DIY Modern 5 Drawer Dresser

Do you remember the Modern Bed and matching Modern 2 Drawer Nightstand from a while back? Well, I’m finally getting around to sharing the matching Modern 5 Drawer Dresser…and it’s a stunner!

Shara Woodshop Diaries pulling drawer of DIY modern 5 drawer dresser out to show it off

If you’ve been around for all the backstory of this entire DIY modern bedroom set, I’ll make this quick 🙂 But if you haven’t, there’s a lot you’ve missed out on…Two years ago, I sold our old bedroom suite and built a new one—just the bed and two nightstands. 

Matching Modern Bed frame and nightstand set

At the time, we were in the middle of moving, buying land, and building our garage apartment.  We really didn’t NEED a dresser and we really really didn’t have any room in the 750 sq ft garage apartment we were about to be living in.  But I’d always kind of wanted to build a dresser to match the bed and nightstands–you know…just so I could share an entire DIY matching bedroom SET.

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I’ve waited as long as I could and I finally just built it even though we didn’t have room…I can always sell it, right??  Sometimes you just have to build what makes you happy…even if you have no where to put it.

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I’m sharing the link to the printable plans for this dresser below.  But, first, I’ve got a video for this build as well:

By the way, I’m planning a matching console for this set to come out soon so be sure to subscribe to the newsletter at the end of this post or my YouTube Channel so you don’t miss out on it.

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Okay…time to get building.  This post contains affiliate links. See policies.

For this Modern 5 Drawer Dresser, You Will Need:

NOTE: Just like the poplar bed and nightstands I built, I wanted this piece to match. So I built this from poplar wood.  It came rough sawn from my local saw mill for a little over $1 a board foot. To give some perspective, I bought enough for this dresser and a second one for about $100 in poplar lumber.

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The downside to the wood being so cheap is that the boards come rough and in varying widths and lengths, so the first thing I did was run everything through the planer to get it smoothed out. I had to cut my boards to “non standard sizes” as needed to glue up panels. But in the plans, I used standard board sizes to make things a little easier. 

Step 1: Assemble Side Panels of 5 Drawer Dresser

The frame of the dresser is made from 2x2s and the wood I got was only 1x.  So I had to laminate them.  I did the same thing on the nightstands I built.  I ripped strips from my board roughly 1 ¾” wide and glued them up in twos.  Once the glue was dry, I ran them through the table saw again to clean up the glue joints and to get both sides 1 ½” thick. If you’re using 2x2s to start with, you get to skip that part.

2x2s glued up and squared off ready to assemble 5 drawer dresser frame with

Then, I cut them on the miter saw to their final lengths. You can get the cut list in the plans. Now it was time to make the side panels.  I ripped boards down on my table saw to glue up for the side panels.

Dresser side panel glued up in clamps

Once the glue was dry and everything was sanded, I assembled the dresser sides.  There’s a million ways to do this, but I used a combination of pocket holes and dowels.  I used pocket holes at the top of the frame and for the panel and I used dowels at the bottom so you wouldn’t see any pocket holes.

Shara Woodshop Diaries Assembling 5 drawer dresser side panels using pocket holes and screws

I used a bar clamp to clamp the dowel joints tight, wiped off the squeeze out, and set it aside while I made the second one. I let both get good and dry before moving on.

Step 2: Assemble DIY Modern Dresser Frame

After both sides were dry, I assembled the rest of the frame using dowels and glue.  I drilled what seemed like a million dowel holes into the side panels and the supports that will go between them.  You can also use pocket holes and screws instead if you prefer.

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Then I glued it all together.  Because my work bench was so tall already, I grabbed a ladder for this part to help me reach.

Shara Placing dresser frame supports onto side panel--using dowels and wood glue to assemble
Shara installing side panel onto dresser frame on top of workbench--using wood glue and dowels to assemble

Also, if you aren’t working in rainboots, you’re missing out.  There’s something about the foot sweat mixed with sawdust HA!

Shara on ladder clamping dresser frame together

Okay, so once the dresser was clamped tight, I let the glue dry completely and came back the next day…without my boots 🙂

Step 3: Install Dresser Drawer Divider

Since the top two drawers were split in the middle, I needed some sort of divider to mount the inside slides onto.  So, I cut some scrap plywood strips (or 1x3s work good here, too), a scrap 2×2 block, and a piece to use as a spacer. 

Shara installing 2x2 top frame block to add drawer divider into dresser frame

I drilled pocket holes into the ends of the plywood and 2×2 and started installing into the dresser.  I centered the 2×2 in the top of the frame and used a 6″ spacer block to help me install the plywood strips 6” down from the top piece.  Because the drawer fronts are inset, I made sure the front piece was inset as well so the drawer front will cover it.

Shara Woodshop Diaries installing scrap plywood pieces to use as dresser drawer divider

I cut another scrap piece of plywood to place between the 2×2 and the plywood strips.  This piece had to be perfectly centered because this is where I will mount the slides.  If it’s installed off center or off square, it’ll screw up the drawers.  So I double and triple checked it was centered and installed using wood screws through the top 2×2 and bottom plywood strips like shown here.

Screwing middle dresser drawer divider into place

Step 4: Install Dresser Drawer Slides

Now I could install the slides.  I used 5 pair of 16” ball bearing slides for this dresser (NOTE: I buy these in a ten pack because they’re cheaper that way…it never hurts to have some extras on hand for the next project).  I installed them so that they would allow for the inset drawer fronts.  I won’t go into detail here because I’ve got a super detailed post I’ll link below for how to build drawers and install slides here.

Shara installing ball bearing drawer slides into dresser frame

At this point, all that’s left is the drawers and the top.

Step 5: Build and Install Dresser Drawer Boxes

Let’s go with the drawers first.  I cut down all my drawer box pieces from a ¾” sheet of plywood.  I’ve got a video about how I cut down my plywood sheets if you want more details on that. 

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Then I cut my pieces down to size and cut a ¼” dado to place the bottom.  Check out the plans for exact dimensions for these drawers and check out my drawer building guide for details on how to build and install drawer boxes. You can skip the dadoes and simply staple the bottom on if you prefer.

Shara installing plywood drawer bottom into dresser drawer box

I assemble my drawer boxes with pocket holes and screws, so I drilled pocket holes and began putting the boxes together. 

Using pocket holes and screws to assemble dresser drawer box

Step 6: Install Drawer Boxes into Dresser Frame

Once I had all five drawers built, I installed them into the dresser frame.  I typically start at the bottom so I can use spacer blocks to install the drawers above it.  But it’s challenging installing a large bottom drawer with only two hands.  So I used my foot and shin as an additional support. 

Shara installing bottom dresser drawer into dresser frame using foot as support to hold drawer

Once the bottom was in, I could work my way up using scrap blocks to space them out.

Screwing drawer slides into top drawer box side on 5 drawer dresser
all 5 drawers installed on 5 drawer dresser

Step 7: Attach Dresser Drawer Fronts

I installed the drawer fronts the same way…working from the bottom up.  There are a lot of tricks to evenly space drawer fronts, but I’ll be honest…I just eyeball it.  So I held the bottom front up where it looked right (about 1/8″ gap on the sides), and screwed it in from the inside of the drawer.  Then I did the same all the way up leaving about 1/8″ space between drawer fronts.

Screwing drawer front onto drawer box from inside to hide the screws

At the top, I measured the space and ripped a board to the correct width to use as the top drawer front. Plans are great, but it’s always good practice to cut to fit pieces and just use plans as a loose guide.

Test fitting top drawer fronts in place in dresser frame

I cut it in two and installed the same way using screws from the inside of the drawer box. 

5 drawer dresser with all drawer fronts installed

Step 8: Attach the Dresser Top

One little detail I added on my matching nightstand was a small rabbet along the top of the frame so that it looks like the top if kind of “floating” on the frame.  It’s a subtle detail, but it’s easy to add.  So I installed a rabbeting bit into my router and ran it along the top of the frame.

Using rabbeting bit in router to add small "floating" detail to top of dresser frame

Now, I could add the top.  I glued up a top panel that would be the exact same size as the frame—so no overhang. 

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Once the glue was dry and it was sanded down, I was ready to install it.  And here’s a disclaimer. I’m fully aware this isn’t technically the correct way to install a top like this.  I’m aware of the potential for splits and cracks as the wood moves.

Shara applying wood glue to top of dresser frame

However, I simply glued the top onto the frame.  If you’re concerned about it, you can definitely use figure 8 tabs or attach however makes you feel more comfortable.  But, I’ve used this method on my two year old nightstands and my current dining table—both about two years old and haven’t had even the hint of a crack or split.  So I’m okay with taking my chances. 

Placing dresser top on dresser frame

The beauty of building things yourself is that you can build it however works best for you.  And you’re allowed to take the chances you want to take.

Clamping top onto frame while glue dries

Step 9: Finish Dresser and Install Hardware

Once the glue was dry, I gave it a quick final sanding and finished it off with this Walrus Oil Furniture Butter.  I stuck the dresser in the sun while I was finishing it up because the poplar was a little green and the sun turns it more brown and gives it a warmer tone.  

Walrus Oil Furniture butter container

I installed these simple modern handles because I felt like they matched the vibe I was going for here. (PSST…I used these same handles on this Modern Console Cabinet and they looked AMAZING!) And I stepped back and admired the dresser I’ve waited two years to build.

Close up of handles on 5 drawer dresser finished

Note that this dresser IS TOP HEAVY…It’s HIGHLY recommended to anchor it to the wall. If you pull the drawers out at the same time, it’ll definitely fall forward.

Shara looking into top drawer of finished Modern poplar dresser

I can now say that I’ve build a complete set—the bed, nightstand, and 5 drawer dresser.  I’ve got one final piece to add to the collection next week, so be sure to stay tuned, and subscribe below so you don’t miss it. 

Overall view of entire poplar Modern dresser

If you’re interested in exact dimensions for this 5 drawer dresser project, be sure to grab the plans available here. And if you enjoyed this project, I’d love if you’d pin this for later.

How to Build a Modern Dresser Pinterest collage image with 3d graphic and Shara Woodshop Diaries opening dresser drawer

Until next time, happy building 😉

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