Antique Bedroom Dressers: Identifying Popular Styles

English townhouse with country style interior with an antique dresser

An antique bedroom dresser is the highlight of many collectors' bedrooms, but average furniture lovers might find identifying antique dresser styles to be a daunting task. Since these pieces were located outside of the main living spaces of historic homes and were built to be sturdy, many examples from several different design eras have survived in excellent condition. Take a deeper look at how these antique bedroom dresser styles changed over time and how to best asses one when looking to add one to your own collection.

Antique Dresser Styles

Most antique dressers that you'll come across were built during the Victorian era or later; this is partially because bedrooms during the 18th century weren't outfitted with the same type of furniture that's used in modern bedrooms. Most colonial families used blanket chests for storage rather than conventional dressers. Here's a quick guide to identifying antique furniture styles that can help prime you for your own search through online listings and antique shelves.

Bedroom Chest Drawer

Victorian Style Dressers

The Victorian dresser was often small and delicate in appearance, and they generally had no more than three drawers. The body of the dresser often sat on legs and was topped with a mirror in a proto-vanity style. Some of the later Victorian dressers even had marble tops, and others exhibited the ornate carvings that were popular during the period. Victorian style dressers were commonly manufactured until the 1920s, when cultural shifts influenced a change in design and led to the development of the Art Deco style.

Arts and Crafts Dressers

Arts and crafts furniture actually began in the 1890s and was created in response to the overly ornate decorations of the Victorian period. Due to their use of domestic woods and solid and understated construction, dressers in this style were purchased by many average American families. Specifically, this style is defined by its wide drawers and hammered or cast metal details around the keyholes. In fact, a number of modern craftsmen continue to create furniture sets made in the Arts and Crafts style.

Art Deco Dressers

Art Deco design was focused on sleek lines, intricate curvatures, and incorporating modern materials. Dressers from this period sought to reflect this modern style by rounding their edges and adding line detailing around the drawers and handles. The wood that was used to make Art Deco dressers was often lighter than those used in the previous eras, which meant families' could move their furniture around much more easily so they needed little help to redecorate their spaces.

Midcentury Modern Dressers

Midcentury modern furniture has an incredibly distinctive look, often attributed to its use of blonde woods, tapered legs, and low-lying furniture. Charles and Ray Eames revolutionized furniture making with their ability to transform plywood into fanciful furniture shapes, and Eames dressers are some of the most coveted Midcentury modern dressers on the market.

Choosing an Antique Bedroom Dresser

Choosing an antique dresser can be difficult. There may be numerous choices in your area. Here are some things you that you'll want to consider when looking to add an antique dresser to your home.

Bedroom in a listed period home

Budget

Unfortunately, modern furniture is one of the most expensive domestic items you can purchase, and antique furniture is no different. While you can definitely find relatively cheap furniture at your local antique stores - normally for under $500 - the majority of quality antique dressers you're going to find are going to be worth thousands, if not tens-of-thousands of dollars. For example, this marble top Midcentury Modern dresser is listed for nearly $13,000 in one auction, and this Victorian mahogany chest of drawers is listed for $1,250.

Condition

Look at the piece carefully to determine its condition. Take the drawers out and examine the dovetailing. Check to see if there have been repairs done, or if the piece has been refinished as this can depreciate its value. However, signs of wear and tear are normal for antique furniture, and a piece that looks too well-finished might be a high quality reproduction. Therefore, these are some characteristics you can expect to find on an antique dresser.

  • Irregular fading in the wood
  • Mirrors that have spots or reflect oddly
  • Carvings with irregularity and inconsistency
  • Chips to the edges and corners
  • Signs of wear and tear

Preference

Above all else, your preference is the main criteria to take into consideration. It doesn't matter if you want a Victorian dresser outfitted in your ultra-sleek modern industrial bedroom, your preference is the most important thing of all. So, make sure you listen to your gut instincts and choose something you love.

Where to Find Antique Dressers

Given their size, shipping an antique dresser might not be an affordable option for most people. Therefore, you should look to shop locally when you can for large furniture items like dressers, tables, and cabinets. This also lets you get a hand's on inspection of a piece that you're interested in, and it gives you the unique chance to asses any disparities in its listing and its actual condition. Here are a few places you can go to first to start looking for an antique bedroom dresser.

  • Antique shops
  • Thrift stores
  • Furniture resale shops
  • Garage sales
  • Craigslist postings
  • Newspaper ads
Louis XV kingwood antique desk

Remember to Be Patient

Finding the perfect antique bedroom dresser for your room may take some time. It's absolutely worth the time to wait until you find the piece that speaks to you. Now, go ahead and start pulling up those auction catalogs and calling up your antique stores - you've got a dresser to find.

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Antique Bedroom Dressers: Identifying Popular Styles