You know that piece of furniture that’s in your living room, dining room, and sometimes bedroom? The one that has four legs, a tabletop, and storage built in. Do you know what it’s called? Well, it could be called a sideboard, server, or buffet depending on its features and where it’s located.
Difference Between a Sideboard, Buffet and Server: Let’s Break it Down
Pictured above: Ashley North Shore Buffet
So, what is the difference between a sideboard and a buffet? Sideboards typically have either very short legs, or no legs at all with a cabinet that goes all the way to the floor. Sideboard is likely the most common term for a long, low table-like piece of furniture with storage capabilities. Sideboards started in England first. They were used to set out food, but due to their versatility, they morphed into storage units for table linens, fine china, and other miscellaneous kitchen wares. It is not uncommon to see sideboards with a hutch attached for more storage space. This Ashley North Shore sideboard is a great example. Note the lack of legs, cabinets for storage and the table-like space to set and serve food. This traditional piece in particular features adjustable shelves. Nowadays, the biggest difference between a sideboard and buffet is the placement. It’s common to use the term “sideboard” when the piece of furniture is placed in the living room or entryway to your home. The word “buffet” is appropriate to use when the piece of furniture is in the dining room.
Pictured above: Ashley North Shore China Hutch Top
Hutch is a term for the storage piece above a sideboard. Hutches are typically either low, with open shelving, or tall with glass doors in order to display the fine china stored inside. This Ashley North Shore hutch is the perfect example. Note the height of the piece as well as the glass doors and shelving for display purposes. This hutch in particular has mirrored backs, another common feature found in hutches.
Pictured above: Ashley Ralene Buffet with Wine Rack
While the two are similar, the difference between a sideboard and buffet is mostly the room in which it is found. Sideboards can be found in most rooms of a house, but buffets can only be found in the dining room. The defining feature between a sideboard and a buffet are the length of the legs. Buffets usually have longer legs with cabinets and/or shelves for ample storage. As you can guess from the name, the purpose of a buffet is to lay out food at large gatherings or parties. To illustrate, we’ve included this Ashley Ralene Buffet with a wine rack. Note the legs, which are taller than the buffet previously shown above. It also features cabinets and a wine rack, making it the ideal piece of furniture to place food dishes and table wine!
Pictured above: Sunny Designs American Modern Server
Finally, we have a third similar piece of feature with its own distinctive feature. The construction of a server is most comparable to a buffet. The difference between a server and a buffet is that servers are usually smaller, shorter, and more formal. Similarly, servers are used as a place to set out food. However, because servers are smaller than buffets, they are most commonly used as a place to set out desserts and/or appetizers. This mid-century modern server by Sunny Designs is a wonderful example. You’ll notice that it’s similar in construction to a buffet, but shorter and smaller. The cabinets and drawers are a great spot to store table linens and fine china or other tableware.
Do these terms really matter? Sure, you can use each piece of furniture however and wherever you want in your own home. The difference between a sideboard, buffet and server is small enough that you could purchase a piece of furniture labeled a “sideboard” at the store but place it in your dining room and call it a “buffet.” But, it’s important to know the terminology from store to store to find what you’re looking for.
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