Architects Plan Chests

How it all Started

I’m not entirely sure what drew me to architects plan chests all those 6 years ago, I first bought 40 of them from a chap up in Yorkshire, who had acquired several metal ex-MoD plan chests. All I had to do was strip them of their green paint coating, back to their original shiny silvery splendour, and they were ready to find a new life as coffee tables. This was at a time when the ‘Industrial’ look was in vogue, and they were snapped up like hot cakes!

architects plan chest

Architects Plan Chests

Memories of College Days

I had been a college student studying art, way, way back and remember the wooden architects plan chests that held A0 paper and portfolios of our work. With this in mind, I started searching for wooden plan chests (mainly oak ones) and started to give them a new lease of life. I replaced the gnarly tops, that had often been gauged with scalpels, with new solid 20mm oak tops. I then changed the nasty ‘sausage’ type wooden handles, with 1920/30’s original brass ones (I have never used new reproduction ones yet). I got a lot of satisfaction in seeing a utilitarian piece of furniture (that would so often end up in a skip if left un-rescued), have a new purpose and live to serve another 100 years or so!

Experience Counts

After restoring around 150 architects plan chests in the first year, I could easily just look at one and know how it was going to look like once restored. Around 3 years ago, I bought a further 40 plan chests in one hit from another ex-MoD site. The only problem for me was storing them AND trying to find enough quality brass handles. The right handles give the restored coffee table / plan chest that little bit of extra ‘bling’. Over the years you just know what works and what doesn’t. I buy only the best and travel around the country sourcing. What I really look for is something that is structurally sound; so stable that it can with withstand another life. Over the years the drawers and carcass of a plan chest can get knocks and suffer warping; the better made plan chests are always a better option, with the drawer runners smooth. Each plan chest I restore has to work aesthetically from all 360 degrees, the panels both on the side and back are better if they are solid wood – veneer ones are still fine, but there is more risk that they will be damaged after so many years.  It really depends on where they have been kept or stored, so they need checking carefully.



Architects Plans Chest

Trust the Experts

I would always say that the older ones are the best, the King George V ones never let me down and the carpenters of that time (circa 1936), were choosing their woods carefully and were skilled craftsman. I have taken a leaf out of their book and hand-pick my own wood (oak), when buying for new tops. In fact, everything has to work for me. I do not want to lose the wonderful character of these old chaps.  Carefully sanding back the nasty varnish and dull staining is a lengthy process, but, ever so satisfying when revealing the beautiful grain of the wood hidden behind. This is particularly true of oak and the lovely old pine that was used back in the day. I try to use all the original brass screws, as today’s modern attempts are basically weaker and more prone to snapping.


We have sold over 800 plan chests during the last five or six years. Therefore, you can rest assured that we know what we are looking for when sourcing the best examples for our clients.

The Finished Product

These wonderful chests of drawers are quite historical with their own little story to tell.  With careful selection and with a little TLC, they come back to life beautifully.  To protect each plan chest, I finish it with 3 coats of Fiddes Hard Wax Oil, which is a less harmful product than anything else out there.

Written by Mark Hilton, January 2022


Placing your Order

It is possible for your to place an order here on our website for one of our beautiful architects plan chests or plan chest coffee tables, even if one is currently not in stock. This will then secure your place on the waiting list for the next fine examples we have coming in.  Your order will then be processed as quickly as is possible.

Lead times are from 4-6 weeks. 

Please go to our online shop and select the style of Plan Chest you prefer.  The choices are:

A  taller 6 or 8 drawer Architects Plan Chest  – these are always 2 sections of 3 or 4 drawers securely stacked on top of each other (around 100cm in height)

Medium sized 5 Drawer Plan Chest (around 80cm in height in one section)

A Plan Chest Coffee Table with 3 or 4 drawers (around 50cm in height) **Please note there are several different styles of plan chest coffee table to chose from in our online shop ** 

All our Plan Chest Drawers are A0 in size – perfect for plans, drawings, art work, photographs etc.

Once you have made your selection, add the plan chest to your cart, checkout and reserve yours today! Once you have placed your order we will contact you to discuss your specific requirements, timescales and delivery.  If you prefer not to place your order in this way, but to discuss your requirements first, please contact us directly so that we can discuss and source your perfect plan chest! Lead times are from 4-6 weeks. 



For UK customers, delivery will be charged at check-out.

Alternatively, collection from Hay-on-Wye is also possible. Please contact us in advance to arrange collections.

For delivery outside of England and Wales, please contact us for delivery costs.