Buffet vs. Sideboard: Which Dining Room Storage is Right for Me?

By Alex Konrad | December 28, 2021

Years ago, dining room storage was an absolute must. Every mid-century modern home featured some type of cupboard to keep dishes and flatware that were generally used nightly. This use of dining room storage stemmed from kitchens that weren’t equipped to hold as many dishes as the typical family owned. 

As time progressed, kitchens became more of a gathering place for families. With the appearance of eat-in kitchens and breakfast nooks, it was no longer necessary to carry dinner from the kitchen to the dining room. Eating in the kitchen became convenient for busy families, and, as such, kitchen cabinetry expanded to accommodate the dishes the dining room buffet once held. 

Modern-day kitchens and dining room designs are a great blend of functionality and formality, with a balance between utilizing a formal dining room and retaining a more casual space for quick dinners and lazy Sunday morning breakfasts.  

Now that more and more families return to the dining room for dinner, savvy homeowners are opting to return to in-room dining storage. What does this mean for someone who’s updating their dining room or furnishing a new one? It means you’ve got some decisions to make in terms of buffets and sideboards.

Not being familiar with either one is understandable since they’re only now seeing a massive comeback. If the concept of dining room storage has you shaking your head, we can help. 

Modloft offers modern, sophisticated designs that are both functional and beautiful. We’ll cover the confusion between buffets and sideboards, help you decide what you need in terms of dining room storage, and give you some design ideas to help keep your space looking modern and contemporary. 

Buffet or Sideboard: Which is Which?

The short answer is, they’re both the same. The difference is solely a preference in terminology or the location of the piece of furniture. 

For instance, both a sideboard and a buffet can be used in a dining room, but if the same piece of furniture is moved into another room of the house, like the living room, the term “sideboard” will be used instead of buffet. 

So, just what is this mysterious storage piece? Think of a row of kitchen cabinetry that sits on your floor instead of being attached to your walls, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of how they’re generally designed and how they are used for storage. 

History of the Sideboard 101

Buffets and sideboards originated in England in formal households. They were used as holding spaces for meal components when they were brought from the household kitchen to the dining table. Servants would utilize them to serve food to the family seated at the dining room table.

These pieces were generally highly ornate, heavy, and intricately designed to match the style of the households in which they resided. Additionally, they almost never featured cupboards; rather, they were styled more like what we would consider a modern-day console table. 

Sideboards began to evolve into storage pieces, with cupboards underneath the surface used for storage china and flatware when it was not in use. This additional storage space was especially helpful for families that did not have large kitchens with adequate cabinet storage.

Thus, the sideboard quickly became a staple in more modest homes. 

Sideboards on the Decline

Despite their massive popularity in the early American home, there was a definite decline in the use of sideboards in the twentieth century. This decline was based on two major occurrences. 

  1. More kitchen cabinetry. As previously mentioned, the change to eat-in kitchens and breakfast nooks played a major role in sideboards becoming less of a household staple. The addition of more kitchen cabinetry meant the sideboard was less of a necessity and more of a luxury piece. 
  2. Post-War Minimalism. By the early 1950s, the style and design of the American household had changed. Post World War II America began a push toward minimalism and a desire for less excess.
    As such, ornate, heavy pieces of furniture that seemed unnecessary were seen as opulent and cumbersome. The dining room became a place of mealtime functionality instead of a showcase for china and stemware. 

By mid-century, sideboards were almost extinct, but their appearance in the modern home is now steadily on the rise. 

Sideboards in the 21st Century

It’s true that sideboards aren’t exactly ubiquitous, but the carefully designed and well-appointed dining room of the modern home definitely includes one. Today, the sideboard is used just as much as a decorative piece of furniture as it is a functional one. 

In fact, the post-pandemic lockdown world we currently experience has had the positive effect of chasing us back into our homes, where we’ve enjoyed more meals together than we have in decades as a society. Science, and most people, would agree this is a move in the right direction. 

The return to the dining room table has developed the desire to rekindle the design relationship we once had with this room, and that means the sideboard is definitely on-trend. 

How to Pick the Best Sideboard for Your Dining Room

So, just how do you pick a piece of furniture you’ve likely never owned before now? It’s easy when you follow a few simple design guidelines. The team at Modloft can help you select a modern, contemporary sideboard based on your individual storage and decorative needs.

1. Measure Twice

Measuring your space is the biggest factor in determining what sideboard you should choose. Dining rooms are classically smaller rooms, and when a large table and chairs have been added, it can leave room for little else. 

Generally speaking, you should allow for a bare minimum of thirty inches between the edge of your dining room table and any other obstruction, such as a sideboard or wall. Thirty is the minimum, and will still offer a very tight squeeze between your seated guests and another object. A more comfortable option is forty. 

Thankfully, most sideboards are relatively small in terms of depth, measuring between fifteen to twenty inches.

Consider What You’ll Store

Some sideboards come complete with separate internal cabinets and drawers designed specifically to hold stemware, flatware, cloth napkins, and tablecloths. Other sideboards are simply large open cupboards good for storing stackable plates or cups. 

It’s important to decide how you need to use your sideboard to determine a model that works for you and what will be utilized the most in your space. If you don’t find that you’ll need your sideboard as much for storage as you do for decor, the options are virtually limitless. 

Aim for Cohesive Design

Your traditional dining room table with carved wood accents and a polished cherry finish doesn’t lend itself to being paired with a shabby chic sideboard. Make your goal to keep your style congruent throughout your dining room and your entire home. 

Design should flow from one room to another instead of being broken into separate, eclectic rooms. If you’re concerned you won’t find a sideboard that matches your contemporary home decor, you’ll be happy to know there are numerous options available, including sideboards that are wall-mountable to create an even more stunning, modern look. 

How to Style a Sideboard

Once you’ve selected the perfect sideboard for your space, you’ve got a fresh surface that needs styling. As previously mentioned, the sideboard is generally a shallow piece of furniture, so wide, ornate centerpieces are likely not going to be an option. 

You can definitely opt for a decorative centerpiece that is purely artistic in nature, or you can adorn your sideboard with a more versatile piece that acts as both a decorative centerpiece and a functional part of your dining room. 

We love the addition of the Endell Spirits Server. Beautifully constructed of steel and finished with a walnut veneer, this elegant drink server is large enough to hold several bottles of your favorite liquor and mixers along with eight rocks glasses. It’s the perfect addition to your sideboard and encourages a little more lingering around the table for after-dinner drinks and conversation. 

The Takeaway

Unless you grew up in a household with an ultra-formal dining room, you’ve likely been unfamiliar with a sideboard. If their burgeoning popularity has piqued your interest, you should know they’re definitely accessible for the modern dining room. 

You can successfully pair a sideboard with your modern dining room by making sure you select one that is stylistically compatible with your current dining table and chairs, ensuring the proper size, and determining what you need in terms of storage. 

Modloft offers several elegant sideboards, each elegantly designed to provide sophisticated design and ultimate functionality. 



Sideboard | furniture | Britannica


The return of family dinner | Boston Globe

Dining Room Size | House Plans Helper