In every corner of the consumer world there are purchases made less out of desire than pure necessity. Musicians, for instance, have to buy cables and stands in which to set their equipment. Golfers pay hundreds for bags to house their clubs. IT folks purchase racks for their servers. And painters need gesso to dress their canvases. In the home-furnishings department, we have dressers.
While sets of drawers can be opulent—–a 19th-century Jewel cabinet by John Webb fetched a breezy $3.2 million in a 2007 auction—–for the modern-day shopper without a Russian oil baron’s bank account, function almost always trumps form. Yes, a chest of drawers, bureau, dresser, or whatever you wish to call it, needs to be able to house those items of your wardrobe not suited to the closet, but given the dresser’s scale and relative prominence in the home, should it not also be stylish?
After no shortage of despair (and trips to every showroom within 20 miles), we settled on a vintage model for our own abode—–a highboy from Drexel’s Declaration line by Stewart MacDougall and Kipp Stewart. Solid walnut construction, concave brass fixtures, tall drawers, and an affordable price influenced our decision. For a similar amount at Ikea, we would have ended up with veneered particleboard and Allen wrench–embossed fingertips.
Although we didn’t buy new, we didn’t want our dresser research to go to waste, so we pulled together our notes and invited a pair of critics more accustomed to evaluating wardrobes to assess the results.