The names we give our clothes storage facilities can sometimes be confusing. We have armoires, closets, wardrobes, cabinets, cupboards, bureaus, or dressers. It doesn’t help that the Americans and English do not use the terms to mean the same things, or at least include other meanings.
A closet, in American usage, usually means an enclosed space, which may be small, as in a reach-in closet, or big, as in a walk-in closet, for the storage of clothes. Typically, it includes a hanging area, shelves, and drawers. They are built into the wall of the room, which means they do not appear as additions to it, but instead as integral parts.
The term closet, however, is increasingly being applied to freestanding storage systems as well, particularly those made of canvas with aluminum frames, blurring the distinction between the built-ins and portables.
Armoires and wardrobes are often used interchangeably to refer to freestanding clothes storage furniture that are made of materials heavier than canvas and aluminum. Like the built-in closets, they may also have hanging area, shelves, and drawers. Armoire is often used to refer to clothes cabinets made of wood with ornate and elaborate designs, while wardrobe refers to those with more modern designs, and which could be made of wood, plastic, or glass.
For the British, wardrobe can be taken to mean a built-in closet, which could either be big or small.
The word cabinet, among Americans, often means any storage or display area for things other than closets. Thus, there are toy cabinets, trophy cabinets, or gun cabinets. It is interesting to note that although armoire began life as a storage facility for weapons, the word is no longer employed for such usage.
Cupboards are usually reserved for storage for food or kitchen utensils, not unlike a pantry. Bureaus and dressers mean a set of drawers without a hanging area or shelves. Dressers often have mirrors above the drawers.
Again for the British, cupboard may refer to what an American knows as a closet.