Guide to Buying Sideboards and Buffets
A Buffet Of Information
Also commonly known as a sideboard or a server, buffets are used to store items like wine, silverware, linens and other dining accessories. The surface acts as a display area for food before it is brought to the table – they are a wonder at family gatherings by providing you with some extra serving space – drinks, food to be served later in the meal, desserts, or even just putting finished plates and dishes off the table during the meal are all typical uses.
Some types of buffets can double as writing desks or a place for every day ambiance with flowers and a lamp. Several designs even come with built-in wine racks. In addition to traditional drawers, buffets usually have one or more cupboards (which used to be lined with metal to keep plates warm) and may have a gallery (a railing of brass or wood on a raised rim), splashboard, or a mirror. They are an especially fantastic place to keep all your holiday linens so you won't spend hours searching the far reaches of your house!
Buffets don't need to be relegated to just the dining area, either. They work beautifully in foyers, sun rooms, living rooms, bedrooms, home offices and even in kitchens for extra cupboard space! You can probably think of more places where extra storage and a large, smooth surface can best service you. Some might worry that they are outdated or unfashionable – but don't! Buffets and sideboards are still manufactured and used extensively today as they are one of the best pieces to entertain and a fantastic piece of decor.
Is a Hutch Too Much?
As was mentioned above, there are several types of furnishings that fall into roughly the same category – buffet. We wanted to briefly explain the differences, which lie between appearance and function. This way, you can determine which type of buffet will best suit your needs before you go looking at finishes.
The largest by far is the buffet hutch; the standard cabinet space and drawers are involved, but you also get the large hutch on top for storing items such as China, glass/stemware, or even collectibles and knickknacks.
Just slightly smaller than the hutch is the buffet cabinet, which offers more storage for dishes, glassware, table linens and hardware (trivets, napkin rings, candle holders, etc). The surface is usually an expansive one, with plenty of room for setting out your food or staging the gathering place for drinks and snacks at a party.
Buffet tables are the smallest type. Like the two mentioned above, these tables tend to have the hallmark cupboards and drawers, but their overall size will be considerably smaller. These are great if you want the touch of elegance that a buffet can lend but you live in a more compact place.
Just because the buffet is extremely functional does not mean it cannot be fashionable as well. While historically buffets were mostly rectangular in shape, they are crafted in many standard geometric shapes. Some are even crafted to resemble bars, allowing you to walk behind them to serve food and drinks.
The legs of buffets are every bit as varied as the finishes you can find them in – many designs simply have no legs at all, but sit on a base instead. Here are some leg terms you might not be familiar with that will be important in your search:
- • Cabriole: These bends outward into a “knee” and then back into an “ankle”. Think Queen Anne style.
- • Marlborough: These are straight and sometimes fluted, with the foot being a large block in shape.
- • Saber: These are legs tapered to resemble a calvary saber – long with a slightly tapered curve.
- • Turned: Ornamental or structural elements have been produced in these legs by means of rotating a wood dowel or a lathe around them. Think of legs with the ball at the foot – one solid piece.
Are You Being Served?
One of the best reasons to consider the addition of a buffet to your home from an aesthetic standpoint is their extreme versatility in design. Traditionally, buffets are made of wood; specifically oak, cherry and other types of hardwoods are very commonplace. In more contemporary designs, they can be crafted from metal, pine, plastic and even reclaimed materials – so green lovers, don't forget to keep an eye out as there are some really fabulous designs offered with carbon footprints in mind!
You will often find solid hardwood described for the material when browsing furnishing websites. Hardwood is a higher density wood, and those most commonly used in furniture production are oak, beech, ash, maple, and cherry. More exotic hardwoods are holly, ebony, mahogany and teak. Because hardwood joinery is more expensive than softwood, many companies will offer a veneer finish, which is a thin slice of wood that is glued onto core panels of a more cost-effective material like particle board or fiberboard. Just a few things to keep in mind while browsing for your sideboards; below is a list of the various styles:
- • Casual: The key here is simple, with clean lines that can incorporate country aesthetics
- • Contemporary/Modern: Minimal, clean lines without much in the way of curvature; sleek!
- • Retro: Let's go to the Hop! 50s, 60s and 70s diners are terrific examples of this playful style.
- • Rustic: Distressed is the word du jour, evoking images of log cabins and summers by the lake.
- • Traditional: Hand-painted details, dark wood and curving lines are the hallmarks.