  One is style.  The hardware on this chest has a batwing style drawer pull.  Batwing would not have been used with Eastlake furniture.  Also, we can look at the screws used in this drawer pull.  This hardware has Phillips head screws.  Phillips head screws were not invented until 1934 and was not used en mass in furniture making until the mid-1940s.


Buy Eastlake Style Reproduction Hardware Here!

Drawer Repairs and Additional Supports:

Another place to check for repair is in the drawers.  The bottoms of the drawers in Eastlake furniture often break or slide forward and back.  This particular piece has glue residue on all the drawer bottoms indicating repairs.  In addition, there is an added piece of wood supporting the raised back of this piece with Phillips head screws.

Although this is a beautiful piece of furniture, it does show signs of repair and has some parts, including hardware, that is not original to the piece.

If you enjoy the Eastlake style and are looking for a functional chest that has the charm of the old world, this piece is for you!  The most important aspect of a piece of furniture is that it fits the needs of the owner.  At $295 this is a great way to experience life 100 years in the past while having an economical solution to a storage problem.  It is not necessary for furniture to have all the qualities of a museum grade piece in order to meet the needs of its new owner.

Buying less than perfect period pieces is a great way to “Live for Less so you can Give More to the things in life that really matter.”


'Eastlake Furniture Once Over: 1890 Eastlake Chest' has 8 comments

  1. February 22, 2013 @ 4:53 am carolyn conklin

    I recently purchased a eastlake dresser with small amount ig black marble on front. withb a beveled mirror and a beautiful top piece. However, I am lookin fir an old fashioed oak settee or a oak tree with hooks at top and a seat[does not have to be oak, just solid wood. If you come across what I am looking for, please e-mail me.
    Thank you,


  2. March 17, 2013 @ 2:57 pm barb

    thanks for all the info ended the arguement about pin and cove joints so helpful


  3. January 27, 2014 @ 12:02 am Mark

    I found in the alley garbage a 4 drawer dresser, what I now believe to be of this Eastlake variety.
    The stain was very dark and was in poor condition (alligatored). Rightly or wrongly I decided to remove this dark stain as I felt it to be added on to the original. The original drawer pulls were replaced with very vintage-y looking loop pulls but on removal I saw a center hole and indication of circular pull-ring type drawer pull (almost exactly as I found here : http://www.houseofantiquehardware.com/brass-ring-pull-large-eastlake-round-abh). These were still on the smaller drawers that set atop the the dresser top,

    My question is, what would be the original type finish? I have read elsewhere that it should not be stained and just oil rubbed, assuming that to be a Tung oil or similar? Any thoughts


  4. February 28, 2014 @ 5:54 pm margaret gold

    Thanks for the help with the Eastlake dresser. We just purchased one down here in Palm Desert California…a big beautiful 6 drawer dresser…looks like it might have had a mirror although it is quite tall( about 55 inches) now I wonder if it had marble ??

    But what I would like to know is : what is the wood…we think maple ( there is no stain on it) and it looks similar to the one on your demonstration…
    I am planning on waxing it…perhaps Howard “feed and wax”
    any suggestions on a wax product…

    would appreciate some feedback !


    • March 3, 2014 @ 2:53 am nlgalleries

      Eastlake era pieces were usually an oak or fruitwood. Maple is a possibility. Email a picture to info@newleafgalleries.com. I’d love to see it.

      I think Howard’s is a great product and I would recommend it.

      Thanks for jumping in on the thread!


      • September 18, 2014 @ 7:06 pm sharon hall

        I’ve recently come to own two fabulous EASTLAKE items..one is a half commode and one is a smallish side table on four slender tall legs with two drawers lined in velvet. (for silverware?)…I’m thinking buffet or ?? the table has the pin and cove dovetailing and it’s in splendid condition. How may I send you some pictures.. ? thanks so much


    • September 6, 2014 @ 4:57 pm MikeS0000

      Walnut is also a good possibility.


  5. September 16, 2017 @ 6:51 pm Sue Rosinski

    I recently purchased an Eastlake 2 drawer , oak , spoon carved blanket chest. Thanks to your blog, in was able to identify it as genuine Eastlake. I have nor been able to find any images of similar pieces and am wondering how I might determine an approximate value. The hardware may have been replaced as the screws holding it in place are definitely not period.


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