How to Decorate a Sideboard

sideboard in dining room

Desiree Burns Interiors

A sideboard is an extremely useful piece of dining room furniture, as it can house items such as fine china, glassware, vases, and more. The surface comes in handy when entertaining, as you can easily set out drinks, dishes, and platters as you wish.

However, if you're a bit stumped as to how to style your sideboard's surface on a day-to-day basis, you're not alone. Determining how exactly you can make the most of this space just got easier thanks to the designer-approved design advice outlined below. Read on for the main principles to keep in mind when styling to ensure that your sideboard truly shines.

mid-century modern wooden sideboard

Amanda Shields Interiors

Hang a Mirror

Mirrors certainly aren't just for decorating spaces where you get ready. "I typically start decorating a sideboard with a fabulous mirror," Caitlin Wilson, interior and product designer and author of Return to Pretty, says. However, keep in mind that not just any piece will cut it. "Make sure the size is at least half the width of the sideboard or preferably wider," Wilson instructs.

Keep Functionality Top of Mind

When deciding how to decorate your sideboard, you'll first want to be practical. Kara Childress of Kara Childress, Inc suggests keeping functionality at top of mind by determining the purpose your sideboard serves. "An equally groovy and sensible aesthetic will best anchor the piece and elevate the surrounding space," she says. This means keeping decor to a minimum, particularly if you live in a small space.

"Don’t over-style credenzas," Barry Goralnick, of Goralnick Architecture Design Studio, says. "If you’re entertaining they may work to serve buffet-style or to stage courses of a meal."

The key is to add some accent pieces to your sideboard but not so many that making room for platters and bowls will be a hassle. "As with cocktail tables, you want them to look good day-to-day, but it’s annoying to move many small items every time you want to entertain," Goralnick says.

sideboard with two lamps

Design: RI Studio / Photo: Aaron Fairooz

Add Some Lighting

If your dining room could use a bit of extra brightness, note that the sideboard is an excellent spot to display a lamp or two. "We love styling a sideboard with two lamps to create symmetry and a cozy, warm glow during entertaining," Bria Hammel, of Bria Hammel Interiors, says. Adding lighting to your sideboard will help your overall dining space feel more complete.

Benjamin Johnston, of Benjamin Johnston Design, says that implementing lighting at various levels throughout a room—such as having a combination of ceiling, wall, and table height lighting—works best for layered interiors. "A sideboard is a perfect spot to add an interesting table lamp or two buffet lamps as they provide a dose of mid-range light and visual interest."

white sideboard with lamp

Design: Bria Hammel / Photo: Aimée Mazzenga

When Adding Accents, Stick to Odd Numbers

Note while sideboards are useful for hidden storage, their tops don't have to be completely bare. In line with the advice we shared above, though, you'll want to keep styling somewhat simple so that you can clear the space with ease when you entertain. "I typically like to gather objects that are similar in appearance but vary in shape and size such as plates or decorative porcelain," Kate Figler, of Kate Figler Interiors, says. Not sure how many different pieces to display at once? "A good rule of thumb is to group collectibles in odd numbers and to preferably showcase items with meaning such as a favorite china pattern," Figler says.

Hema Persad of Sagrada Studio chooses objects of varying heights when decorating a sideboard. "Make sure there is negative space between objects so that it doesn't look too cluttered or collect dust," she says.

You'll also want to keep room style in mind when determining what exactly to showcase. Is your sideboard in a formal dining room? "Add symmetry and ambiance to sideboards in these areas with suitable decor such as candle lighting, decorative mirrors, buffet lamps, or a fitting sculptural piece," Childress says. Is your space a bit more laid back? "In casual gathering spaces, maximize your sideboard’s surface to add character and serve as an unassuming source of entertainment for guests," the designer adds. "A funky antique, intriguing piece of art or opened coffee table book on a display stand will create an alluring focal point."

wooden sideboard with lamp and branches

Design: We Three Designs  / Photo: Allison Corona