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Dresser vs. Chest Of Drawers

This is a tall beige chest of drawers with accent.

Although I’ve often seen the two names used interchangeably, I can assure you that a dresser and a chest of drawers are not the same things. They are important pieces of furniture used to create storage space, and they also serve as a decoration that adds a “homey” feeling to your bedroom. Knowing the difference between them is essential to pick the right one for your space and storage needs. 

A chest of drawers is tall and narrow and used to maximize storage space in a smaller room without taking up floor space. A dresser is wide and short and takes up more floor space. Dressers have a matching mirror that can be mounted on the back, with a tabletop area that can be used for decorative items. 

It is essential to have at least one of them in your bedroom and know the difference between them to make an informed choice the next time you go furniture shopping. This article will provide you with information that will help you to know exactly which one to get for your bedroom. 

Why is it Called a “Chest Of Drawers”?

This is a stack of three wooden chests.

You may have wondered why there is mention of a “chest” in the name of the furniture when it doesn’t look like a chest. It is true that a modern chest of drawers just looks like a stack of drawers. However, when you dive into a bit of the history, you will find that a chest of drawers originated from a normal chest. 

In the 16th century England, chests had small horizontal drawer boxes stacked vertically and enclosed within their base. The chests were mounted on ball feet or bun feet. The little drawers had pull handles initially made of wood and then later from brass.

Different styles were available, depending on the era. Wealthy folks had chests made from expensive wood, with expensive handles and decorative finishes.

Modern chest drawers are more simplistic, but you can still find some Victorian-style chests at antique stores.

Origin of a Dresser

This is an antique handmade wooden kitchen dresser with shelves.

The first dressers didn’t look like what we term a “dresser” today, but instead looked like a tall side table with a single row of drawers – it was primarily used in the kitchen and dining room. In the 17th century, the table was fitted with a backboard with shelves to showcase fine dinnerware. Drawers were used to store linen and silver. 

During the 16th century in France, a dresser (or dressoir, as it was called then) was an expensive piece of furniture often seen in grand halls in stately houses. Dressers were a symbol of wealth and status and were often so large and tall that you needed to climb stairs if you wanted to reach the top drawers! The more shelves the dresser had, the richer you were considered to be. 

Dressers later became dressing tables (hence the name “dresser”) used in the bedroom. These had a mirror attached to them and drawers that were used to store clothing and other garments. 

General Differences Between a Dresser and Chest Of Drawers 

A bedroom would simply be a mess without proper storage space for clothing. Also, you don’t want a room that feels unwelcoming and empty, with lots of wasted space. Adding a dresser or chest of drawers to your bedroom will complete the look and add a nice decorative element to the space. 

When choosing which option will work better for you, it is vital to understand the differences between a dresser and a chest of drawers and how to utilize each of them properly. Let’s go over the key differences.  

Size & Shape

This is a modern wooden dresser with modern handles.

A modern dresser is lower, longer, and broader, with up to about six drawers stacked vertically in a single row. The drawers usually have double handles attached to them so that they can pull out easily.

One crucial aspect that makes a dresser different from a chest of drawers is that a dresser has a mirror attached to it. The mirror usually matches the style and color of the dresser. 

Unlike a dresser that’s typically wider, a chest of drawers is tall and narrow and takes up much less floor space than a dresser. It can have several smaller drawers stacked vertically in three or four rows or a single row of larger drawers. Despite being narrower than those of a dresser, these drawers still provide plenty of storage space without taking up too much space in the room.

A chest of drawers is usually too tall for a mirror to be attached to it, and therefore, it doesn’t come with a mirror.  


Tall and pink chest of drawers on the side of the wooden structure.

Dressers and chest drawers don’t only look different but have different uses in a bedroom. By knowing what each piece of furniture can be used for, you will be able to decide which one will suit your storage needs and fit well into your bedroom space. 

A dresser is typically used to store clothing and smaller items like scarves, ties, gloves, etc. One thing that makes it stand out a bit more than a chest of drawers is that it has a mirror so that the individual can get dressed in front of it. A low dresser can also be used as a make-up vanity because of the mirror.

The low tabletop surface provides plenty of space for decorative items like figurines, flowers, books, etc., to give the room some character. A dresser takes up more space and might not work well in smaller rooms.  

A chest of drawers is great for storing clothing and any other general items or accessories that you don’t have space for anywhere else in the room. Because it’s narrow, you can place it in any corner of the room that needs to be filled without making the whole room appear cramped or stuffy. A chest of drawers is ideal for tight spaces and small rooms where a dresser or wardrobe is typically too big.

A chest of drawers can also serve as a media chest if you don’t have space for a dresser and a media chest. 


You will find that a chest of drawers tends to be less expensive than a dresser. The two pieces of furniture do, however, serve different purposes in the bedroom, and cost shouldn’t be the most important factor when it comes down to a decision between a dresser and a chest of drawers. In the long-term, the functionality of the furniture is more important and should be considered above the cost. 

Dresser vs. Chest Of Drawers: Which One is Best for You?

This is a wooden dresser that has an attached mirror above.

The decision between getting a dresser or a chest of drawers depends on your storage needs and what you want to use the furniture for. 

If you’re looking for something with a mirror that can function as a make-up vanity, decorative tabletop surface, and storage space for clothes, then a dresser is what you need to go for. If you just require some extra storage space for general items and clothing, with no need for a mirror or a table, then a chest of drawers would be the best choice. 

Nowadays, there are so many different styles and colors available for each of them. Whether you’re going for a vintage or a modern look for your bedroom, rest assured that you’ll find both styles in either one of those pieces of furniture.  


Dressers and chest of drawers make bedroom storage easy while helping you create the style or theme you have in mind for the room. Dressers work very well in larger, wider rooms and have a mirror that can be used when you’re dressing or as part of a make-up vanity. A chest of drawers provides a means of storage in smaller rooms and can also serve as a media chest.

Both offer style, as well as functionality in just one piece of furniture, ensuring that you never run out of room space or wardrobe space ever again!   


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