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All About Dressers and Chests

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Kincaid Furniture 60-110 Carriage House Double Dresser, Cherry

Second only to the bed, the dresser and chest is the most important, highly used, and diverse piece of a furniture in your bedroom. Frequently used as a vanity, display area for photos, trophies and other sentimental elements, and/or storage facility for clothing, knick knacks, jewelry, lingerie, or even paperwork, the dresser is a vital part of your bedroom that should not be chosen in haste.

The Basics

The term dresser is generally used to describe the wider and shorter pieces, approximately waist high. These models take up more floor space but offer more functional surface space and are generally coupled with a dresser mirror that will further compliment your room's décor.

Tvilum 7621661 Scottsdale Double Dresser, Black Woodgrain

Chests are in some cases referred to as Bureaus, and tend to stand taller and have deeper and wider drawers meant for more hefty storage needs. Because of the added height on these pieces, they allow for more storage while conserving floor space.

Construction Techniques

Dressers and Chests are often listed with information that explains how they were constructed. These construction elements can tell you about the dresser's quality and the longevity of the product. Press or fiberboard construction will always be outlasted by solid hardwoods and veneers. Dust proof drawers are sealed tighter along the creases to prevent moisture from entering and attracting those pesky dust mites. Metal and metal ball bearing drawer glides will outlast a wooden drawer glide, offer a smoother pull, and are more easily replaced if wear and tear from rusting or misuse does occur.

Joinery refers to how the panels are joined together or jointed. The two most common and sturdy types are mortise and tenon and dovetailing. Mortise and Tenon refers to the simple joining of a peg with a matching shaped hole. This method is practical and sturdy enough that one would be hard-pressed to find a home in America without an example of mortise and tenon joinery. Dovetailing, in which trapezoidal shaped notches are joined together much like the teeth of a zipper, is considered the most durable and strongest joint method. Two types of dovetailing methods exist: English and French.

Although dovetailed drawers tend to last longer and stand up to harsher punishment than other construction methods, there are differences between the English and French varieties that may persuade you to choose one over the other. Simpler to make, the French style also tends to end up in less costly furniture. Along with being inexpensive, the French style drawers will be lower in height and also smaller in depth and width, allowing for less overall storage space.

What is the difference between a dresser and a chest of drawers?

These are two very similar types of furniture used in the bedroom as storage. Generally, dressers are longer and therefore have longer drawers. They are usually not very tall, so the surface can be used to hold a mirror or other items. Chests are typically taller and narrower, making them better suited to hold jewelry or children’s clothing.

Do I still need a dresser if I hang all of my clothes in my closet?

While you can find substitutions to dressers, you probably still want one for items you do not hang, like socks. If you will only be storing a small amount of clothing in your dresser, you may want to get a smaller chest instead.

Can I use my dresser for anything besides clothes storage?

Yes! Many antique dressers were originally designed to hold dishes and a lot of offices use drawers for storage. As long as what you want to store fits, go for it.

Why are some dressers so much more expensive than others?

A lot of the price is determined by materials and construction. Handcrafted, solid wood dressers with the highest quality hardware will be more expensive than dressers made of particle board. Depending on your budget and your usage, you should determine the balance of price and material to fit your needs.

How do I move a dresser? Do I really need to take all of the clothes out?

This depends on how large your dresser is and how much stuff you have managed to pack inside. You will most likely want to rent a dolly and some straps to attach it. If it will be too heavy to move with all of the clothes in it, remove as many drawers as you need to make it manageable. Then move the drawers one at a time, putting them back in when you get to your destination. Make sure to pad the dresser before attaching it to a dolly or sliding it along the floor so you do not damage your home or the dresser.

Prepac Furniture EDC-6330-K Fremont Six Drawer Dresser, Espresso
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