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Home/Mor Furniture Blog/Lifehacks & Tips/Differences between Chest of Drawers & Dressers

Differences between Chest of Drawers & Dressers

Understanding the difference between a chest of drawers vs. dressers for your bedroom can help you pick the best piece to complete your space and provide the ultimate functionality. Not all rooms are suitable for the same type of furniture, yet everyone needs adequate storage and a place to keep their clothing in the bedroom. It's an essential part of preparing for your day, remaining organized, and having the right item can give the area an extra boost of style.

You may hear the terms chest of drawers and dresser used interchangeably. After all, a dresser does contain a large set of drawers. Yet there are subtle differences between the two that can make a huge difference in your interior design.

At Mor Furniture for Less, we have a wide selection of both types of bedroom storage available at unbeatable prices. We dedicate ourselves to providing customers with pieces that match every style and vision.

Keep reading to learn more about a chest of drawers vs. dressers and tips to figure out which is right for you. We'll also show you a few of our favorites from our collection to spark your imagination and help you find your new favorite piece.

What Is a Dresser?

This may seem like a simple question, as virtually everyone has what they define as a dresser in the bedroom. However, specific characteristics comprise this piece of furniture that set it apart from a chest of drawers.

Dressers, by definition, are short, long, and deep. The typical height of a dresser never exceeds 35-inches tall, though many are even shorter. While the length can vary from 30-inches long to 70-inches, you definitely need a decent amount of floor space to appropriately place one in your room without creating a look that seems overcrowded.

Dressers also tend to be relatively deep, sometimes by as much as two feet. This gives you plenty of room to keep oversized sweaters, drawers full of socks, bulky jeans, and many t-shirts. Dressers usually have multiple columns of drawers, most classically two or three. The drawers are often symmetrical on each side, though you may find a piece with a special jewelry or keepsake drawer at the top center. Depending on the design, the total number of drawers can range from four to nine.

One of the main benefits dressers provide, aside from keeping your clothing neat and organized, is their lack of height. This comes in handy in several scenarios. First, it allows you to add a mirror over the dresser, making it easier to get ready in the morning and check your appearance before you walk out the door. Dresser and mirror sets are particularly popular among consumers. Second, many people now enjoy mounting their televisions over their dressers, which the low profile allows.

Additionally, this piece of furniture's extended length and depth gives you plenty of surface area to display decor, accessories such as sound bars and home Bluetooth systems, and personal touches such as family photos. While a dresser by itself is an excellent standalone piece to make a statement, it allows for even more customization and style in a space by providing this extra area. A dresser may suit the space best if you have a room with low ceilings. It will make the place look roomier.

The History of Dressers

While dressers go in the bedroom today, this wasn't always the case. Originally the purpose of a dresser was to "dress" a meal in a more traditional, formal home. They were often found in either the kitchen or the dining room. This accounts for the low height of modern dressers, allowing cooks and helpers to get the things they needed and work efficiently.

The first dressers began to appear in the 1600s, and by the 1700s-1900s, they were commonplace in many homes. Eventually, they evolved to include shelving units and drawers for cutlery and kitchen accessory storage. They're a piece of English origin that spread in popularity across Europe and eventually the globe. Homes of the wealthy used dressers in the grand foyer to display valuable gold and silver decor as a status symbol.

While the history of the dresser may seem vastly different than its current purpose, one thing remains the same. Dressers are functional pieces of furniture that serve a specific purpose in the home. While they may include decorative elements, they are much more than a simple accent piece.

The dressers we know and use today were eventually coined "Welsh dressers." The main elements of their design have remained the same for nearly 300 years, even are their use has changed. As the years went on, people came to see the different functions the piece could serve, and after some time, they made their way to the bedroom. Sturdy, practical, and still rather grand pieces in a room, dressers are timeless pieces of furniture that will never go out of style.

What Is a Chest of Drawers?

A chest of drawers is distinctly different from a dresser in regard to shape and form. Instead of being long, short, and deep, they are tall and narrow. While dressers feature multiple columns of drawers, a chest of drawers has just one single row, stacked vertically. Typically, there are just four-to-six drawers in a chest, which provides less storage space than their dresser counterpart.

A chest of drawers is more commonly shortened to "chest". Chest of drawers are usually minimalist pieces. The design takes up far less floor space, making them ideal for smaller rooms that still require storage. Due to their greater height, a chest of drawers generally does not allow for a mounted mirror or television overhead. However, many individuals spruce up the area with small wall decor.

You can still use the surface area of a chest of drawers to display decor and photos, though it's not ideal for items you need to reach daily. The space won't allow for the same functional use, such as accommodating television sound systems, yet they can still appear stylish when you choose the best accents.

Chests of drawers range anywhere from 44-inches to 60-inches tall and just 24- to 38-inches wide. They're also generally more shallow than dressers, with a standard depth that can be as little as 18-inches. If you're short on floor space in the bedroom, this can be an excellent alternative to a dresser. Rooms with high ceilings are also particularly suitable for chests of drawers, as their height won't cause the room to appear crowded and small.

Alternately, many people also add chests of drawers to much larger spaces. For rooms that require extra storage, such as his and hers, adding a chest of drawers provides a much better aesthetic than adding another dresser. Rooms don't typically provide enough space for two full-sized dressers, and trying to incorporate them into the area can give an "off" look. Instead, find a chest of drawers that matches the rest of your furniture for a distinguished accent that still serves a purpose.

Notice above that the Sevilla Chest in Walnut blends seamlessly with the bedroom set. It provides additional storage space in addition to the dresser and mirror while also adding an illustrious design element.

The History of Chests of Drawers

Chests of drawers rose to popularity in late medieval Europe. Like dressers, they were commonly found in homes of the noble. They were typically wooden boxes with a hinged lid that stood on four feet. Formerly, chests of drawers were called "coffer chests."

However, their history goes even farther back in time. Ancient Chinese civilizations used chests of drawers as a space to store medicine and herbs. During this time, they were called "Hundred Drawers," though the origin of that name is unknown.

Like today, original chests of drawers had stacked horizontal drawers. They were often highly ornate pieces, full of beautifully rounded edges, carefully carved designs, and splendid hardware and handles. During these times, chests of drawers were quite expensive due to the high-quality materials such as imported wood, luxurious veneers, and the meticulous decorative work that was performed by hand.

Chests of drawers in America became a mainstay in the home just 175 years ago, when artisans began to draw inspiration from their European popularity. It was then that middle-class homes often incorporated the pieces into their furnishings. While many still crafted chests of drawers by hand, by the year 1945, American factories primarily took over production, making them more affordable for everyday working people.

Over time, this piece of furniture has maintained many of the original design features, being more narrow and tall than traditional dressers. Less of a workspace, chests of drawers have always served a more functional purpose for essential storage. While many placed them in dining rooms, sitting rooms, libraries, and foyers, like dressers, they eventually became mainstays in bedrooms as their practicality for storage remained unrivaled and more prominent, and grand armoires fell out of style.

Today, chests of drawers feature a more streamlined appearance. No longer are intricate details chiseled away by hand, and many have dropped the four feet from the bottom for a more streamlined look. While former chests had rounded drawers and opulent hardware, today, you're more likely to see flush drawers with only the essential details.

Placement of Dressers and Chests of Drawers

While today bedrooms are the quintessential room for the placement of dressers and chests of drawers, there are other areas in the home that can benefit from the furniture too. You can draw on the inspiration of each piece's origins for existing home furnishing ideas. Dressers may be the perfect addition to your front hallway or foyer, allowing you to store outerwear, keys, important mail, and more. They can provide an elegant look that instantly classes up your home.

Or, you may incorporate a dresser into your dining room, as the original use intended. They can make for an excellent place to store extra dishes and cutlery or those you only use for special occasions. Display your most refined and delicate china on top to maintain the sophisticated look of years past. Adding a dresser may be the right choice if you have a more traditional and formal dining room arrangement.

Chests of drawers can also serve additional purposes than clothing storage in the bedroom. Many find that they work great in home offices, offering a place to organize essential paperwork and files and office supplies that you would rather remain out of sight. Use them to keep extra reams of printer paper, books you occasionally reference, packs of sticky notes and pens, and more. Use the top surface area to display awards and diplomas, personalizing your home office with a practical and functional piece.

Chests of Drawers vs Dressers: Which Is Right for You?

Whether you purchase a chest of drawers or a classic dresser mainly comes down to personal preference, the needs of your room, and how much space you have available. You may require one, the other, or both. There is no right or wrong answer. Similarly, if you're looking to place either piece of furniture outside the bedroom, consider the floor dimensions you have available to spare and your ceiling height.

A vertical chest of drawers may be best for your bedroom if you live in a smaller space, such as a condo or apartment. Or, if you're looking for additional storage in a large walk-in closet, a tall chest of drawers may be the right fit.

However, if you're looking for a larger piece to fill a space in your bedroom, require an expansive surface area, and want to mount a mirror or television, choosing a dresser may be the best option. Finding a standalone dresser that vibes well with the rest of your room can be challenging. If this is the case, purchasing a complete matching bedroom set can be most beneficial. You'll get a look that's both seamless and appears effortless with the ultimate style.

Shop Mor Furniture for Less Today

For the best selection of bedroom sets, chests of drawers, and dressers, shop Mor Furniture for Less today. Now that you know the difference between a chest of drawers vs dresser, you can shop equipped with a wealth of knowledge to make the best decision for your needs and unique space. Don't worry–if you still have questions regarding functionality or design, our friendly associates are here to help.

Visit a furniture showroom near you to see the many options available and meet with a design specialist to find the right piece. Or, browse our online catalog from the privacy and convenience of your own home. There's no wrong way to shop.

One of the best parts about buying from Mor Furniture for Less is that we offer an exclusive Double the Difference Guarantee to ensure you get the absolute best pricing. If you find an identical piece at a local competitor for less, we'll refund you the difference, times two. This allows you to shop with total peace of mind. And while all of our furniture is backed by a manufacturer's warranty, we offer more ways to protect your purchase. Inquire about our SafeGuard protection plans that provide repair or replacement coverage for accidents like spills, stains, dents, and more.

Shop Mor Furniture for Less today. We'll help you turn your house into a home.