Madison Dresser

We all have favorites.  Lets not even pretend like we don’t.  And this dresser is my favorite piece I’ve ever made.  Ever.  Even better than Napoleon who was the reigning champion for a really long time.  Did you ever make something and then stare at it for hours on end thinking “Holy crap.  I actually made that!”?  Yeah, that’s been me for the past few days over this dresser.  Even the husband is super impressed.  He’s told me several times that it’s “the best thing I’ve ever built”, and I totally believe him.

This dresser was not easy.  Or quick.  It was incredibly challenging, and I’d like to consider myself to be a pretty proficient builder.  It took me a total of 6 1/2 days to make it, start to finish.  So, go into this warned: If you decide to build Madison for yourself, she will consume your soul for a long time.  This is not a weekend build, friends.  This is a please-let-me-out-of-work-early-so-I-can-keep-working-on-my-dresser build.

In order to make this a little easier for you guys to build, I’ve included some “helpful hints” and additional pictures in the project plan to help you ensure accurate placement.  When I build, I can usually hear myself saying things in my head like, “meh, that looks like about a 1/4″.  Good enough.”  Not with this project.  To make this plan work, numbers have to be exact or else you’re going to have some really weird drawers.  But, trust me, it’s SO worth it.

Lets go into some details, shall we?

First off, I have a mild obsession with hardware.  I feel that it’s the jewelry of a piece – kind of like back splash in a kitchen.  So, I splurged a little bit for Madison.  (She’s such a pretty girl, I couldn’t resist.)  I used Anthropology’s Gardening Indoors knobs in Aqua, to give it that extra “bling” that it needed.

I couldn’t find the perfect “slightly” antique white that I wanted, so I actually hand painted this piece.  Let me just say, I never do that.  But this was an an exception.  (Man, I really need to invest in a good paint sprayer.)  Anyway, I finished with two coats of Valspar’s Polar White in semi-gloss, purchased at Lowes.  I also primed with Killz Odorless Spray Primer.

I tried a new technique with the drawers this time.  Instead of using actual drawer slides, I used 1×2 boards that sit on top of each other and slide.  After using it for a few days, it’s been working out just fine!  If you want to use actual drawer slides instead, just build your drawers a bit wider, Making them 27 1/8″ wide to accommodate your slides.

I figure that I should also explain the artwork sitting on the dresser in the opening shot since all you can see is a dude getting eaten by a shark.  Yikes.  It’s a limited edition print by one of my favorite artists, Shag, called “Watson and the Shark”.  It was my 1st anniversary gift from my husband.  (First anniversary = paper.  Such a smart boy.)

Oh, yeah, and then there’s Hooter.  (Anyone get the Captain EO reference?  Even though their Hooter is an elephant…)  I’m going through a pretty serious owl phase right now, and when I spotted him at West Elm on sale a few weeks ago I knew he had to be mine.  I went in for shower curtains, and I came out with Hooter.  Isn’t that always how it goes?

I’ll give you guys a few more detail shots when I get into the moulding in the building plan.  Without further adieu, here are the project plans for the Madison Dresser based on PB Teen’s Chelsea Wide Dresser.

Estimated Cost: $250


Dimensions as shown above.

Shopping List:


14 – 1×2 @ 8 feet long
1 – 1×3 @ 10 feet long
1 – 1×4 @ 4 feet long
8 – 1×8 @ 8 feet long
3 – 2×2 @ 8 feet long
1 – 2×3 @ 8 feet long
1 – 2×4 @ 8 feet long
1 – Sheet of 3/4″ Plywood
1 – Sheet of 1/2″ Plywood
1 – Sheet of 1/4″ Plywood

Hardware and Supplies:

12 – knobs or pulls
1″ Pocket Hole Screws
1 1/4″ Pocket Hole Screws
2 1/2″ Pocket Hole Screws
2 1/2″ Screws
5/8″ Finishing Nails
1 1/4″ Finishing Nails
Wood Glue
Wood Filler
Medium Grit Sandpaper
Primer or Wood Conditioner
Paint or Stain


Kreg Jig
Miter Saw
Table Saw
Countersink Bit
Finishing Nailer
Measuring Tape
Carpenter’s Square
Safety Glasses

Cut List:


8 – 1×2 @ 28 1/8″ – Center Drawer Divider
1 – 1×2 @ 27″ – Center Drawer Support (back)
1 – 1×2 @ 26 1/4″ – Center Drawer Support (front)
12 – 1×2 @ 23 1/4″ – Drawer Slide (attached to dresser)
12 – 1×2 @ 22 1/2″ – Drawer Slide (attached to drawer)
12 – 1×2 @ 8″ – Drawer Trim (sides)
12 – 1×2 @ 24 7/8″ – Drawer Trim (top/bottom)
2 – 1×2 @ 21″ – Side Trim (bottom)
1 – 1×3 @ 62″ – Dresser Top (front)
2 – 1×3 @ 22 3/4″ – Dresser Top (sides)
2 – 1×4 @ 21″ – Side Trim (top)
3 – 1×8 @ 21″ – Drawer Divider
12 – 1×8 @ 26 3/8″ – Drawer Front/Back
12 – 1×8 @ 21″ – Drawer Side
1 – 2×2 @ 4″ – Center Leg
2 – 2×2 @ 57″ – Front/Back Bottom Divider
1 – 2×3 @ 57″ – Back Top Divider
1 – 2×4 RIPPED TO 3 1/4″ WIDE @ 57″ – Front Top Divider


1 – 1/4″ PLY @ 60″ x 31″ – Dresser Back
6 – 1/2″ PLY @ 24 7/8″ x 21″ – Drawer Bottoms
1 – 3/4″ PLY @ 60″ x 24 1/4″ – Dresser Bottom
1 – 3/4″ PLY @ 57″ x 22 3/4″ – Dresser Top
2 – 3/4″ PLY @ 31″ x 21″ – Dresser Sides

Step 1:

1/2" Plywood Cuts

3/4" Plywood Cuts

See above diagrams for how to break down your plywood.  If you have a small car like me, ask your hardware store to make the horizontal cuts notated above, and then you can take the skinnier pieces home and make the rest of your cuts.  The 1/4″ plywood back is pretty self explanatory as it’s only one cut, so I didn’t include a diagram for that one.

Step 2:

Attach your top and bottom trim to the dresser sides using 1 1/4″ finishing nails and wood glue.You should also pre-drill pocket holes in the center of the top of your plywood to prepare for the last step when you screw in your top.

Step 3:

Attach your 2×2 sides using your Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.  Don’t forget the wood glue!

Step 4:

Attach your top/bottom dividers to the the side pieces that you just made using your Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ screws.  You should also pre-drill pocket holes in the center of your top divider to prepare for the last step when you screw in your top.

In order to make sure that the space in between your top/bottom dividers is exact, I also cut the center divider piece during this step.  While screwing in the top/bottom pieces, I clamped the center divider to use as a temporary “spacer” in between them to assure that the center gap on the right side was going to be exactly the same as it was on the left side.

Step 5:

Attach the front center divider to the top/bottom dividers using your Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ screws.  There is a 28 1/8 gap on either side of your center divider.

Here’s another step where I pre-cut a few more boards to ensure accuracy.  Use your drawer dividers as temporary spacers and placement holders for your center divider.  This way, you make sure that it’s definitely in the right place and you don’t have any weirdly spaced drawers later on.

Step 6:

Repeat steps 4 and 5 on the back side.  Keep in mind that your center divider is a little bit longer because your top divider is a 2×3 instead of a ripped down 2×4.  (I did this to keep the board-ripping to a minimum.  You can use the same measurements and boards as the front side if you’d like, but this is easier.)

Step 7:

Add your 1×2 drawer dividers to both the front and back sides of your dresser using a Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.  They should be 8 1/4″ apart.

A handy tip on this one: make an 8 1/4″ spacer for your drawers out of a scrap 1×2.  Trust me, this will save you a TON of measuring and will insure that your drawers are evenly separated.  I started out using the spacer between the bottom divider and the first drawer divider from the bottom, putting the spacer in between them along the sides, and then worked my way up to do the top drawer divider once the lower one was screwed into place.


Step 8:

Attach your center supports to the center divider using your Kreg Jig and 1 1/4″ screws.  To place them, the bottom of your 1×8 should be even with the top of the drawer dividers.  (Since you used the spacer in the last step, your gaps should be perfectly measured and this step will go seamlessly.)

Step 9:

Place your drawer “slide” 1x2s on top of your drawer dividers.  In an ideal world, the back of the 1×2 should be flush with the back drawer divider.  In the front, you need to leave a 3/4″ gap on the front between the front of the “slide” and the front of the drawer divider.  Here’s how to make this easy:

Use your spacer that you created in step 7 as a place holder for what will be your front trim.  Line it up flush with the front of your drawer divider and your “slide” will fit in right behind it.  Clamp it into place.

Now, when you remove your spacer piece, you will have a perfect 3/4″ gap and are ready to screw in your slides by countersinking 1 1/4 screws into your center supports.  (If you pre-drill your holes before you place them into the dresser, it makes your life a lot easier.  Otherwise you’ll probably feel like you’re playing Twister with the dresser trying to drill them from the inside.)

Step 10:

Attach the bottom of your dresser to your the by countersinking 1 1/4″ screws into the base.  Make sure to use wood glue!  When placing it, the front of the bottom piece will be flush with the front of your frame, and there will be a 1/4″ overhang from the bottom on the back.  (This is to make room for your 1/4″ plywood back in later steps.)

Step 11:

Attach your bun feet to the bottom of your dresser as per the manufacturer’s instructions.  Mine had a screw at the top of them, so I pre-drilled a hole of the same size into the bottom of the dresser and screwed in the feet.  My feet are placed 2 1/2″ from each of the 2 sides.  For example, for the front left foot, my foot is 2 1/2″ from the front and 2 1/2″ from the left side.  Here is a close up of my feet so you can see what I mean about the screw top.

At this time, you also want to put in a center foot.  This will give your dresser a great deal of additional support.  Your center foot should be the same height as your feet.  So, since my feet were 4″ tall, my 2×2 center foot was also 4″ tall.  I attached it to the bottom center of the dresser using my Kreg Jig.

Step 12:

Attach the plywood back to your dresser using 1 1/4″ nails and wood glue.  The plywood bottom should now be even with the back as you left a slight overhang in step 10.

Step 13:

Build your drawers as shown above using your Kreg Jig.  In addition to the pocket holes that you drill onto hold the sides together, I put also pocket holes into the bottom of my 1/2″ plywood to add additional strength.  The plywood bottom is inset into your 1x8s.  You will need 6 drawers total.

Step 14:

Attach your drawer side “slides” onto your drawers by countersinking 1 1/4″ screws into your slides.  They should sit 1 1/8″ from the bottom of your drawer.  Repeat for all of your drawers.

Step 15:

After those really time consuming steps, here’s an easy one.  Slide all of your drawers into place.  The slides that you attached to your drawers should rest on top of the slides that you screwed into your dresser base.  They should very easily slide in and out.  Make sure that the front of your “slides” are flush with each other.  This is very important as you add your trim in the next step.

Step 16:

Attach your 1×2 drawer trim to your drawers using 1 1/4″ finishing nails and wood glue.  There should be a 1/8″ gap on all sides between your drawer trim and the frame of your dresser.  The easiest way to ensure accurate placement is to place a 1/8″ shim in between your dresser base and your trim as you nail it in.  This may seem obvious, but make sure that your nails don’t go through your drawer slides.  They should be placed along the inner rim of your trim.

Step 17:

Assemble the top before placing it onto your dresser.  I drilled pocket holes into the bottom of the plywood and screwed my 1×3 sides and front into them.  Once you have the top put together. rest it on the top of your dresser base, leaving a 1″ overhang on the sides and front.  (It will be flush with the back.)  Take out your top 2 drawers temporarily and screw your top into the pre-drilled pocket holes from the inside that you made in earlier steps.


This step is easier explained with pictures.  Here is an overall shot of how the moulding is added to the dresser.

Make sure that you don’t cut any of your moulding until you’re finished building your dresser.  In fact, I didn’t supply any measurements as it should be “cut to fit” your piece.  If your angles aren’t 100% correct all the time, that’s okay.  Wood filler and caulk go a long way.  But, they should at least be close for that trick to work.  (If it makes you feel any better, I had to buy an extra piece of cap moulding after I screwed up.  Several times.  Oops.)  Your moulding should attach to your dresser and drawers using finishing nails and wood glue.  Do not skimp on the wood glue.  Your moulding will never stay on, no matter how many nails you use.  Also, make sure you miter those corners!

Start out by lining the bottom of your dresser with cap moulding as shown in the above picture.  It should slide perfectly into the bottom along the edge.

I used the same cap moulding along the inside edge of my drawers around the 1×2 trim.  I mitered the corners so that they all fit together in a perfect square.

The top moulding is a bit deceptive.  The casing will fit directly underneath the lip of your dresser’s top.  This is optional, but to bulk it up I added half round around the top of the dresser edge.


Finish your project as desired.  Make sure to sand it down with medium grit sand paper and fill in all your holes with wood filler before tackling that paint or stain.  For more tips on finishing, visit The Lazy Girl’s Guide to Finishing.


Filed under Building Plans

49 Responses to Madison Dresser

  1. Serena

    WOW! You outdid yourself. This is stunning!

  2. wes

    This is very impressive you did a fantastic job.

  3. Oh my goodness this is gorgeous! You did an amazing job (as always!), the soul consuming length of this project was clearly worth it! Thanks for sharing yet another fabulous plan :)

  4. Patty

    Excellent job! I love it.

  5. Mindi

    I am SO SO impressed. I have been learning to build and am making the narrow cottage end tables from Ana’s site. I LOVE this dresser and humor myself that maybe someday (far in the future) I could tackle such a project! Thank you for the plans! I am truly awed and inspired! Also thanks for posting on Ana’s site so I could find your blog, I can’ wait to explore it!

    • Thanks so much, Mindi! And, thanks for reading! I can’t wait to see your brag post on Ana’s site of the cottage end tables – I love that plan of hers!

  6. Jennifer

    O…….M……G.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THIS IS BEYOND BEAUTIFUL!!! i am completely speechless….. wow!! incredible job…. i love it!! thank you for sharing… can you pls share the cuts for the molding on the dresser drawers and top molding?? I am sooo goin to show this to my husband to make for the girls!! thanks sweety!! again AMAZING !!!

  7. You can use paste wax or Mohawk’s Slideez (#M750-1205) on the drawer runners to prevent binding after continued use. It is common practice to use wax on wooden drawer slides to prevent the formation of wood resins on the areas experiencing lateral friction.


  8. Gorgeous! Beautiful dresser and the finish is amazing!

    • Thanks so much, Brook! I just hopped over to your blog – I’m loving your stenciled bookcase! Stunning! Such a great idea to lightly sand over the stencil to give it more texture.

  9. Beautiful! I’m planning a dresser build soon and I love your drawer slides! I’ve had enough cheap furniture in my lifetime to know I HATE eurosliders; I like how simple yours are. Ingenius! love the knobs too, they are right up my alley!

  10. DeeAnn

    This is beautiful! You did an amazing job! Thanks for sharing the plans. Do you have any idea of an approximate cost?

  11. Hi Shane, This is gorgeous!! I am getting ready to build out our double walk in closet and even though I can build drawers with slides, with 20 drawers in my plan, I would love to find a simpler way for this project. Would you recommend this method (please say yes!) It would make the build out a breeze since the rest are just boxes and shelves.

    • Hi Susan! I would totally recommend doing drawers this way again… particularly with so many for you to do. If you want to make them slide a little easier, try putting some wax on the bottom or reading some of the other suggestions in this comments page to make the wood slides even better. But, I’ve been using the dresser every day for about a month now, and so far so good!

      • Yea to you, Shane!! I just posted a picture on Ana’s Facebook page of wall 1 in my master closet using the wooden slides. Thanks so much – the drawers look beautiful and work so well – you made my life a lot easier! Just 5 more walls to go… Building is so much fun!

  12. Neil

    Hi Shane, I am in the process of building a dresser based on your plans. After weeks of shopping for a dresser for my 2 year old daughter’s “big girl” room, I finally convinced my wife that it would be both cheaper, and something that lasts longer, if I built it myself. This is my first attempt at building any kind of furniture (unless you count the bar I built in my basement), though I must say I am fairly handy, so I am finding things pretty easy to follow, and I greatly appreciate you doing all the thinking for me, so I can just cut, drill and screw. (Also gave me an excuse to buy a Kreg Jig, which I’d had my eye on for a while)

    I have noticed one thing, though. Since we are just using pieces of wood on top of one another, as slides, there is nothing to keep the back of the drawer held down, when you pull it out. What I mean is that, when I slide the drawer out, about half way, it tips forward, and would fall, if I were not holding onto it. Since my daughter is only 2, and will be using this, I want to make sure the drawers will not fall out on her, so I’m planning to simply make a “top rail”, of sorts, just using another piece of 1×2, so that basically, the slide on the drawer, will be sandwiched between two slides attached to the dresser. This should keep the drawer from tipping forward.

    It probably is not needed by many people, unless you are building for a child like me, but I’m also going to rig something up, to keep the drawer from being pulled out of the dresser, unless you activate a release. I’m probably going to just use a standard child latch, like you would use on cabinets in the kitchen, and attach it to the underside of the drawer. You’ll have to push the little tab in to release the drawer to allow it to pull all the way out.

    Just wanted to share my modifications, and see if you, or anyone else had done something different to keep the drawers from tipping. Thanks again for the great plans!

    • Thanks for the insight, Neil! Very helpful! Please share pictures of your dresser when you’re done – I’d love to see how it turns out!

      • Neil

        I’m hoping to get the dresser done this weekend or next (It’s hard to find time to work on it, when you have a 2 1/2 year old running around, and a 7 months pregnant wife). I’ll definitely upload some pics when I get finished. Do you have a place on the site to upload pics, or do you mean to upload over at Ana’s site?

        I’m having trouble tracking down some 1/2 round in the right thickness for the edge of the top, so I’m debating using my router to either put a rounded top, or a fancier Roman Ogee edge on the dresser top. We’ll see what I decide to do.

    • Leslie

      You could also try simple $4.50 drawer stops (check Rockler website)

    • Hi Neil & Shane,

      I love this dresser and I’m getting ready to attempt it for someone. I am horrible with drawer slides, so I am loving this modification to them. I was wondering how your plan to modify the drawer slides with the top runner has worked for you Neil? Sounds like it would work just fine, but since I’m doing this piece for someone else I just want to make sure I make it nice and easy for them to use without having the ‘builder’s’ insight on how to work the drawers.

      Really beautiful dresser! I’m coming over from Ana’s site and have a feeling I’ll have lots of fun browsing over here :) Thanks guys!
      < Tamara :0)
      AKA- Exuma_Momma

      • Neil

        The top slides work great. I actually had some scrap plywood laying around, so I just ripped it down to 1 1/2 inches wide, then cut it a few inches shorter than the bottom slides (to make putting the drawer in and taking it out a little easier). To place it, I just layed a scrap 1×2 on top of the bottom slide, and placed the top rail on top of that. Before I screwed it down, I just lifted it up a little to make a small gap, maybe 1/8″, between the top slide and the scrap 1×2. Don’t want it too snug!

        One word of advice. Do not paint the bottom of the slides attached to the drawer. I left the inside of the dresser unpainted, but the wife helped me paint the drawers, including the slides. Paint does not slide so well… I ended up sanding the bottom of the slides back down afterwards to get the drawers opening and closing smoothly. It was a pain.

        Good luck with yours! Maybe one of these days I’ll get around to uploading pictures of mine!

  13. Margaret

    Can I ask what the out of pocket was for this project? ballpark?

  14. Mark

    What type of wood are you using for this (dimensional and plywood)? I can’t wait to start this project!

    • Hi Mark! I used pine boards and Pure Bond plywood. I usually prefer the birch veneer on the plywood, but that’s personal preference because I think it’s a beautiful texture. Since I painted, it really wouldn’t matter :-) .

      • Mark

        Thanks for the response! I can’t seem to find 2×2, 2×3 boards at HD or Lowes or my Local Yard that are furniture quality. I can find 2×4 pine for construction but they don’t look ideal for furniture. They are typically all warped and badly knotted and have rounded edges. Can you explain what you are doing for those boards (possibly ripping them from 2x4s?)? Also, for your standard boards (1 x *), are you using something similar to the radiata pine (knot-free) at HD or the white wood at Lowes or is it just standard Pine?

  15. Doug Harwood

    Hi Shane,

    I just finished a rococo bookcase for my granddaughter, to match her bedroom suite. I really had to “girlie” it up. Ha! My daughter had put in an order for a dresser and I stumble upon your site and this project. Excellent project and the plans will really help a lot. I generally build “Shaker” reproduction pieces with traditional joinery, but your project is spot on. I, unlike you like the finishing process, and have been tasked to produce an antique, distressed white. I will try to send you a photo upon completion. Again, I’ve been building many years and this is an excellent piece. Please be safe with the power tools.


    • Hi Doug! Thank you so much for the compliments – it sounds like a great dresser for your granddaughter! I’m sure she loved her bookcase and will treasure it even more as she gets older. Best of luck as you get started!

  16. benito

    Shane – I really like this dresser and would like to build it as a custom dbl sink vanity. Do you have any suggestions on how I could modify your cut sheet and plan to reduce the depth and increase the height?

    • Hi Benito! Great idea – the dresser would be really pretty as a double sink vanity! You will have to modify the drawers a bit to allow for plumbing… keep that in mind as you’re building. The center drawers will have to be less deep, and I would make sure that the top drawers are replaced with a fake drawer front. So that you can play around with the depth and height and make it match the dimensions that you need, I’ve uploaded the model to the Google Warehouse. Just do a search for “Madison Dresser” and it should come right up. Good luck with your build!

    • Senicola

      Did you end up modifying the plans? I am planning to make this into a double vanity too and am in the planning stages. I would love to see a picture! Thanks!

  17. Brian

    Hi there, a silly question for you. When you built the drawers you said the plywood bottoms were inset into the drawer. How did you do this? Did you have to dado in a groove and slide it in? I’m unsure on how it was fastened. Any help would be great ! Thanks!

    • Hi Brian! Not a silly question at all :-) . What I meant by saying that it is “inset” is that the box is built around the plywood bottom rather than having the plywood attached on the outside of the bottom. When I make drawers to be used with bottom mount drawer slides, I simply nail 1/4″ plywood to the bottom of the outside box as the bottom. But, in this case, since standard drawer slides weren’t used, I had to use a thicker plywood base and build the sides, back, and front around it. Does that make sense?

      • Brian

        Hi again, yes it makes sense that the sides, front and back are built around the drawer bottom, but how do you fasten it? Just nail it? Thx.

        • I used my Kreg Jig to put pocket holes into the drawer bottom from underneath. I was able to use those holes to attach it to the drawer sides, front, and back. I also “Jigged” the 4 sides together, so my drawers aren’t coming apart anytime soon! Since you’re going to have quite a bit of weight in there, I would recommend using screws rather than nails :-) .

  18. Oh my goodness. This is GORGEOUS! Just pinned it. :-)

  19. erick

    I built the maddison dresser came out awsome did a little mods to it jw how to put pics up?

    • Awesome! I’m sure the dresser looks great, Erick! I don’t have a “brag board” like Ana does, but I’d love for you to post pictures on the Old Paint Design FB page! Also, Ana is a great friend of mine, so please feel free to contribute a brag post on her site as well. Happy building!

  20. Trish

    Hey! I found your plans through Ana. So glad that I did! I now know and understand the feeling…I stare at them a lot!! I have twin girls and made them each one. I am thrilled with them and am so freakin’ proud of myself!! Thanks for the plans, I absolutely love them. I omitted the wooden drawer slides and put in some skookum heavy duty full pull out slides. Other than that, followed it to a T. Brilliant!

    Thanks again,

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