This piece of furniture is a mystery object. On the outside it looks very ordinary but on the inside it's like Aladdin's cave.
This Gentleman's Compactom resides at Bedervale, a historic home in Braidwood, NSW. The contents of Bedervale is from two families: six generations of the Cogal-Madrel family and the Royds family who moved here in 1973. All the contents that were owned by the Cogal-Madrel family are now owned by the National Trust, gifted by a grant from the National Estate. Bedervale is a living museum.
Victoria, accompanied by her mother Margaret Royds, took me on a tour of the house, sharing with me a few secrets of various objects at Bedervale.
The first object is a Gentleman's Compactom.
The Compactom wardrobe - also known as chiffarobe, chifferobe, wardrobe, armoire, dresserobe, closet and Gentleman's Butler - demonstrates how an object reflects upon the society that used it. Produced from the 1920s to the 1950s it illustrates how 'designers used wardrobe space to offer the supposed benefits of a tidy and orderly life in a period of rapid change'. The wardrobe identifies a number of issues including ‘concerns about efficiency, loss of domestic staff, clothes maintenance and middle-class identity'. Viewed within the context of Bedervale you can see how apparent this was.
During the 1920s Compactoms were often acquired into the marriage when newlyweds started a home together. They were commonly sold as sets with the rest of the bedroom furniture, but could also be purchased individually.
The moulded cornice above a pair of panelled doors enclosing a well-fitted interior of hooks to the right and shelves and compartments to the left, some with glazed doors and others open, bearing labels reading 'Opera Hats', 'Pyjamas' and 'Dress Shirts' etc., the doors with rails and further shelves, with a lidded compartment for 'Sundries' in the plinth, 127cm wide x 56cm deep x 174cm high, (50" wide x 22" deep x 68.5" high)
A gentleman's mahogany Compactom wardrobe, early 20th Century bearing label to interior reading 'Compactum...41 - 44 Upper Berkely St. London' and retailer's label for 'Finnigans Ltd.'