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While some dressers are designed to thrill, others are meant to chill. By which we mean, they’re designed to occupy a home for years on end, dexterously adapting to whatever new room they’re introduced to. They’re not basic so much as a linchpin around which an entire room pivots. They are in a word: white dressers. 

A foundational favorite that epitomizes effortlessness, the quest for the perfect white dresser most often begins with expectant parents. Committed to sourcing a workhorse that can hold down their newborn’s nursery before transitioning into a playroom or kids’ room superhero, parents are quick to discover that the versatility of white dressers is virtually unmatched. Once kids assume their own styles, white dressers aren’t down for the count, either. Whether it be a white farmhouse dresser or a white modern dresser, white dressers are prime candidates for taking on a multitude of second (third?) lives. Be it an entryway credenza, dining room buffet, or bathroom vanity—the options are endless. 

Of course, even something as seemingly impossible to futz as a white dresser begets questions. For instance, what’s more versatile: a white wood dresser or a  white lacquer one? A whitewash white dresser or a solid coat dresser? And what about white dressers with mirrors? Enhancing or inhibitive? To help, we’re spotlighting the evolution of a white dresser, from nursery to playroom to entry and beyond!

Design by. Dina Bandman Interiors / Photo by Christopher Stark

Nursery

The nursery is the aboriginal starting point for many white dressers. Its appeal lies in the fact that it’s a bipartisan case piece. It can swing in a gendered direction just as deftly as a non-gendered one. Pair it with blue, black, pink, mint, yellow—its esprit remains the same. For modernists, a modern white dresser is a shoo-in, especially if you don’t yet have definite plans on how you’ll use it once it’s off baby duty. With its unobtrusive silhouette, it can go virtually anywhere. For those with more eclectic tastes, however, try a dresser with more provenance. A white Victorian dresser or a distressed antique white dresser, for instance, can impart sophistication and transition seamlessly to more formal rooms. If it still feels a bit too mature for your tastes, consider adorning the drawer handles with colorful tassels à la designer Dina Bandman above.  

Photo by Simon Upton/ Interior Archive / Design by Polly Fry

Playroom

Once your tot is old enough to have opinions—chief among them being “no!”—there’s a chance their room is due for a redo. If a makeover boots your white dresser from the mix, send it down the hall to the playroom. In a playroom, a white dresser can be drafted for organization purposes. Use it to assist in tasks like stashing less-than-eyeful toys—legos, art supplies, board games. If you opted for an antique white dresser and it still feels too seasoned for your child, consider pairing it with decor that similarly toes the line between cultivated and kid-friendly. For instance, in the room above, a Neoclassical white wood dresser shares the stage with cheery vintage wallpaper, Italian gold dressing chairs, and playful Staffordshire dog statues. The effect is endearingly May-December and feels perfectly apropos for a not-yet-tween. 

Design by Kobel + Co Interior Design Studio / Photo by Nate Sheets

Entry

As you kids fledge into teenagers, a grab-and-go workhorse that commandeers the entryway of your home is more important than ever. Up for the task? You guessed it, your cast-off playroom dresser. Let kids call dibs on drawers in which they can stash homework, hats and gloves, and house keys. Or, designate the drawers catchalls for pet supplies and mail that the whole family can use. If you’re working in reverse and you’re currently selecting a nursery dresser with the intent to use it down the road as an entryway credenza, consider opting for a long white dresser with extra drawers. (A word to the wise: a few extra drawers never hurt anyone.) You might also want to steer away from dressers in less durable materials than wood. Lacquer or seagrass-covered dressers, for instance, look beautiful, but may not stand up to the traffic of an entryway.

Design by Dina Bandman Interiors / Photo by Stephen Karlisch

Dining Room

When your co-eds return home for the holidays, chances are your dining room will be ground zero for hosting and toasting. If your dining room’s lacking a proper buffet, move in your entryway dresser to pinch-hit. While a dresser may lack the cabinet space of a formal buffet, a long white dresser will still house plenty of napkins, flatware, plates, and the like. For the proactive among us: if you have an inkling that you’ll one day be docking your nursery dresser in your dining room, pay extra mind to the drawer construction. You’ll want to look for details like dovetailed drawers and ball-bearing slides. Both generally indicate that the drawers have greater load-bearing capacities. While that might not be a concern while you’re stocking your dresser with onesies, sterling silver flatware is another matter!

Design by Casey Sarkin Interior Design, Luna Inc. / Photo by Rett Peek

Bathroom

If empty-nesting comes with eventual downsizing and swapping a dining room for a first-floor master, don’t secondhand your dresser just yet! For those who wish to show their utmost affection to their white dresser after decades of use, few fates top transforming it into a one-of-a-kind bathroom vanity. The ideal way to wake up an otherwise modest bath, a dresser vanity can make even downsized digs feel on par with a house twice its size. Again, if you’re the kind to plan ahead, consider a dresser that possesses the heft to accommodate a stone top easily. White farmhouse dressers, Neoclassical dressers, and even Federalist dressers all intermix easily with stone, making them solid choices from the get-go. As a bonus, all of these antique white dressers mutate easily among different styles. So whether your eventual bath is clean-lined or traditionalist, there’s a good chance it’ll fly.

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Lead image design by Kobel + Co Interior Design Studio / Photo by Nate Sheets

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September 11, 2021

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