An antique dresser, also called a chest of drawers, and, in North American English, a bureau, is a type of cabinet that has multiple parallel, horizontal drawers usually stacked one above another.
In American English an antique dresser is a piece of furniture, usually waist high or taller, that has drawers and normally room for a mirror.
In British English a dresser or a Welsh dresser has shelves in the upper section for storing or displaying tableware and often sits above a sideboard.
Antique Dressers or chests of drawers have traditionally been made and used for storing clothing, especially underwear, socks, and other items not normally hung in or otherwise stored in a closet.
They are usually placed in a bedroom for this purpose, but can actually be used to store anything that will fit inside and can be placed anywhere in a house or another place.
Various personal sundry items are also often stored in a chest of drawers. It has a long history as one of the stand-bys of a carpenter’s workshop. A typical chest is approximately rectangular in overall shape and often has short legs at the bottom corners for placement on the floor.
Chests of drawers often come in 5-, 6-, and 7-drawer varieties, with either a single or a double top drawer. The chest illustrated at right would be described as a ‘4 over 3 chest-on-chest’, the latter term deriving from the fact that at one time it would have been made as 2 separable pieces.
These antique dressers are commonly made of wood, similar to many other kinds of furniture, but of course can be made of other materials. The inside of the drawers can be accessed by pulling them out at the front side. It is often placed so that the back side faces a wall since access to the back is not necessary. The lateral sides are also usually made such that they can be placed against a wall or in a corner.
Although they can be plain in appearance, chests of drawers can also be made with a fancy or ornamental appearance, including finishes and various external color tones. Traditionally, drawers would slide out on smooth wood rails. Most modern cabinets (such as Filing cabinets) use roll-out shelf sliders, made of metal, with rollers.
Most chests of drawers fall into one of two types: those which are about waist-high or bench-high and those (usually with more drawers) which are about shoulder-high.
Both types typically have a flat surface on top. Waist-high chests often have a mirror placed vertically on top, which is often bought with the piece. While a user is getting dressed or otherwise preparing their grooming, he or she can look at themselves in the mirror to check their appearance.
A chifforobe (from chiffonier + wardrobe) is a combination of a wardrobe and a chest of drawers.
Philadelphia School of Cabinetry
In the mid-18th century, highboy dressers in North America became very ornate. The most elaborate pieces came from Philadelphia. At that time it was one of the most important American cities, both before and after the American Revolution, and was a center of style and culture.