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Sideboard vs Buffet vs Credenza: What's The Difference?

Castlery   |   Jun 16, 2023

Sideboards, buffets, and credenzas are popular choices for dining rooms, living rooms, and even entryways.

However, many people find themselves puzzled by the differences between these terms and how they relate to the furniture they represent.

If you’re one of them, fret not! In this article, we discuss the differences between the 3 and help you find the perfect piece to enhance your home decor and storage needs.

What are sideboards, buffets, and credenzas?

Before diving into the differences, let's establish clear definitions for each term:

Sideboard: A sideboard is a long, low-storage unit typically placed against a wall. It often features cabinets, drawers, and shelves for storing tableware, linens, and other items. Sideboards were traditionally used in dining rooms to serve food and display dishes during meals - which is how it got its name: at one side of a dining room.

Buffet: Buffets are similar to sideboards in terms of design and function. They also offer storage space and a serving surface. However, the term "buffet" is often used interchangeably with "sideboard" and does not have a strict differentiation in modern usage.

Credenza: Unlike sideboards and buffets, credenzas were pieces of furniture used to hold dishes that needed to be tested for poison before serving a Lord or an important person. In modern times, credenzas can also be used to serve food or act as a stylish storage solution. Credenzas are typically larger than sideboards and buffets and are characterised by a longer length and additional storage compartments.

Understanding their differences

While sideboards, buffets, and credenzas share similarities in terms of form and function, there are subtle distinctions that set them apart.

Size and length

A wooden sideboard with an oval silhouette has a lamp, wine glasses, and some drinks on top. The Harper Sideboard fits perfectly in the corner of this home. Picture credits: @lonefoxhome

Sideboards are generally shorter and more compact, designed to fit against a wall without dominating the space. The length of a sideboard can vary, but it is generally shorter than that of a buffet or credenza.

Buffets and credenzas tend to be longer and offer more surface area for serving or display purposes. The length of a buffet is typically longer than a sideboard, providing more space for displaying food or decor items during gatherings or special occasions.

Credenzas are typically the longest and largest among the three furniture pieces. They often have an elongated shape, with the length being the most distinctive feature.

Height and legs

Sideboards and buffets typically have a standard height, usually around waist-high or slightly higher. They often have sturdy legs or a solid base to support the weight of the furniture.

Credenzas, on the other hand, are usually lower in height and may have a longer profile. Some credenzas have a more streamlined design and sit directly on the floor without visible legs, while others may have legs or a base.

Depth of storage space

Sideboards are typically shallower in depth compared to buffets and credenzas. This makes them well-suited for narrower spaces or rooms with limited space.

On the other hand, buffets and credenzas often have greater depth, providing more storage space for larger items such as oversized tableware, electronics, or other bulky items like bedding.

Closed and open storage

While all three furniture pieces can offer a combination of open and closed storage, the emphasis may vary.

A wooden sideboard with drawers and cabinets has decor like a mirror, lamps, and bowls. The Miles Sideboard features a mix of drawers and cabinets. Picture credits: @amberdenae

Sideboards often feature a mix of drawers, cabinets, and shelves, with closed compartments being more prevalent. This design is ideal for concealing clutter and maintaining a tidy appearance.

Buffets and credenzas are more likely to have a balance of open shelving and closed storage. This allows for easy access to frequently used items and the display of decorative objects like fine china.

Sideboard vs buffet vs credenza: Factors to consider

Space

Assess the available space in your room to determine the appropriate size and length of the furniture piece. Take accurate measurements to ensure that the piece you choose fits proportionally within the given area. Also, consider factors such as wall placement, proximity to other furniture, and traffic flow within the room.

As sideboards are typically narrower in width and have a lower height, they are well-suited for smaller spaces to maintain a more streamlined appearance without overwhelming the area. Buffets and credenzas are usually longer in length, making them suitable for spacious rooms or open-concept spaces.

Storage needs

When it comes to storage, sideboards, buffets, and credenzas may offer slightly different capacities and features.

As sideboards are usually smaller when compared to buffets and credenzas, they have less storage space. Most sideboard designs also feature closed storage, so if you prefer to display decorative items, a sideboard may not be for you.

Compared to sideboards, buffets and credenzas can accommodate a wider range of belongings as they are typically larger in size, hence have more extensive storage capacity.

Function

A sideboard with a picture frame and a speaker on top and wine glasses hanging above it. @cozyspaceinterior uses the Lily Sideboard as a drink station. Also pictured: The Lily Dining Table.

While traditionally associated with dining rooms, sideboards, buffets, and credenzas can serve various purposes in different areas of the home. Sideboards can function well in entryways or living rooms, or even serve as your very own coffee bar.

Buffets can double as entertainment centers, accommodating media equipment and offering ample storage for your entertainment essentials. Credenzas can be used as stylish storage solutions in home offices or as display pieces in spacious hallways.

So, depending on how you plan to use it, what you plan to store, and how accessible you want those items to be, this can affect which piece you choose to accommodate your needs.

Aesthetic appeal

Don’t just focus on the functionality of each furniture, but also the aesthetics! Take into account your interior design style and where you plan to place the piece. For instance, a sideboard with clean lines and tapered legs like the Lily Sideboard can add a touch of elegance and sophistication to a room.

A black sideboard with stainless steel legs has decorative objects on top. The Tate Sideboard turns @bymeghang’s home into a modern oasis.

For a more modern vibe, you can go for a full black sideboard to create a striking addition, like the Tate Sideboard.

Choose a piece that complements your existing furniture and enhance the overall design of the room.

Sideboards, buffets, and credenzas each have their unique characteristics and serve distinct purposes. Whether you prioritize space optimization or design aesthetics, we hope that this article has given you a better understanding of their differences to help you find the perfect furniture piece that complements your home decor, meets your storage needs, and reflects your personal style.

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