What Is a Dining Room Sideboard and Buffet?

Modern home with a contemporary interior dining room
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Just about any size dining room can use a sideboard or buffet. But what's this piece of furniture used for and how large should it be? Once you read more, you'll wonder how you lived without this useful piece for so long.

What Is It?

A sideboard or buffet, also known as a buffet table, is a long, low piece of furniture that's usually placed in a dining room to store and display items. It's also used as an extra surface for serving food. You'll find sideboards and buffets are versatile enough to have in a living room, an entryway, and a hallway as a storage and display piece, as well. You may even decide to repurpose a long, low bureau or a console table with a drawer by moving it into your dining room to function as a sideboard or buffet.

It's All About the Legs

It's safe to use the terms sideboard, buffet, and credenza interchangeably when shopping. The subtle differences between them have to do with the legs. A sideboard has short, stubby legs and may include a hutch for display. A buffet has higher legs and no hutch. A credenza has low or no legs, and will typically have sliding cabinet doors. 

What Is It Used For?

A buffet or a sideboard is designed to provide ample storage for your formal and special occasion dishes, flatware, and linens you'd usually use in a dining room. It also serves as a surface area for placing dishes or trays of food. When it's not in serving mode, the top surface is usually used to display a symmetrical array of decorative accents, such as candles, lamps, and artwork.

What Style Should It Be?

Buffets and sideboards can either match your dining room set and decor or vastly different in style for a more modern, eclectic look. If your dining room set didn't come with a buffet or sideboard, you can still find one in a similar style and finish even if it's not a perfect match. Or consider adding a bright contrasting color into any style of a dining room by choosing a painted, vintage, or antique buffet or sideboard. A pastel or creamy white buffet or sideboard would fit perfectly in a dining room with a cottage, French Country, or farmhouse style.

Open or Closed Storage?

A sideboard with open shelving or glass cabinet doors can be a good fit for a smaller dining room. The piece will look lighter and give the space an airy feel. A buffet with closed cabinetry looks heavy, and fits best into a larger dining space.

What Size Should It Be?

Scoping out the right size for a buffet is a little tricky. Though sideboards are usually long and low, you want it to be the right size so it fits your dining room and looks proportioned with your table. Here are a couple of guidelines to consider:

  • A buffet has an average depth (front to back) of between 20 inches to 22 inches. Make sure your sideboard isn't too deep because you need at least 24 inches of space between pieces of furniture for comfortable circulation.
  • A buffet has an average length (side to side) of 60 inches. That's fine for a dining room table of the same length or longer. But a 60-inch long sideboard could overpower a smaller 48-inch long table that seats four.

What Height Should It Be?

You also want a buffet to be the perfect height so you can comfortably serve food from the top. Think of the standard height of your kitchen counter, which is 36 inches. That's just about the right height for your dining room buffet. However, some buffets are 34 inches to 38 inches tall. A sideboard looks well-proportioned in a dining room if it's taller than your dining room table, which will have a standard height of 28 inches to 30 inches.