Dress it down, dress it up — there’s something delightful about a retro dresser. Dressers’ simple structure means that surviving antiques are common, while dressers’ surplus of flat surfaces make those that are a little worse for the wear a welcome canvas for paint. If you’re thinking of adding some big box energy to your home, but you’re not sure what style of vintage dresser you’re after just yet, start here. We’re spotlighting seven popular retro, vintage, and antique dresser styles, plus, giving you tips on how to find them used for less!
A vintage French dresser is always a yes! French dressers can be sourced in a wide range of styles, including Neoclassical and French Provincial styles. If you’re looking for a collector-grade piece, try seeking out a French Louis XVI dresser. Traditionally showcasing Neoclassical hallmarks, these pieces generally feature simple, rectangular construction, tapered legs, round brass drawer pulls, and marble tops. Fabled French maker Maison Jansen famously produced ebonized Louis XVI marble top commodes, and the style has been imitated by many makers since.
If you prefer something less formal, choose a French Provincial dresser. Featuring scalloped aprons and cabriole legs, these natural wood dressers are generally crafted of oak or walnut. In the mid-20th Century, a wide variety of American makers produced revival dressers in the French Country style, including Thomasville, Ethan Allen, Henredon, Kittinger, Kindel, and Dixie. The surplus of makers means French Provincial dressers are relatively easy to find and generally less expensive than other antiques nowadays.
Antique, yet still modern-feeling, Federal dressers are gateway antiques. Thanks to their sleek curvature and dark wood, Federal dressers can be easily mixed and matched with modern pieces like acrylic waterfall tables, plaster coffee tables, or Cloud sofas. Federal dressers are usually crafted of dark wood like mahogany. Lustrous, high-gloss mahogany is most common, with some specialized pieces showcasing ornate flame mahogany. Among the Federal dressers’ most defining traits are their iconic bow-fronted design and their brass oval drop handles. Federal dressers can have a single bow or double bows.
Worth noting is that most vintage Federal dressers you’ll encounter today are reproductions, created during the mid-20th Century. Baker Furniture, for instance, produced numerous designs under its Colonial Williamsburg line, and well-known revival brands like Drexel and Kindel both had Federal revival collections as well.
If you’re tempted by a Federal dresser but desire more antiquated looks, consider a Chippendale dresser. Like Federal dressers, Chippendale dressers are typically crafted of dark woods like mahogany or cherry. However, Chippendale dressers tend to be more ornate, showcasing more classical design traits like ball-and-claw feet, elaborate, flame-edge hardware, and—for highboy dressers—pediments and finials. Since these dressers are more traditional in style, they’re not as adaptable when it comes to mixing with contemporary design styles. Consider using these antique dressers in the company of proper antiques, including Chinese Chippendale styles, which often integrate bamboo detailing.
Around the Bicentennial, Chippendale revival furniture exploded in popularity. Today, it’s relatively easy to land discounted Chippendale dressers thanks to the sheer surplus of inventory that was created during the 1970s. For the best quality, look for reproductions from brands like Stanley Furniture, Henkel Harris, and Kittinger.
Not to be confused with Mid-Century Modern dressers, which tend to integrate more atomic design elements, modernist dressers are pared down to just the essentials. These sleek rectangular boxes have little to no adornment and are generally crafted of high-quality wood like teak or rosewood. Legs tend to be square and composed of wood or metal. Many include recessed handles or sculpted wood handles, with others featuring low-profile metal hardware.
When searching for modernist dressers, consider designs by or inspired by makers like Paul McCobb, Florence Knoll, and George Nelson. Danish Modern designs, generally crafted in Scandinavia and featuring teak construction, are also a good choice. But keep in mind that many Danish Modern designs incorporate a bit of atomic detailing, so they won’t read quite as modern as pieces by the designers mentioned above.
Mid-Century Modern Dresser
Think of Broyhill Brasilia dressers as the epitome of Mid-Century Modern dressers. These durable wood pieces typically showcase playful atomic design elements like pencil legs, sculpted handles, and geometric moldings. A number of these dressers also integrate elements from other design styles that were popular in the 1950s and 60s, including campaign, Ming, Chinese Chippendale, and Danish Modernism.
For collector-grade dressers, seek out designs by A-listers like Tommi Parzinger and Edward Wormley. For more cost-effective designs, hunt for offerings from Bassett, American of Martinsville, Heywood Wakefield, and Conant Ball.
Hollywood Regency Dresser
In truth, Hollywood Regency is a bit of a catchall term. Hollywood Regency dressers can be any number of different styles, including Mid-Century Modern, Chinoiserie, or French Provincial. What makes a Hollywood Regency dresser is less about its style archetype and more about the color and glamour it brings to the table. In fact, be it a faux bamboo dresser from Thomasville or a Ming dresser from American of Martinsville, suit up virtually any dresser in a coat of high-lacquer paint and it becomes Hollywood Regency-ready.
That said, there are some classic examples of Hollywood Regency dressers, with Dorothy Draper’s Espana chest perhaps being the most iconic. A two-tone dresser featuring decorative incised drawer borders, the chest sets the precedence for all Hollywood Regency dressers: global design influences crossed with vibrant color and luxurious finishes.
Lead photo design by Design by House of Ruby Interior Design / Photo by Kira Shemano Photography