A dresser is an essential piece of furniture in any bedroom.
It’s a major feature of a room we spend huge amounts of our time in, and greatly influences the feel and utility of its surroundings!
Being one of the largest features of the room, it’s important that you carefully consider utility, style and design when choosing your dresser.
There’s a surprising amount of nuance in dresser types and designs.
The plethora of terminology and options can feel absolutely overwhelming– which is where we come in! In this article, we’ll break down the most important considerations in choosing the right piece for your space among all the different types of dressers!
What is a Dresser?
This is already a slightly complicated question. In short, a dresser is storage, either in the form of drawers or cabinets.
However, because interior design is constantly evolving, so are its terms.
For example: What do you call a small dresser?
The main confusion surrounding dressers tends to come from the terms Dresser and Chest of Drawers. Let’s nail down exactly what these two things mean in modern day!
Chest of Drawers vs Dresser
Both of these items are used for storage, usually in a bedroom as space for clothes.
The consensus difference between a chest of drawers and a dresser is their shape.
A chest of drawers tends to be tall and narrow, with two or more columns of drawers. A dresser is normally short and wide, and can have drawers alongside features like cabinet doors, shelving, and hanging space.
However, as designs change these terms have gotten more muddled and blurred with one another.
Though they are still technically separate, the terms are often used interchangeably in the present day.
It can be hard to tell whether an item is a short chest of drawers, or a tall dresser. Going forward, this article will mostly use the term dresser to refer to them.
The Main Types of Dressers
|Chest of drawers||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Small, medium, large|
|Tallboy||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Tall, narrow|
|Bureau||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Small, medium, large|
|Chest||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Large|
|Vanity||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Small, medium, large|
|Armoire||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Large|
|Credenza||Wood, metal, plastic||Traditional, modern, rustic||Small, medium, large|
Now that we understand the basic definitions of a chest of drawers and a dresser, let’s dive a little deeper into the different types of dressers available.
Knowing the many styles and forms will allow you to better understand your stylistic and functional needs, and let you find the perfect dresser for you!
This section is most important when considering the space you have to work with, and the style of the room.
Standard Horizontal Dresser
This is the most common type of dresser.
Usually, a standard horizontal dresser has two or three rows of long, wide drawers. They can also come with a single row of smaller drawers along the top, most often used for things like jewelry or small clothing items such as socks.
These dressers have plenty of tabletop space for storage or display, being especially good for perfume, mirrors, or as a bookcase!
Some horizontal dressers come with a mirror that matches their design, or offer one as an optional addon. This addition makes them an excellent hairstyling and makeup space!
The main downside of these dressers is that they take up a lot of floorspace, which can be problematic in small rooms.
However, because they are short enough to not obstruct line of sight and take up less vertical space, they are a better choice for small bedrooms than their taller counterparts.
They are also easier to move around thanks to their small stature, making rearranging the room or moving house a much easier process.
Standard Vertical Dresser
Also known as the Tallboy, this form of dresser is tall and narrow, with a small footprint that makes them perfect for rooms with limited floor space.
However, this does mean that their drawers have less space for storage due to being narrow and short. To counteract this, they are often paired with extra storage items such as a floor chest.
These are normally about double the height of a standard horizontal dresser, making them perfect for rooms with high ceilings.
These dressers are often in an antique style, being one of the oldest forms of dresser.
They are framed on four to six legs, with two to three horizontal rows of drawers. Lowboys are normally low and wide.
This stature lets them keep a low-profile, and provide a nice flat surface to be used as storage or display space.
Generally, Lowboys sit around waist height, making this surface perfect for personal toiletries and makeup— especially when paired with a mirror.
Similar to the Lowboy, this form of dresser often comes in classic, antique styles.
The highboy is tall, with a single column of drawers running down its length. This dresser is sometimes known as a Chest-On-Chest, since it’s normally about the height of two standard chest drawers stacked on top of one another.
They provide plenty of drawer storage space, which makes them perfect for storing a large amount of folded clothing. Though they are technically different, the terms highboy and tallboy are sometimes used interchangeably.
Queen Anne style highboys are one of the most opulent forms of dresser, standing at over 7 feet tall!
These particular dressers have incredibly detailed ornamentation, alongside brass batwing mounts and carved aprons. They are an excellent centerpiece for a luxurious, classic styled bedroom!
This dresser is small and narrow. Normally, it has three to four drawers in a vertical column. As the name suggests, these dressers are perfect for a single person with limited storage needs!
They are compact, narrow and squat, with a flat surface on top. These features mean they can be used as bedside cabinetry, further optimizing the use of space in a small room.
Bachelor’s chests are great for a small bedroom with a single inhabitant, and can be paired with something like a floor chest for extra storage space if needed.
Double dressers are very wide, normally containing two columns of large, spacious drawers.
This makes them perfect for couples sharing a bedroom, being easily divided into two halves with lots of space for clothes. They work great in a large master bedroom where space is not limited.
However, due to being very large with a huge footprint, this dresser can easily dominate a small bedroom. They are best in large spaces where plenty of floor room is available.
These dressers are very similar to a standard horizontal, with the addition of cabinets in place of some drawers. Normally these sit to one side or in the center of the dresser, depending on individual design.
Combo dressers are excellent for keeping an organized space.
They have many differently sized drawers, and can include shelves or hanging space behind their cabinet doors. They are especially good for bulky, oddly shaped items like hats, belts and shoes.
If you’re looking for a variety of efficient storage options, a combo dresser may be the perfect fit!
This type of dresser has a tall cabinet section alongside one or two columns of drawers. Normally, the cabinet contains shelves or a rod for hanging space.
The name of the gentleman’s chest comes from its original purpose as storage for suit jackets and pants. The drawers allow for easy storage of things like socks, underwear or ties, while the hanging space is excellent for suits that can’t be folded.
Due to the range of storage types, this dresser is often seen in hotel rooms. It also works great in guest rooms and small bedrooms, offering efficient and varied storage.
They can also come with a mirror on the inside of the cabinet door, further improving their utility as a clothing storage space.
Lingerie Chest /Semainier
This is a taller and skinnier version of the standard vertical dresser. It has a single row of narrow drawers all the way up its length.
A semainier is most often used for small items like socks, ties and undergarments– hence its second name, lingerie chest. Its many small drawers also make it a great storage option for jewelry, makeup and skincare products.
It’s small footprint and compact size make it an effective and unobtrusive choice for small bedrooms with limited floor space.
Traditionally, the lingerie chest had seven drawers– one for each day of the week! Nowadays, this number can vary between individual chests.
This dresser is short and wide, with cabinets or drawers along its bottom section. Above these, there is an open shelf– most often used for a cable box, DVD player or game consoles.
The media chest is intended as the perfect stand for a TV and its accessories. For this reason, they are normally at the correct height for comfortable TV watching.
The drawers and cabinets are perfect for DVDs, games, remotes, cables and other necessary items for a media station. In a bedroom, these could also form extra clothing storage. These dressers can also be used outside the bedroom, in games rooms or lounges.
First made popular in 17th century Europe, the name of this dresser is derived from the French word for “bulging out”. This origin is easily understood once you get a look at the unique shape of these dressers!
Bombe dressers bulge out at the middle, curving all the way along their edges. This style is stark and noticeable, with strong, curving shapes.
Although a poor choice for a modern or simple style, Bombe dressers can make a perfect addition to classical, opulent or rustic bedrooms, and can easily become a notable centerpiece for your bedroom!
Dresser and Change Table
This type of dresser is much like an ordinary standard horizontal, with several rows of drawers on its front face.
However, it also features a specialized space on top for changing a baby. This surface is normally about the same height as a countertop to be convenient to use, and often has a railing around it to prevent the baby from rolling off the edge.
The drawers and cabinet spaces below the changing station are excellent for storing baby clothes, nappies, cloths and other essentials.
As they get older, many of these units allow the changing station to be removed, which means the dresser can become normal bedroom storage for the child’s room.
Raised Bed and Dresser
This combined bed and dresser is also known as a loft bed. It features a raised bed with steps or a ladder leading up to it, with the space underneath being used for storage or utility.
This space can feature drawers, mirrors, shelves and even desk space allowing for a wide range of uses and storage.
This furniture piece works great in single-person or children’s bedrooms where space is a premium, allowing for plenty of storage even in a small room.
It’s perfect for storing clothes, toys, study materials, books and pretty much any bedroom items!
Types of Dresser Materials
In the present day, almost all dressers you find will be made of wood.
There’s a few reasons for this; mostly, wood is traditional, sturdy, versatile and reliable– able to adapt to pretty much any style of interior decor. It allows for a huge range of colors, finishes and textures to fit any room.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Whether it’s because you want a different texture, utility or style, a few dressers fall outside the norm of wood material.
This section breaks down the main types of dresser materials and their various uses!
As we explained above, wood is by far the most common material for modern dressers.
Wood has a huge range of color, finish and style options and is highly versatile as a material. A wood dresser can fit perfectly in practically any style of room you can think of!
It’s especially fitting in modern, rustic and contemporary spaces, where more adventurous materials may look out of place.
This material is much less commonly used for dressers than wood. However, in the right space, it can fit very well!
In particular, metal dressers can be an excellent choice in industrial or minimalist spaces. These dressers can either be fully metal, or paired with a secondary material like wood.
Putting style aside, the biggest benefit of metal dressers is their sturdiness.
Metal is much harder to crack, scratch or otherwise damage than other options– giving these dressers longer before they start showing age and damage.
Additionally, metal frames are often lighter, making them easier to move when needed.
This depends greatly on the shape of the dresser and the type of metal used, however. If it has thick steel beams, the dresser may end up heavier than a wood equivalent.
These dressers are built from a base material, normally wood or metal, and then covered in leather. This can be on all surfaces, or only on the faces of drawers and cabinets.
Leather dressers provide a rich, textural look that fits perfectly in vintage, retro or opulent bedrooms.
They appear high end and expensive, often with pleated or tufted details on the leather to further their luxurious appearance.
However, leather can be a hard material to keep clean and intact, and is expensive to replace. It may not be ideal in rooms where it may be damaged by children or pets.
Mirrored Glass Dresser
This style of dresser has highly reflective glass panels on its front faces. These make them perfect for classic and modern styles, giving a clean and stylish look to the room.
The use of mirrors also helps the room feel bigger by reflecting the space around them, meaning a mirrored dresser could be a perfect choice in a room with limited space.
However, mirrored dressers often have sharp corners, and the glass can be prone to breaking or cracking if damaged. For these reasons, they probably aren’t a great choice for areas where children will be playing!
Also known as Rattan, wicker dressers are made from woven material, either natural fibers or synthetic substitutes.
They are strong, resistant to stains and very lightweight, which can make them excellent choices for children’s bedrooms. However, if they do get damaged, they can be expensive to repair or replace.
Though not a good fit for minimalist spaces, wicker dressers work great in tropical, cottage and rustic bedrooms, giving some texture and interest to the room. Often, they have a wood frame with wicker drawers and cabinet doors.
Types of Dresser Styles
All of these dresser shapes and materials come in a huge range of styles.
This will have a huge impact on the feel of the room, and should be considered carefully in relation to the space and what features it already has.
Let’s break down some of the major styles of dressers that are available, and what spaces they will suit best!
True antique dressers are any pieces that date from the 20th century or earlier. They vary greatly between time periods, but are usually wood, leather or marble.
Antique dressers are great for giving the room an opulent, historical charm and fit perfectly with historically inspired styles. They normally have plenty of ornamentation and detail, not matching well with more simplistic, modern rooms.
Antique dressers are often passed down as heirlooms in families. But, if you’re not lucky enough to have an heirloom piece in your family, there are a few options for finding true antique dressers. The best places to look are auctions, thrift shops and collector sales.
These dressers have a modern look, with present day stylings and details. They vary wildly in style, shape and design, and can be matched to most modern styles of home decor.
The defining features of a contemporary dresser are clean lines and unique, aesthetic details. They can range from minimalist and simple, to highly detailed and intricate. This means that the style they best fit will vary greatly between individual pieces.
These dressers are intentionally distressed in order to look aged and worn. They are very popular, especially in DIY home decor circles, and can fit a range of interior styles.
Notably, distressed dressers work perfectly in rustic and cottage style spaces. They are great for adding a feeling of age and history to a room, even if the dresser is not actually very old.
By using distressed dressers over true antiques, you also gain much greater control over style and design, since many more dressers will be available to choose from.
Clean lines and futuristic styles mark this type of dresser, with their focus being stylish, simple design features for a modern space.
They normally lack complex details and shapes, preferring simplistic forms and clean, monochrome colors.
They work perfectly in minimalist, contemporary and industrial styles. Modern furniture is often space saving and ergonomic, allowing you to maximize the use of space in studio apartments or lofts.
These dressers are meant to look timeworn and weathered, with lots of texture and tone differences on their surface.
They are almost always wooden, often having metal handles to help with the rustic, hardened feel. The wood will be stained, varnished or painted. Normally they feature hard, utilitarian shapes.
Rustic dressers are ideal for farmhouse styles, but can fit a wide range of other interiors depending on the specific dresser.
Shabby Chic Dresser
With monochrome colors and rustic details, these dressers are ideal for cottage designs. They help to give the space a cozy, informal feeling that helps you to feel right at home.
These dressers are normally semi-distressed, most commonly done through sanding the edges of the dresser slightly. They generally have wood, veneer or laminate surfaces.
These dressers are timeless and detailed, with carved wooden details and embellishments. They normally feature straight lines and shapes, with most of their intricacy coming from small decorative features.
Traditional dressers fit almost any interior style other than minimalist or futuristic designs. They are timeless, and easy to remodel later down the line if you want to shake up your interior style a bit.
Types of Dresser Sizes
Space is the most important factor to consider when choosing a dresser. No matter how stylish a piece is, if it doesn’t fit inside the room it’s useless.
For this reason, you should carefully measure the space you have available for the dresser, and always keep this in mind when making your final decision.
It’s best to leave about 2 to 6 inches of space around all sides of your dresser to allow for cleaning and moving the dresser later down the line!
Being large and heavy (unless it’s a thin dresser), a dresser can be hard to shift if it sits too tightly against the wall.
Standard Dresser Size
Dressers vary wildly in shape and size, so it’s hard to nail down a specific standard size.
However, we can look at the general dimensions of the most basic horizontal standard dresser for some idea of normal sizing.
The average horizontal dresser, with 6 to 10 drawers, will stand at about 26 to 44 inches (66 to 112 cm) in height. It will be 36 to 60 inches (92 to 152 cm) in width, and 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) in depth.
Again, this is based on only one type of dresser, and even these can vary greatly between individuals.
In a small room, very wide dressers like Double Dressers should be avoided, since they will take up a lot of floor space and make the room feel claustrophobic!
The ideal dresser for a limited space is probably tall and narrow, like a lingerie chest or vertical dresser. In a very small bedroom, space saving techniques like a loft bed with storage space underneath could also work very well.
In a large bedroom you may find pieces such as the Highboy or Double Dresser will work perfectly. You want to avoid the room feeling empty, so filling some of the vertical space could be ideal, especially if the ceilings are high.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, finding the right dresser for your space depends upon a few important factors. Namely, style, design and material.
If you consider these features carefully in relation to the space, you should be able to find something that perfectly compliments your desired style and provides the utility you need.
Hopefully, this article has made that process a little less intimidating!