If you're hearing the word "sideboard" thrown around a lot lately and have no idea what it is, do not feel ashamed. There are very legitimate reasons for this gap in your dining room furniture knowledge. First of all, you may know of sideboards as their other common names: credenza or buffet. Secondly, you may have an air of youth about you ... as in, you weren't around in the 1970s when a dining room sideboard was a must-have. Decades later, the sideboard's starring role as the dining room item that marries fashion and function has inevitably returned it to the must-have category.
What is a sideboard?
A typical sideboard stands a little higher than a dining room table and features a flat display-top surface (like a table). The base often looks like a long, low chest of drawers, but can vary to include wine racks or shelves for cookbooks.
The original sideboard was designed to be a one-stop-shop when preparing for mealtimes. It was a place to store all the tableware needed-such as cutlery, crockery, napkins, table linens, candlesticks and glasses-in close proximity to the dining room table.
In addition to being used for functional storage solutions, nowadays sideboards are often the stand-out item that adds character to dining room décor. But don't assume that sideboards are a dining-room-only piece. A sideboard's long, lean look makes it a natural low partition between living room or kitchen and dining areas.
On the practical front, a sideboard's flat top lends itself to a variety of uses, such as a drinks bar or buffet table for social gatherings. Alternately, at a more formal sit-down meal, its best use is as an area to place food before serving.
In choosing the right sideboard for your dining room, make sure you've measured the space you're putting it in. You'll need to leave room for people to get past, as well as room to open the cupboard doors. If space is tight, consider sliding doors or doors that open upwards.
What's the main purpose your sideboard will serve? If it's as a place to serve food, make sure you get a sideboard with a tabletop at a convenient working height. There is bound to be splashing when carving and serving food, so the top will need to be made of a robust material. If your sideboard is mainly a storage space, think about what you want to store-from wine to glassware to cutlery-and what kind of shelving you'll need to accommodate your needs.