The Difference Between Sideboards & Buffets

Sideboards and buffets are two furniture pieces that serve a purpose beyond serving food. Other than their history and some design elements, the two pieces share many commonalities and interchangeable in their usage. From flea markets and antique shops to custom furniture makers, both pieces are readily available.

Sideboards and buffets are both used in the dining room and other rooms, too.


Sideboards date to the end of the 18th century and were used strictly in dining rooms. Sideboards originated in England and quickly made their way to American dining rooms. The Swedes introduced to concept of the buffet back in the 16th century. The word buffet initially referred to a piece of furniture, the French sideboard. By 1939, it caught on in the United States as a reference to a manner of eating.


Both sideboards and buffets have a flat surface that is used for food service or display. Additional compartments on both pieces allow for storage. Wood, including oak, mahogany and pine, is the most common material for making sideboards and buffets. Buffets differ from sideboards in that some pieces are finished with a glass top, ideal for showcasing a collection. Other buffets have wine racks or cellarets making it a viable piece for barware.


Early sideboards replaced furniture pieces called slab boards that were used to serve food. Today, sideboards are still used in dining rooms to hold food, and their design also allows them to store dining items such as utensils, napkins and dishes. Today, it is common for homeowners to use sideboards in other rooms of a house, like living rooms and bedrooms, where additional storage is needed. Like side boards, buffets were used--and today are used--for to serve food in dining rooms.


The cost of sideboards and buffets vary on a number of factors. Antiques come with a higher price tag than reproductions. The place of purchase also affects the furniture cost. A better deal may be found at a flea market, than a custom-made piece, for example.