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What is a sideboard and can it work in my home?

A sideboard by any other name would be a credenza, buffet, or even a hutch. It is a piece of furniture, traditionally near the dining room table, that is used to store extra items. It may or may not have a hutch on top. Your grandparents may have called it the china hutch referring to the whole piece of furniture. Technically, a hutch is a set of shelves or cabinets placed on top of a piece of furniture, which would be — a sideboard.

Define sideboard

In the Middle Ages a sideboard was … a side board. A board placed near the table sometimes anchored to the wall or set on some sort of supports. It held extra cups and plates as well as extra food.

It evolved into a cabinet that was used to store dining linens such as tablecloths, table runners, linen napkins, and placemats as well as table service items like plates. It includes drawers and shelves covered with cabinet doors.

traditional sideboard
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That ornate set of cutlery would be stored there in a fabric-lined box. The tablecloths with the embroidered edges that came out for special occasions would be carefully folded and stored in the drawers. It contains lots of the items you need to set the perfect dinner table.

If it has legs, they are short, stubby ones.

When it isn’t in use for food service, the top is decorated with candles, special serving plates, photos, and perhaps a lamp. Items like these can be easily moved to put the sideboard back in service during dining.

It may have a hutch on top with glass doors and shelves where fine china is stored.

Credenzas and buffets

buffet is a narrow table with tall legs used for extra serving dishes. It may or may not have one narrow drawer under the top. It is decorated with small items when not in use. It doesn’t necessarily have any cabinetry. Buffets are not usually used anywhere but the dining room. 

The main difference between a buffet and a sideboard is versatility.

modern sideboard
Anna Sullivan/Unsplash

A credenza is lower than a buffet or sideboard and usually has sliding doors and no drawers. Credenzas have a more modern look and have evolved into storage in offices.

Modern sideboards

You can find them anywhere — as accent tables in an entryway or behind a couch. They can be used along a hallway. They can match your existing furniture or just be an eclectic side piece.

Since sideboards are traditionally used to hold serving dishes, they are taller than dining room tables. The standard height of a dining room table is about 28 inches and a sideboard is usually 34 inches to 38 inches tall. You are sitting at a table and eating, but standing at a taller sideboard and dishing out food is more comfortable.

The length of a sideboard is about 60 inches, which is the average length of a dining room table, although many dining room tables can be 48 inches long.

Sideboards are usually between 22 inches and 24 inches deep. And you place a sideboard, buffet, or credenza at least 24 inches from the dining room table. So if you are thinking you need that extra piece, check on your dimensions.

Since a sideboard has upper and local cabinetry, also make allowances for being able to open the cabinet doors.

Do you need a sideboard?

If you have a formal dining service and an everyday dining service, a sideboard is a nice storage option. Do you host dinners for family and friends and find yourself stacking serving dishes in the kitchen or on the counter and telling people  to go help themselves? A sideboard would be a better option than having people getting up and sitting down over and over again. That sideboard is close enough for you to reach over, pass a dish, and then put it back.

If you’re looking for a narrow, attractive piece of furniture that you can use for storage, then think about a sideboard. They work great as a storage/display option in the living room or family room. They sit flush to the wall, you don’t see what’s inside the lower cabinets, and you can display items on top.

Looking for a little lighter option? There are sideboards available that have lower shelves without doors under the drawers. Not having the cabinet doors will make the sideboard appear less hefty and that might fit into your design plans a little better.

The beauty of a sideboard, buffet, or credenza is that they add storage but take up a minimum amount of space. Granted that does limit them for some storage purposes, but they are quite versatile.

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