Many dining rooms and kitchens benefit from a little extra serving and storage space. A beautiful spot for accent décor and storage on a daily basis becomes essential entertainer’s serving space for holiday get-togethers and dinner parties. When you are hosting, sideboards provide an indispensable place to set up hors d’oeuvres, serve dinner buffet style, have a place to stage the next or previous dinner course, place large serving platters after they’ve been passed around the table, or as a dry bar area for drink service.
But what’s what in the world of these long and low dining room accompaniments? The terms tend to be used interchangeably, and can vary depending on the furniture manufacturer, but in general and historically here is what is intended by the different terms for these treasured dining room work horses:
Sideboard is currently the most popular name for this furniture grouping. First found in England, sideboards have short or no legs, in some cases the cabinets rest on the floor. Buffets, a term originating with Swedish smorgasbords, can be the same as sideboards, however if the legs are a bit longer it is more likely to be called a buffet. To make things even more confusing, sometimes the same exact piece of low, long storage furniture can be called a sideboard when used in the living room, and buffet when used in the dining room. Servers tend to be the more petite, more formal version. They might have less storage space and longer legs than their bigger counterparts. Credenza is yet another term used for this same category. This term originated in Italy as the place food was set to be pre-tasted, screening for poison before serving to a VIP. Today, the term credenza is also used for office storage furniture. Occasionally any of these pieces can be simply referred to as cabinets or consoles as well.
Add a glass-doored hutch to the top of a sideboard or buffet and you have a china cabinet. Some china cabinets are all one piece, but many manufactures offer them in two pieces for convenience and flexibility. By adding a china cabinet hutch, you gain display and storage space, but you lose counter-top serving area.
A curio is narrower than a china cabinet, with glass cabinet doors for displaying items.
No matter what you call it or in which room you chose to use it, when shopping for servers, sideboards, buffets and credenzas consider these factors:
Should coordinate with or match dining room furniture. You don’t want a dining table and chairs in a traditional style and a sleek, modern buffet. But they do not have to match exactly, see the photo at the top of this article for an example of a coordinating server.
Think about your needs, these storage pieces come with varying amounts of storage in drawer space, cabinet space, open shelving and some offer slots for wine or stemware storage.
Consider which items you might want to display verses what you’ll want to tuck away unseen. Glass front china cabinets and open shelving are beautiful, but will look cluttered and messy if you try to stow too much in them or have or oddly sized dishware stacked within them.
Remember that your needs might change over the years, be sure there is room to accommodate different sized items that you might acquire in the future.
Look for quality pieces of furniture that will be sturdy and last. As with dressers, you’ll want to look for solid wood frames and drawers with dovetail construction.