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What is a Chest of Drawers?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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A chest of drawers is a term for many types of furniture designs that contain one or more rows of drawers used for storing clothes or other personal items. A chest of drawers is commonly made of wood and has a minimum of three to six large drawers with a smaller top drawer that might be split or solid.

Some chests are designed to store one type of clothing exclusively. For example, the lingerie chest is tall and narrow with a single row of five or six drawers. The top drawer is often designed to look like two shallow drawers with double ornate handles. Many antique chests feature shallow top drawers for jewelry, hair combs and other accessories. Today's furniture manufacturers appeal to the needs of the market, but creating the façade adds authenticity to the chest of drawers, giving it a classic look.

Though most modern dressers have short legs and are basically rectangular with little detail, a traditional chest of drawers is very artistic. The three-drawer bombe chest, for example, is ornately carved with a bowed front and sides, and serpentine legs. Exquisite details went into the bombe in days past, and artisans today still replicate the style for those with classic tastes.

Another popular style is the French country chest of drawers. This resembles the bombe but the front is flat and the overall style is more austere. The French chest also has three drawers and can be used for clothes, linens, or other items.

A chest of drawers is normally made from fine wood like cherry or oak, and may have an antique finish to simulate age. The hardware will be ornate to match the period of the original design. Because these chests are so beautiful, they need not stay in the bedroom. A chest of drawers can look elegant in a hallway, dining room or other living area.

Although the term "chest of drawers" and the more modern "dresser" are used interchangeably, the former speaks to a time when furniture was handcrafted with incredible care and attention to detail. Today we can still experience that beauty of the past, thanks to modern day woodworkers that continue to practice the art of fine furniture making.

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