Chest of Drawers VS Bureau: What Is The Difference


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One of the most iconic furniture pieces of all time, vastly used in the past as well as today, is a chest of drawers. Often, when you search for it, you may come across another term bureau, and you may wonder, what is the difference?

Even if you google them, in some pages and articles you will notice that the terms are used simultaneously, oftentimes as synonyms.

From photos, they look roughly the same, so what is a chest of drawers, what is the bureau and what is the difference between them?




What is the difference between the chest of drawers and the bureau?

The difference between the chest of drawers and bureau is not major or something extremely perceptible; rather it is in its location: both pieces of furniture is typically made out of wood and both pieces consist of drawers…

The difference is that the bureau is typically used in an office or a library, while the chest of drawers is used in bedrooms and closets.

This results in some minor changes in the design as well, as the bureau tends to have narrower drawers that are specifically designed for books and other office supplies and chest of drawers have deeper drawers created for storing clothes and accessories that aren’t normally hung up.

Moreover, traditionally bureaus are lower and longer as they are used for paperwork and office supplies, and this way they can be reached while working; on the other hand, chest of drawers can be higher as their height, in general, does not cause any issues since it is used in bedrooms, and not in working space.




Bureau has Different Meanings

Another interesting fact worth mentioning and knowing is that the world bureau has different meanings depending on where it is used; while in America when we say bureau we typically refer to a type of chest of drawers used in offices.

In other countries, like Europe, the word bureau is used to describe a desk “with a cover and compartments for storing papers, etc. located above the level of the writing surface rather than underneath.”

Therefore, depending on where you are from, the difference between these two may as well be in the design itself. Here we will refer to the bureau in the American sense – meaning bureau as a type of chest of drawers.




How to choose a bureau/chest of drawers for your home?

Buying a new piece of furniture especially one that you will use for years to come, can seem tiresome and overwhelming. Here are some things you need to consider and advice that will help you make the right choice:

  • Determine the type (chest of drawers or bureau) – Before you buy it, think where it will go? What will you store in it? Will it be for clothes in the bedroom or office supplies in your office space? Based on this determine whether you need a chest of drawers or bureau.
  • Determine the size – Look at and measure the space to know what size you need.
  • Determine the style – both chests of drawers and bureaus come in a variety of sizes and styles: from the country to modern, industrial, contemporary, shaker, French, art Deco, Queen Ann and so on. Look at the room and the rest of your furniture, and decide which color and style you need yours to be. This will ease the process of searching as you can request a specific style, not just size.
  • Look for quality – don’t be afraid to ask what type of material was used in the production. Nowadays both bureaus and chest of drawers are made not only from traditional wood, but also from metals, and different types of variations of woods. If you want something that you will use for years to come, don’t be afraid to invest in a model made of higher quality wood. These are timeless and will serve you well for sure!

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