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Dresser Materials – What are Dressers Made From?

An antique mahogany dresser topped with decorative glass vases.

Having moved into a new home recently, I have taken the opportunity to do some redecorating. I have been scouring all the online stores for a new dresser and some other bits and pieces. As the dresser will be a focal point in my bedroom, I researched what sort of materials dressers are usually made from before I decided what to buy.

Dressers can be constructed from hardwoods such as walnut, maple, mahogany, birch, and oak, or softwoods such as pine, fir, and cedar. Other materials can be used in constructing a dresser, for example, metal, wicker or rattan, leather, wood veneer, or wood laminate.

The material that the dresser is constructed from depends on the style of the piece. The material will also determine the price and durability of the piece. For more details about the properties of each type of wood and other materials that dressers are made from, read on.

All About Hardwood for Dressers

People commonly think that the difference between hardwood and softwood is that hardwood is harder and denser than softwood. The real difference is that hardwood comes from flowering trees, and softwood comes from conifers. Both hardwood and softwood are used for making furniture.

Examples of hardwood trees are maple, oak, and walnut. These angiosperm trees lose their leaves each year, and they grow slowly.

This slow growth means the wood has denser wood fibers and, in most cases, makes it more expensive than softwoods. Hardwood is more durable as it is less likely to rot and doesn’t need much maintenance.

Fun fact about hardwood:  Some types of hardwood, such as black ironwood, don’t float in water.

Below are a few examples of hardwood that could be used to make dressers:


Dorothene 6 Drawer 54.5'' W Double Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Walnut is a great wood for a dresser that becomes an investment piece and even a special family heirloom. Walnut’s grain is usually straight, with some waves appearing closer to the roots. It is hard, strong, and durable.

It can be carved well but needs a high level of craftsmanship. These properties make it perfect for ornate, detailed furniture.


Channy 6 Drawer 54'' W Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Maple is often used for furniture items such as dressers because of its durability and affordability. Maple color varies from cream to reddish-brown, but it takes dark stains very well. This means that it can easily be stained to look like expensive wood, such as mahogany.

The maple has a straight, fine grain with some bird’s-eye patterns.


Williams 7 Drawer 56'' W Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Mahogany is a great choice if you want an ornate dresser that will last generations with proper care. Its color ranges from pale to pink to reddish-brown with a fine, straight grain. The mahogany tree is very large, which allows the wood to be cut in large boards, making it perfect for elegant, timeless furniture that is the focal point of a room.


BJÖRKSNÄS 5-drawer chest, birch
Source: Ikea

Birch is a beautiful, strong, and durable hardwood that makes it fantastic for a modern dresser with detailed craftsmanship. It is cream to light reddish-brown in color and has a fine grain which works well with simplistic interior design.


Ryne 8 Drawer 68'' W Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Oak trees grow very slowly, making for a durable dresser that will last for centuries with good care. The wood takes well to a variety of finishes, so it is perfect for both modern and traditional furniture items. The color of oak varies from light brown to pinkish-red, and it has a swirling or striped grain.

American Cherry

Cherry wood is loved for its very straight, uniform grain. It polishes well and looks beautiful when finished. As with many other hardwoods, it will be around for centuries with the correct care, making for a great investment.

Cherry wood starts as a pinkish-brown and darkens to a deep red. It has a straight grain with some rippling.

Exotic Hardwood for Wooden Dressers

Harvey Probber Rosewood Dresser
Source: Etsy

The hardwoods that we have listed so far are classified as domestic hardwoods. They are all species found in North America. When we talk about exotic hardwood, we refer to tree species found elsewhere in the world, often in more tropical areas.

Examples of these woods include burl, bird’s-eye maple, rosewood, olive, harewood, black palm, Carpathian elm, and snakewood. Exotic wood is an expensive choice for a dresser, but it makes for an excellent investment. These sorts of wood offer amazing flexibility, and artisans can carve them into beautiful dressers that are sure to be conversation starters.

What About Softwood for a Dresser?

As we mentioned earlier, softwood comes from conifers – seed-bearing evergreen trees, for example, pine, spruce, fir, cedar, juniper, redwood, and yew. Because they are usually less dense than hardwood trees, they are easier to cut down. These sorts of trees also grow tall and straight, so they are cut into long straight planks.

Softwood is regularly used as a building material and in the paper and cardboard industry. Still, because it is fine and lightweight, it is also good wood for furniture for the following reasons:

  • It gives a rustic look with its knots and rough edges.
  • It is readily available and reasonably priced.
  • The smell of pine or cedar has a classic wood aroma, which some people love. This scent creates a cozy atmosphere in the home.

Below are three different softwoods often used for dressers and other types of furniture:


Stillwell 6 Drawer 54'' W Double Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Pine is a popular option for furniture construction because it is relatively easy to work with, but it is not so soft that it doesn’t create a strong structure. It is inexpensive but is known for its knots which could make your board unstable. Pine trees produce sap which can make the wood quite difficult to hone.


Ballesteros 7 Drawer 65.5'' W Dresser
Source: Wayfair

Cedar is a popular wood for the following reasons:

  • It is naturally rot-resistant, insect-resistant, and water-resistant.
  • It tends to have straight grains, which prevents it from warping.
  • People often enjoy the strong cedar scent.

Unfortunately, it can be prone to dents and scratches, and its beautiful colors fade with time, which means the furniture needs to be re-stained regularly to keep it fresh. If not, it fades to grey. Cedar is a bit pricier than many of the other softwoods.


Manado 6 Drawer 60'' W
Source: Wayfair

Fir has quite a straight grain which makes it an easy wood to shape. It also produces very little sap and is inexpensive and readily available. Its growth rings’ patterns can make it challenging to stain the finished piece.

Other Materials for Dressers

Dressers can be made from materials other than hardwoods and softwoods. Let’s look at a few of these:

  • Wicker (or rattan) is a woven material made from either natural fibers or artificial material. It is often found in country-style designs and is incorporated into a wooden structure. It is lightweight and resistant to moisture and stains.
  • Leather upholstered on a wooden framework creates a rich, textured look for a dresser.  
  • Metal is much less common, but it can make for an interesting modern option, either as a full metal piece or as a hybrid piece made from both wood and metal.
  • Wood veneer is created by bonding a thin layer of hardwood to a less expensive surface such as cheaper wood, MDF, or particleboard.
  • Laminate is a manufactured product that is printed to look like it has wood grain. A laminate piece of furniture is much cheaper than a wooden piece.


Dressers can be constructed from a variety of hardwoods, softwoods, and other materials. Hardwoods are strong and durable and make for ornate, classic dressers. They are also more expensive.

Dressers made from softwood are cheaper, but they may be less durable and come with a few other challenges. Deciding what sort of material you want for a dresser in your home depends on your decorating style, budget, and whether you want it to be an investment or heirloom piece.


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