5 Steps for Decorating Your Dresser Top

Easel with painting next to bureau with plant and supplies on patio

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After your bed, the dresser is probably the largest piece of furniture in your bedroom, so it plays a key role in setting your bedroom’s style. Too often, however, the top of the dresser becomes a catchall for strewn jewelry, unread books, dishes waiting for their return to the kitchen, and toiletries that would be better off in the bathroom. If this describes your own dresser, your bedroom isn’t as restful or as attractive as it could be. While you might not be a professional interior decorator, a few easy guidelines will help you style your dresser just as well as the pros.

1. Clean It Off

First, focus on the basics. Take everything off the dresser top, and wipe the furniture with polish to remove dust and grime. Then take the opportunity to get rid of anything that doesn't belong on the dresser (or in your bedroom).​ The typical dresser is covered with a lot of irrelevant objects, so the very first step is to start with a clean slate.

2. Set Center Stage

Your dresser needs something large on the wall above it to provide visual balance. If the dresser is positioned underneath a window, the job is already done. If not, hang a large mirror, a single piece of artwork, or a collection of smaller pieces on the wall over the dresser. For best appearance, your mirror or hanging artwork should be at least half the width of the top of the dresser, but not wider than the dresser itself.

3. Find Something Tall

Now you need a tall piece standing to the side of the hanging mirror. This is a great spot for a second lamp if your bedside lamp is on the other side of the room. If you already have another lamp close by, there are many other options from which to choose: 

  • Tall houseplant
  • Artwork standing on top of the dresser and leaning against the wall
  • Decorative basket or collectible
  • Tall pillar candle
  • Vase filled with flowers, either real or faux
  • Upright jewelry box

4. Display a Great-Looking Tray

Now that you have a lamp or other tall piece positioned on one side of the hanging mirror, it’s time for something low and long. A pretty tray is not only decorative; it’s a useful addition to your bedroom. Set a tray you love on top of the dresser, positioned below the mirror. Use the tray to corral jewelry, perfume bottles or other toiletries, small memorabilia like seashells or tiny collectibles, or even spare change. Choose a tray that has strong enough style to really make a statement—this isn’t the spot for a clear plastic utilitarian tray from the bathroom or a Plain- Jane tray better suited to the pantry.

5. Create Balance With a Few Accents

Now that you’ve created interest with a hanging mirror, a tall piece, and a low tray, it’s time to balance the look with a couple of medium-sized accents. You’ll want one or two accent pieces on the side of the dresser opposite the tall piece, and another accent next to that tall piece. Choose accent pieces of varied sizes and shapes—any of the following are great choices:

  • Houseplants
  • Framed photos
  • Candles
  • One or two hardback books
  • Decorative boxes or vases
  • Jewelry box
  • Antique glass jars or Mason jars filled with jewelry or interesting small items

Review the Results

When all of your dresser-top elements are in place, stand back and check the positioning. Adjust the pieces until they are to your liking. Remember that decorating rules are not written in stone: the most important rule is that you should love your bedroom.

Once you see how much a well-styled dresser top adds to the good looks of your bedroom, you’ll find it easy to avoid clutter. Periodically give the dresser a once-over to check for items that belong elsewhere. You can keep your décor interesting and mix things up a little by changing your dresser-top display to match the seasons or to decorate for the holidays.