Sideboard or Buffet

Buffet or Sideboard – Is there a difference?

When it comes to kitchen or dining room furniture, I am sure you have heard both of the terms buffet and sideboard. So, which is it?

Or should I say, is there a difference between a sideboard and a buffet?

And which one do you need?

What are the similarities between sideboards and buffets?

They both can be used for storing dining room utensils, tablecloths, napkins, extra serving dishes, candles, etc.

Both sideboards and buffets can be used for serving dishes at your evening dinner – allowing you to put the extra food on the sideboard top instead of crowding the table.

Both can generally be used for a buffet styled meal. All of the meals and dishes are placed on the sideboard and everyone serves themselves and seats themselves at the table.

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Buffets and Sideboards as Accent Pieces

Both buffets and sideboards can be viewed or seen as accent pieces in your dining room, kitchen or even living room.

Sideboards and Buffets as Television Stands

Some people will use a sideboard for a television stand. It actually works quite well as you have room for all of your extra television goodies – cords, cables, dvd’s, cd’s, google chrome (for those of you techies), xbox and playstation remotes, tv remotes (when they are not in the hands of the remote-hogger…there is one in every home…lol). Even some other TV components may fit in the door parts – like DVD players, CD players, cable boxes, etc.

Either a buffet or sideboard, regardless of the size, can be used as a wine and spirits storage server – i.e. a liquor cabinet.

So now for the differences between sideboards and buffets.

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What is a sideboard?

A sideboard is probably the most traditional name for this type of piece of furniture – versus the term buffet.

A pure dictionary meaning goes as follows: A sideboard is a flat-topped piece of furniture with cupboards and drawers, placed along a wall and used for storing dishes, glasses, and table linen.

Dark Wood Mahogany Traditional Chest-Like Sideboard
Use this traditional Chest-Like Sideboard as a decorative accent piece in your dining or living room. Not only will it be decorative, this sideboard is very practical and provides a great deal of storage.

English Origins of Sideboards

Originating in England, sideboards tend to be at about waist high. This is by design. Sideboards were originally designed to act as a food server.

They may have originated as a simple shelf or piece of wood in the kitchen / eating area used for placing the food while serving.

Sideboards, perhaps due to their history, tend to have shorter legs than other similar pieces. The once single shelf morphed into cabinets below the shelf for functional reasons.

That evolution made the sideboard what it is – a cabinet with low legs or no legs at all, at about waist height. Through that evolution, the sideboard started to resemble a kitchen cabinet with drawers and doors – plenty of space for essential storage.

Mirror and Worn Wood Finish Sideboard
Mirror and Worn Wood Finish Sideboard takes on both a rustic farmhouse feel with the aged wood paired with the modern of the mirrored doors – perfect for those who like an eclectic style.

Today, sideboards are available in various styles, colors and finishes.

From a mirrored finish, an Asian design to rustic turned wood styled sideboards, you will surely find the sideboard of your dreams.

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What is a buffet?

A buffet? The first thing that comes to my mind is ‘food.’

Well, ok, funny enough, that is where the word originates.

The Swedish apparently began the tradition of buffets, called smorgasbords (in Swedish, of course). Throngs of food both hot and cold were placed on a central table, shelf or cabinet where everyone helped themselves.

Modern Finish with Traditional Design Buffet
A beautiful silver grey finish on this Buffet which has a traditional Design with a more modern finish.

The French Connection

Once the French got involved, the sideboard took on the French word, buffet. And as we in North America have been influenced by both the English and the French, we chose to take on both terms, for a similar piece of furniture.

In North America today, the meaning of buffet for a piece of furniture is: a cabinet with shelves and drawers for keeping dinnerware and table linens – notice the similarity?

The only real difference between a buffet and a sideboard is that you may use the term buffet more readily in an eating area such as your dining room or kitchen.

After all, today, the meaning of the word buffet also means lots of free flowing food. If you have a buffet or sideboard in another area such as a great room, entryway or hallway, you may just call it a sideboard.

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Traditional Buffets

In my mind, the meaning of buffet tends to be a more traditional piece of furniture in style and finish – such as an ornate Mahogany buffet whereas a sideboard tends to signify a more modern design – such as a sleek teak sideboard  – which would be appropriate in various rooms and locations around your home.

However, remember…this is just me. In the marketplace, they will be called either regardless of design.

A Mid-Century Modern Styled Sideboard
A Mid-Century styled sideboard incorporates a Danish teak wood outer finish with a creamy white front giving a very modern take on a sideboard or buffet.

Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you call them. You just need to know that you should be doing a search for either word if you are shopping for a new buffet or sideboard, especially if you are doing an online search.

Rustic Avenal Sideboard Buffet
Rustic Buffet can be used for both food and wine service either in your living room, great room or dining room.

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Buffets and Sideboards in Living Rooms and Home Offices

Because of the practicality and beauty of a decorative sideboard or buffet, they can be installed in many rooms around your home.

Consider adding a buffet sideboard to your living room or reading room – a great place to store all of the extras you keep in those rooms.

Hooker Furniture Melange Rosella Decorative Credenza in Living Room
Sideboards are not just for dining rooms anymore. Install this decorative and practical sideboard by Hooker Furniture in your living room and add a piece of art as well as a storage cabinet for all of those necessities which you may not want to have out on display.
Upper Square Miliano Buffet Credenza in Home Office
This sideboard is so practical and versatile that it has been placed in an office environment. What a beautiful and usable piece both for storage and as a display shelf or work surface.

All of this to say that buffets and sideboards – whichever you call them – can be used in many places around your home. From the typical dining room placement to a front hallway, to a great room or living room and even a home office – sideboard buffets are a truly versatile and practical accent furniture piece.

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Is there Really a Difference between Sideboards and Buffets?

The answer to that question is yes and no.

If you are confused, you don’t need to be. Here are the yes and no answers explained.

The yes answer to the question as to whether buffets and sideboards are different stems simply from the origins of these pieces. They have different origins and hence, had slightly different characteristics in their original forms.

However, in todays marketplace, the words are used so interchangeably that there really is no discernible or obvious difference between a buffet and a sideboard.

Designers and manufacturers use both words and can often describe the furniture piece as a buffet which may look exactly like another which is called a sideboard.

This is all to say that you can look for either a sideboard or a buffet in your search for a new storage cabinet piece.

In fact, you SHOULD search both words so that you see all of the potential styles. You never know whether it will be called a sideboard or buffet which will become the perfect piece for your home.

John-Richard Luxe Wedge Sideboard Buffet
Sideboard? Buffet? or maybe even Credenza? Whichever you choose to call it, this sideboard by John-Richard is a stunning and truly unique decorative accent piece for your home.

Shop more John-Richard sideboards here!

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Buffets and Sideboards of All Styles and Colors

The styles, colors and sizes of buffets and sideboards available today are endless.

From sleek modern, art deco styled, classical design, ornate designs, simple, transitional designs, worn-wood looks, mirrored finishes, clean lined teak, farmhouse looks, reclaimed wood like, leather look sideboards, no doors or drawers metal design, Asian themed in crimson red, baroque designs,  sideboards with decorative doors and drawers, a dresser look, and open front buffets with shelves for decorative baskets and bins – to name a few.

That list is very long, and no, it doesn’t end there. Because sideboards and buffets tend to be accent pieces, designers have gone to great lengths to create unique styles and designs so that your sideboard will have the potential to give that wow factor when you step in the room.

Shop Sideboards and Buffets here!

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Oh, did I forget to mention…there are credenzas and servers too. More to come on that. Stay tuned for Credenzas versus Servers!

Shop more Kitchen and Dining Furniture!

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