Your Guide to Buying a Wooden Sideboard

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Your Guide to Buying a Wooden Sideboard

The wooden sideboard, also referred to as a buffet, is traditionally a piece of dining room furniture used to assist with dinner service and storing dishes. With origins in France, sideboards have been in use as part of the traditional dining room suites since the 18th century. Originally wooden sideboards were simply long flat surfaces used to assist with serving meals.

As the design of the sideboard evolved, the pieces became longer with more built-in storage that included either open shelving or closed shelving with cabinet doors. Cabinet fabricators like Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Sheraton further popularised cabinet sideboards with their ornate designs.

Shopping for a wooden sideboard can begin in any furniture store that sells dining furniture or an antique shop offering traditional dining pieces. Should a shopper find themselves coming up short, they should consider shopping online as a viable alternative. An online marketplace such as eBay showcases a wide variety of antique and contemporary wooden sideboards.

Features Common to Wooden Sideboards

Originally designed to display china and assist with formal dining service, sideboard designs include various configurations like open shelving or closed shelving with glass cabinet doors. Traditional sideboards allowed for the display, as well as the storage of dishes and glassware. When shopping for a wooden sideboard, the shopper should consider the type of shelving, whether or not the sideboard comes with cabinet doors, and other features like wine racks.


Shelves are a common feature of all sideboards. The shelves can be utilised for both storage and display, depending on the location of the shelves and cabinet doors. Open shelving offers rows of shelves, without being enclosed within a cabinet. For a display sideboard, it is important to check the height of the shelf. When displaying objects in the sideboard, ensure that the shelves are at a noticeable height for best flaunting a collection of fine china.

Traditionally, a sideboard was included in a dining room suite, because kitchen cabinets did not exist at the time. Likewise, in a formal dining arrangement, the dishes and serving platters needed to be on hand during a sit down dinner. Shelves were necessary to store and organise dishes  as well as the silverware used for dining and serving. The contemporary sideboard does include storage for the same reasons, even though many formal aspects of dining have changed over the generations.

Cabinet Doors

Cabinet doors on sideboards can either been constructed of wood or glass. The type of door depends upon the design of the sideboard. A more traditional sideboard is constructed with wooden cabinet doors, while more contemporary designs include plain glass or frosted glass.

Cabinet doors can either be sliding doors or hinged. The choice of door depends upon where the sideboard is located in the home and what the sideboard is used for. The sliding door option may be most practical when space is limited. There may not be adequate room to open hinged doors, while a sliding door does not require the clearance that hinged doors require.

Wine Racks

Also known as cellarets, a sideboard can include an additional cabinet for holding bottles of wine and decanters. The cabinet is built into the sideboard and is integral to serving and displaying wine or other alcohol. Traditionally, the cellaret was detached from the sideboard as an extra piece of furniture that was brought in to the fit under the sideboard during the dinner service. Eventually, the wine rack came to be incorporated with contemporary sideboards.

The wine rack can be as simple as a drawer, divided into compartments, built into the sideboard, or it can be an entire cupboard. Easy access to the wine or other items stored in the cellaret transforms the sideboard into a bar service for the dining room or any other room where the buffet may be located.

The Hutch

More contemporary wooden sideboards include a hutch that sits on the top portion and secures to the back at the center of the sideboard. The hutch is an option for additional storage that can either include visible shelves for display or cabinets with glass doors. Even though the sideboard may appear to be an antique, the addition of the hutch is a contemporary addition. When searching for an antique sideboard, keep this design element in mind.

Considering Styles of Sideboards

Because the sideboard has been in use for hundreds of years, the design and styling of the sideboard has continually changed. Sideboards are made of a variety of woods and come with various finishes. A sideboard that is not made from solid wood is not an original or antique, but a contemporary version made to emulate an antique style.

Should the sideboard be used in the dining room, the styling should be cohesive with the other dining room furniture. Although finishes can be difficult to match, begin the search by matching the same type of wood. If a dining room suite is made of oak, the shopper should look for a sideboard that is constructed of solid oak. One should then consider the finish. If the dining room table and chairs have a dark finish, the sideboard should be of a similar colour. Choosing between cabinets, open shelving, a hutch, or cellaret will depend on what the sideboard is to be used for.

The Sideboard’s Location in the Home

The sideboard is a versatile piece of furniture. While the traditional location for a sideboard is the dining room, a sideboard can be located in another room in the home. A sideboard is designed with a shallow profile so it is possible for a sideboard to double as other pieces of furniture in the home with a similar stature. At the end of a hallway, the sideboard can serve as a way to feature objet d’art or collectibles. In an office setting, the sideboard can serve as a credenza for storing files or equipment. As an alternative to a dresser, the sideboard can also be used as a dresser or a vanity with a simple mirror attachment. Sideboards can double as a media console with a television placed on the top and plenty of storage for media like CDs and DVDs below.

The Size of the Sideboard

The most common height of a sideboard is just under 92 cm. Traditionally the sideboard was designed to be higher than the height of the dining table. The length and depth of sideboards can vary greatly, therefore when purchasing a sideboard, it is important that the shopper measure the space into which the sideboard will be placed. There must be ample room to open doors and to use the piece as a serving buffet during meals. Depending on where the piece may be placed in the home, it is important that the sideboard not overwhelm a small room, or that the sideboard itself appear too small in a room that has larger furniture. A heavy sideboard simply looks out of place in a room with lightweight furniture.

How to Buy Sideboards on eBay

To locate sideboards on eBay, begin by conducting a general search. Start on the homepage. First, locate the search bar and then enter a search query for "sideboards". The site’s search engine will create a results page that lists all the sideboards currently posted for sale. By entering more specific keywords, like "maple sideboard" or "glass door sideboard", you can easily focus your search. You are also able to sort the listings on the results page by selecting and deselecting various search filters.

If you are interested in purchasing an antique sideboard, make sure to ask the seller about when the sideboard was manufactured. By definition an antique is 100 years or older. You should also ask whether it has undergone any repairs or alterations. A more contemporary design may not be constructed of solid wood, so it is important to ask the seller about what the sideboard is made of. It is very important that you note the length, width, and height of the sideboard. If specifications like the size of the sideboard are not clear, you should contact the seller. You can do this by going into their profile and clicking on the contact link. Because sideboards are heavy and expensive to ship, you may want to sort the listings to only show those sideboards for sale in your local area.


Wooden sideboards, with the exception of a few minor design alterations, are essentially the same piece of furniture that came to popularity in 18th century France. Since the sideboard was developed for the dining room, to assist with elaborate dinner service, it is most commonly found in the dining rooms of today. In the modern era, however, the sideboard can be used in a variety of locations in the home, with modern designs reflecting a variety of uses. Be sure that the specific area where the piece will be placed has been carefully measured to ensure that the sideboard fits properly.

When considering the purchase of a wooden sideboard, try searching antique stores or other furniture stores to get an idea of sizes and the various designs on offer. An online marketplace such as eBay includes a variety of listings for dining furniture, including listings for wooden sideboards.

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