How to style an antique dresser – interior designers share their top tips

Antique dressers add character and charm to any space, but getting the styling down takes some skill. Here's how designers make antique dresser decor shine

Three antique dressers styled in different rooms
(Image credit: Elizabeth Krueger Design; Frank & Co.; Future)

Adding antiques to your space is a surefire way to add charm, character and a bit of personality, and a dresser is the perfect place to start. With a near-endless supply in flea markets and antique shops, this versatile furniture item comes in so many styles. The design opportunities are truly endless.

But once you've got your hands on an antique dresser, styling it can prove quite challenging. From finding the right blend of modern and vintage, to choosing items that both reflect your personality and mesh with the aesthetic, there's a lot to keep in mind. 

To help you curate the perfect vignette to top your antique dresser, we spoke with interior designers, who shared their top tips for styling antique furniture. This is what they had to say.

How to style an antique dresser for the perfect transitional look

Selecting the right items to top your antique dresser will leave any room feeling packed with history yet fit for modern life. These are designers' top tips for styling antique dressers – the key is creating balance and nailing a transitional design.

1. Employ the rule of three

An antique dresser with a vintage clock, a tall lamp and a framed picture hanging above

(Image credit: Future)

'Adding an antique dresser to your bedroom design is a lovely way to bring tradition, history, and visual interest to your space – and styling the top surface is a great opportunity to enhance an already special piece,' says Kathy Kuo, interior designer and founder of homeware brand, Kathy Kuo Home

To ensure you're bringing the right look to the antique when accessorizing, Kathy suggests sticking to the 'tried-and-true styling rule of three.' Opt for one item with vertical height, one that extends horizontally, and one 'sculptural item' when working with a vintage dresser, she says. Just be sure at least one item 'that feels of the same era as the antique dresser itself' makes an appearance, Kathy adds. 

Whether you mix a tall lamp with an antique clock and intricately framed artwork, or a sculptural vase with a stunning jewelry tray and a stack of vintage books, you'll be well on your way to a gorgeous (and balanced) vignette.

2. Use a mix of high and low

An antique dresser with a gallery wall hanging above

(Image credit: Frank & Co.)

Emily Frank, interior designer and founder of Frank & Co. – a bespoke design studio based in the Midwest United States – agrees that an antique dresser offers loads of opportunity for stunning styling: 'Just as the drawers of an antique dresser can reveal endless outfit options, countless are the ways to dress up her top!' she says.

She suggests keeping a 'mix of high and low' in mind when selecting items to place atop the dresser. Some of Frank & Co.'s favorite items to style with include small conversation lamps, antique books, and 'vintage brass animals and driftwood sculptures,' says Emily. A way to play with height both on top of the dresser and behind, a miniature gallery wall to frame the dresser, pictured above, can also contribute to the lovely contrasting look.

'Mixing in colorful and inlay wood stacked boxes brings in an unexpected element and secret storage. We also love to mix in cast iron bookends as well to give the dresser a partner-in-crime in the age department,' she adds.

3. Mix the old with the new

A mid-century modern dresser in a mustard yellow room

(Image credit: Future)

Although it can seem easier to go all-in with vintage when faced with an antique dresser, a transitional blend between traditional and contemporary lends a timeless, trend-proof look to create a home that will never date.

Artem Kropovinsky, interior designer and founder of New York City-based Arsight, suggests 'marrying the past with the present in your decor' by pairing a 'contemporary lamp or minimalist art piece' on top of the old-school dresser.

'Mix the old with the new, such as associating the dresser with a smooth mirror or modern sconces, and you’re adding layer to your room. This combo does not only show off the dresser’s vintage charm but also adds a dash of curated eclecticism to your interior,' says Artem.

Artem adds that treating the antique dresser's features as a space's focal point by 'employing a muted palette and minimal accessories' in the rest of the room adds to its historic visual impact.

4. Add textural interest

An antique dresser with flowers, books and trinkets on top, and a gold framed painting hanging above

(Image credit: Elizabeth Krueger Design)

When creating a considered vignette, getting heights and sculptural shapes right goes a long way. But varied textures add depth and visual interest to an antique dresser's look. 

Elizabeth Krueger, principal designer of Elizabeth Krueger Design, says 'a variation of height and texture is a great way to add interest.' By bringing in a mix of lush textures and vibrant colors to dress the piece, the dresser will be the main event in any space.

'Fresh flowers are always a nice pop of color, especially in an entryway. The addition of books shows interest and a nice pop of color,' says Elizabeth.

Antique dressers don't have to be stuck in the past – and they often play a hand in brightening up a space. By focusing on the rule of thirds and creating some playful variation, the dresser might just play the starring role in your room.

Abby Wilson
Interior Design News Editor

I am an Interior Design News Editor at Homes & Gardens. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.