Gizela Benedykta. Kitchen Appliances. June 21st , 2017.
If you said "sideboard," "buffet," "server," "credenza," "cabinet" or even "console," you're correct. The fact is, shops and furniture makers use all sorts of names for this type of piece nearly interchangeably. So although there are some differences that distinguish these related pieces from one another (and we will cover those differences in a moment) there is no need to feel bad if you've had these terms mixed up. Below we sort out these closely related pieces of furniture once and for all.
What Is a Sideboard?
Today “sideboard” is probably the most widely used of all of the terms for a long, low storage piece. You can find sideboards in a mind-boggling array of styles, with mirrored or glass-front doors, nailhead trim and high-gloss lacquered finishes. The single feature that most distinguishes a sideboard from another storage piece, like a credenza, is its short legs. It also may have cabinets that reach all the way to the floor.
Think of the sideboard as the precursor to modern-day kitchen cabinets, and you will have a good picture of what this piece looks like. It's long and waist high or a bit lower, with a surface for placing food on top, cabinets below and very short legs — or no legs at all.
Originating in England, the sideboard was at first likely just a simple plank set atop trestles, or a shelf attached to the wall — a place to put food while serving. Over time drawers and cupboards were added below, as the piece became more important as a place for displaying prized possessions.
A sideboard may come with a hutch attached to the top, like the one shown here. The hutch can be low, with open shelving (like this one) or higher, with glass-front cabinets meant for displaying fine china.
An antique variation of the sideboard is a huntboard, which is taller than a typical sideboard; it was designed for hungry folks to stand around and eat from after finishing a hunt.
What Is a Buffet?
There is no difference between a sideboard and a buffet in terms of definition. A sideboard used in the dining room may be called a buffet, and when placed in the living room, called a sideboard.
Historically speaking, buffets were first used in Sweden to lay out big spreads of food and drink, known as smorgasbords. The concept of buffet tables caught on in France and then throughout the rest of Europe.
In practice, I have noticed that shops and manufacturers seem to call long, low storage pieces on higher legs buffets, and those on shorter (or no) legs sideboards.
This elegant piece could be called a buffet, since it is being used in the dining room. If you put the same piece in the entryway or living room, it would probably be called a sideboard or simply a cabinet.
What Is a Server?
Servers tend to be smaller, more formal, and lighter in scale than buffets. They may have drawers and an open bottom on taller legs, or they may have cabinets, similar to a buffet or sideboard. The term “server” comes from the fact that the people serving the food in a formal dining room or restaurant are called servers, and the server is a place where those serving the food can place the serving dishes.
Practically speaking, shops and furniture makers tend to use the word “server” interchangeably with “buffet,” though servers are likely to be smaller.
What Is a Credenza?
The word "credenza" comes from the English word "credence" and the Italian word for "belief" — which makes sense, considering the first credenzas were used as a place for food that needed to be tasted to test for poison before being served to a VIP.
Early credenzas had no legs, just cabinets reaching to the floor. During the mid-20th century, credenzas enjoyed a renewed popularity among the modern design crowd — but the "new" credenzas tended to be long, low cabinets on slender legs, often with sliding doors.
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