If you’re like most people, the terms sideboard, buffet, and credenza may be interchangeable and bring to mind the same image: a counter-height, stand-alone piece of furniture with shelves, drawers, or doors to store or display fine china or keepsakes. While this image is an accurate description of a sideboard, buffet, or credenza, there are slight differences among them. We dug in to identify each piece’s distinguishing attributes and, more importantly, how to choose one that serves your function and needs.
Buffets, sideboards, and credenzas are distinguishable in two ways. The first is based on their type of legs or lack thereof. Sideboards and credenzas, in general, have short legs, or none at all. Buffets, however, usually have longer legs. The second distinction is based on where the piece of furniture is located in the home. Buffets are used exclusively in a dining room, while sideboards and credenzas can be used in living rooms, hallways, kitchens, and even bedrooms.
Here we’ll identify the commonalities of these useful furniture pieces. Then we’ll explore each piece in greater depth to determine which one is the best choice for you. Plus, we’ll answer the common questions savvy homeowners ask when considering purchasing a sideboard, buffet, or credenza. Keep reading to make an informed decision.
The Similarities: Buffets, Sideboards, And Credenzas
All three of these important furniture pieces share certain characteristics. Sideboards, buffets, and credenzas are similar in that they are usually constructed as separate pieces that can be moved for easy placement or rearrangement. All have some shelves, doors, or drawers for storage, most likely for things related to serving meals, especially in traditional settings. Lastly, sideboards, buffets, and credenzas are similar in shape, size, and height.
A buffet, traditionally a solid, wood piece of furniture with ornate carvings, originated in England and was used for setting out the food for a meal. Over the years, and especially for the less elite, food for meals was set on the table, as we do today.
Meanwhile, shelves, doors, and drawers were added, and a buffet became the perfect place to store dining-related items such as napkins, tablecloths, table runners, silverware, and fine china.
Today’s buffets come in configurations of all kinds. Some have only shelves and others, only drawers. If there is a cabinet-type door, it could have a glass pane or not. And the placement of these compartments can be in any arrangement.
As with the buffet’s storage compartments, the legs of a buffet can be of any variation. Some people define a buffet as having taller and narrower legs. In today’s wide selection of dining pieces, you’ll find that the leg length, or lack thereof, is really a matter of taste and style.
A buffets’ height generally runs between 30″-36″. Designers with a keen eye for details recommend that the buffet be slightly higher than the dining table’s height. What matters most is that when people are standing in front of a buffet, they can easily and comfortably reach for the items they need.
Finally, the most defining characteristic of a buffet is that it is designed for and used in dining room settings only.
Can You Use A Dresser As A Buffet?
Yes, you can, and you wouldn’t be the only one to do so. There are, however, a few tips for pulling off a dresser to buffet transformation. Not all dressers are suitable to be a buffet, primarily due to height. A buffet ideally is counter height and at least, if not a bit taller, than your dining room table.
Many designers agree that the use of a dresser as a buffet is a practical and decorative solution. You can easily paint dressers to achieve a vintage, shabby chic style. Alternately, you can paint a dresser any solid color to coordinate with your dining area. Switching out handles and hardware can make a dresser look more like a buffet as well.
It is generally accepted that buffets and sideboards are the same things if they are located in a dining room. They can share the same functions, especially holding table linens, fine silverware, and china. However, once this type of furniture is used somewhere else in the house, it becomes a sideboard in the living room, hallway, or kitchen.
Sideboards, since they can be used anywhere, are incredibly versatile and useful. It can be a decorative piece in a living room to balance out the room. Display keepsakes, photos, vases, lamps, candles, and such on the tabletop-like surface as well. A sideboard adds space in an entry for flowers or a spot to place your coffee as you’re getting ready to run out the door. You can even make it a permanent location to hold your keys, wallet, or phone.
What Do You Store On A Sideboard?
Considering all the places throughout your home where you can put a sideboard, it is the perfect storage solution for nearly anything you’d like. Many people, especially when working from home, use a sideboard to hold office supplies, such as pens, paper, staples, tape, and, of course, files of paperwork or bills.
A sideboard can serve as a linen “closet,” holding towels, sheets, and blankets in a hallway near the bathroom and bedrooms. When you need a place to store seldomly used cookware or appliances, a sideboard in the kitchen is the perfect solution.
Does A Sideboard Have To Match The Table?
No, a sideboard, or a buffet for that matter, does not have to match the table, though it certainly can, especially if you’d like to minimize your worry about perfect matches. But if you’re adding a sideboard to your dining area, look for a neutral-colored sideboard or paint one in a color that will contrast nicely with the rest of your room.
Or feel free to mix and match your table and sideboard in terms of color or material. Creating an eclectic style is always an option. The only caveat is to avoid obvious clashing of styles, such as pairing an extremely formal dining room table and chairs with a country farmhouse-style sideboard made out of unfinished wooden planks!
Credenzas, historically speaking, have a slightly different origination story. In the 1400’s they were used not to offer a meal but as the place to put food that had to be tested for poison before it was served to royalty. With their long and slightly lower design, credenzas share the cabinetry-style similar to buffets.
Like sideboards, credenzas typically have very short legs or none at all. They’re also often characterized by having sliding doors instead of the standard drawers of a buffet or sideboard. Credenzas are as versatile as they are functional and can be used in any room in your home.
What Do You Store On A Credenza?
A credenza can store typical tableware in a dining room. Depending on its style, it is an ideal place to display fine china, crystal, and silver. For living rooms, a credenza is often used as an entertainment stand where TVs, books, plants, and decorations become a focal point.
It is not uncommon for a credenza to be used as a bar cabinet, storing bottles and drinkware. In offices, credenzas are ideal for keeping files and supplies out of sight. Even in bedrooms, credenzas can be used as a dresser, dressing table, or storage for sheets and blankets.
How To Choose A Buffet, Sideboard, or Credenza
Now that you know how these items are different, you’re one step closer to choosing the right one for you. Here are the most important things to consider when choosing a buffet, sideboard, or credenza:
Where in your home will you place this important piece of furniture? If it’s your dining room, your options are wide open. If you need storage, a table, a bookshelf, or a dresser in any of your other rooms, look for sideboards or credenzas.
How do you intend to use this important piece of furniture? If you are primarily looking to display formal decorations, a credenza with sliding glass doors may be what you need.
What do you need in terms of storage? If it’s dining ware, make sure your linens, dishes, silverware, and accessories will fit into whatever you choose. The same applies to other items you are hoping to keep out of sight.
Keep in mind that sideboards and credenzas in a living room or play area are great options for storing toys, art supplies, magazines, and books.
Measure your space! Think about where you will place this buffet, sideboard, or credenza and measure the available space. Remember that there should be at least 24″ between furniture pieces for comfortable spacing and traffic flow.
Now that you know the small differences defining a buffet, a sideboard, and a credenza, you can feel confident that you will find the exact furniture piece to fit your home needs. Be sure to check out What Furniture Should Be In A Dining Room? (5 Must-Have Items) or Where To Place A Console Table (7 Locations Explored).