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Dresser vs Bureau

This is a wooden dresser and a wooden bureau with handles.

There is often a lot of confusion when it comes to furniture which looks similar but has different names. Dressers and bureaus are used often in everyday life, and few people know the difference between the two, let alone that a difference even exists.

The key difference between a dresser and a bureau lies in the area of the house in which the furniture belongs. Dressers are typically used in a bedroom or a closet, whereas bureaus are usually used in an office or library setting. As a result, there are also subtle differences in the design.

In order to understand the difference between the two items of furniture, it’s important to see how they developed through necessity according to how they are used.

While the differences are not easily detectable and often go unnoticed by the untrained eye, it’s simple to tell the difference once you understand a little bit more about the items and their designs.

Dresser vs Bureau

Prepac White Monterey 5 Drawer Chest

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The biggest difference between a dresser and a bureau is the room in which they are used. The room in which they are used also determines the way in which they are used, and therefore their design.

A dresser is typically found in either a bedroom or a closet. It is an extremely useful addition to any bedroom setting.

A bureau, on the other hand, is typically found in either an office or library setting. Because of the differences between the rooms in which these furniture items are used, and the difference between the items typically stored in them, there are some slight differences in design.

Because dressers are typically used to store items such as clothing and other accessories used in the bedroom or dressing room, these furniture pieces have been designed to accommodate such items.

They usually consist of deep drawers which can be used for storing clothes and accessories which would not normally be hung up in a closet.

8 Drawer Lingerie Bureau Cherry

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Bureaus, however, are usually used for storing items such as collectibles and office accessories such as books, paperwork, and other office supplies. As a result of this, bureaus are usually designed with narrower drawers than dressers, specifically designed with office supplies in mind.

The height of the furniture item is another thing to consider when determining the difference between a dresser and a bureau.

A dresser is often the higher of the two. This is because the height of the dresser makes no real difference in a bedroom set, and a higher piece is often more desirable as it presents an opportunity for using the top surface of the dresser while standing up.

Bureaus, on the other hand, are usually much lower pieces of furniture, while also usually longer by design. The reason for this is that because bureaus are usually used for office supplies, a lower height allows you to be able to reach these supplies and papers while working at a desk.

How To Choose a Bureau or Dresser for Your Home

A woman shopping for a dresser in the furniture store.

When purchasing a piece of furniture like a bureau or dresser, it is important to consider several things before making your decision. A new furniture item such as this is most often a major financial investment, and so it is important to find the right piece for your home.

First and foremost, you will need to consider the type, i.e. whether you are going to purchase a dresser or a bureau. This will be determined by where you will be using the furniture item and what you will be using it for.

If you’re looking for an item that will go in your bedroom and be used to store clothes, then a dresser is the right item for you. If you are planning to use the item in your office space and would be storing office supplies in it, then a bureau is the item you’re looking for.

Size is another important consideration to make. Not only does your dresser or bureau need to be large enough to be able to store all the items you wish to store in it, but it also needs to fit properly into the space in which it will be used. The proportions of the room need to be considered here.

Style is a major factor in the purchase of one of these furniture items. Both types are available in numerous styles which have been made available over the centuries and in different regions of the world.

There are modern chests of drawers and bureaus, as well as industrial, contemporary, and art deco. In order to determine which style will suit your home best, you should take inspiration from the other items in your home.

From your existing furniture, you will be able to take cues as to what will be the best fit for you in terms of your new purchase.

Quality is something else to be considered, as you would want to purchase something made of high-quality materials that will last a long time.

Different Meanings of Bureau

Vintage wooden desk bureau with cover and drawers.

While a bureau in the US refers to the item discussed above, in Europe it can refer to something completely different. Bureaus in Europe are usually desks with a cover, and usually have compartments for papers above the writing surface.

Baxton Studio Anjou Traditional French Accent Writing Desk, White

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A bureau can also refer to an office or government agency.


While a dresser and a bureau are two extremely similar items of furniture, it is easy to understand the difference once you are equipped with the basic knowledge of the furniture and how its use and design have evolved with time.

Despite how furniture is designed to be used in specific ways and for specific purposes, there are no hard and fast rules which dictate how an item of furniture must be used. As the owner of the furniture, you have complete autonomy over how you use it.

In contemporary society, furniture is often repurposed and used in different ways to its originally intended purpose. It is up to you to get as creative as you like to make the best use of your investment pieces however you may see fit.


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