Well, not really unofficial and not really an historical treatise, still the humble coat rack is an easy topic to get hung up on. Most of us give little thought to this utilitarian device but where would we be without it. Whether you call it a coat rack, hall tree or valet, the right coat rack can accent your home decor. As the old saying goes, home is where you hang your hat. Or in this case your coat.
Now, before we get too hung up on what is and what is not a coat rack, consider the following. Almost anything can serve as a coat rack. When it comes to coat racks, my personal favorite is the kitchen chair. The kitchen chair coat rack has several advantages, in spite of what my wife says. The chair is right inside the kitchen door and within easy reach as I dash outside. Not to be outdone, my wife has two, count them two, places to hang her coats and makes full use of both.
I should point out that our old house was built without many of the amenities found in most modern homes. Many modern homes and apartments have a hall closet that is usually located close to the entryway. Not so in my house. There is no entryway and absolutely no closets. The house was built in the late eighteen hundreds when conveniences like closets and countertops were not considered. Storage space for everything from food to clothing was the function of kitchen hutches and armoires. Armoires or hanging cupboards are quite small when compared to the large walk in closets found in many of todays McMansions.
A perfect addition to any entryway or foyer is a hall tree. I have found, depending on which part of the country you happen to be in at the time, that the term hall tree has different meanings. In my current neck of the woods, the term hall tree refers to a tree like stand, five or six feet tall, with several branches. In other parts of the country, a hall tree is more akin to a piece of furniture. This type of hall tree often features a bench seat that comes in handy for taking off your shoes and boots. The bench may double as a storage chest. The coat hooks are mounted on a flat panel. These hall trees can be quite ornate and decorative, from country cottage to shabby chic.
A coat rack may be as simple as a board, hung from the wall, with a series of coat hooks attached. Perhaps a small shelf will provide a place for your hats.
Going back to the tree in hall tree, there is every style under the sun. Hall trees are made from many types of materials including wood and metal. The humble coat rack has even provided artists and avant garde furniture designers with fodder for new ideas. The marketplace is full of attractive and far out coat racks that range from the humorous to the absurdly expensive. Imagine taking strips of fine hardwood, using steam to bend the strips and mounting each strip to a hardwood base. The result is a very functional, and very expensive, place to hang your coat. In fact the price for this unique coat rack was well over two thousand dollars.
For most of us, just a place to hang our coat is usually sufficient. There are plenty of down to earth and very functional coat racks and hall trees that can add a touch of style to the most humble home.