They’ve been used as serving stations and regarded as supplemental to the dining table for centuries, but modern-day sideboards stand alone as practical statement pieces of furniture that take prominence in today’s stylish homes.
Designed to hold plates, decanters, side dishes, cutlery, linen and other accessories for a meal, the sideboard is historically associated with the dining room but these days can be a stylish focal point, as well as provide practical storage, just about anywhere in the home.
History of the sideboard
As its name suggests, the sideboard was once a board, or table top, sat to the side of the room. In the Middle Ages it would have displayed conspicuously valuable eating utensils but as time went on, cupboards and drawers were added for storage purposes – some were lined with metal to keep plates warm, or to hold water (sometimes for rinsing cutlery) or wine bottles.
The top of the sideboard tended to be used to display food before it was brought to the table, or even for servants to taste dishes to check that they weren’t poisoned before serving an important person (royalty or aristocracy, for example). Hence the sideboard also took on the name of credenza – because it was used to establish the truth or “credence” of what was being served.
The sideboard grew in popularity in 18th-century England largely thanks to Scottish architect and furniture designer Robert Adam. He thought it would be a great idea to have an oblong table flanked by two pedestal cupboards. On these he mounted classical urns, used to house silver cutlery and serving ware.
In the 18th century, one pedestal of a sideboard might conceal a compartment for a chamber pot. Since the dining room was the province of gentlemen after dinner (ladies retired to the drawing room) it is likely that some male guests were grateful for a readily accessible chamber pot after a bottle of wine or port too many during the evening.
By the early 19th century, no upper or middle class dining room was complete without a sideboard and designs evolved to reflect the fashions of the period. There were bow-fronted and serpentine-fronted mahogany variations, mirrored and elaborately carved oak and walnut Victorian examples and boxy, lacquered rosewood Art Deco designs.
Today, the sideboard is no longer sidelined, left unloved and under-utilised in a formal dining room. It often takes centre stage in a living room, making a style statement of its own as well as being a versatile and practical storage space. It can be used as a TV cabinet, to provide smart storage in an office, as a console in an entrance hall or a games cupboard in the playroom.
While there are myriad options, from new painted sideboards to bona fide antiques, here at LRI we designed our sideboards to reflect our passion for luxury and style with a contemporary twist.
Large Belmont weathered oak sideboard
Co-founder of LRI Sarah explained: “We started with just one sideboard, the large 6ft-wide Belmont weathered oak sideboard, to complement our popular Belmont weathered oak oval dining table. Both are statement pieces of furniture which have been given a distinctive wire-brushed finish to bring out the beauty and natural grain of the wood. Both have graceful curved edges, so they’re easy to manoeuvre around.”
The large Belmont sideboard has two curved drawers (one each side), a wide central drawer and two doors with shelved cabinets for ample storage. It is ideal for a larger dining room or open-plan kitchen-diner alongside the Belmont dining table, simply because they were made to be together. “ They set each other off beautifully,” said Sarah.
Abingdon weathered oak media unit
Earlier this year, we added another sideboard – or media unit – to our collection. “Lots of customers had been asking for a TV cabinet in our weathered oak finish, so we decided to design something a bit special,” said Sarah.
The Abingdon media unit has three drawers and three shelved cabinets with glazed doors in an unusual geometric pattern, finished with attractive dentil moulding and brass knobs. The cabinet is 152.4cm (5ft) wide – so plenty large enough for a 60-inch widescreen TV – and there’s room inside for the full whammy of digital entertainment equipment.
Small Belmont weathered oak sideboard
Finally, we have recently welcomed a brand new baby Belmont sideboard to the family! The small Belmont is basically a compact version of its larger parent.
At a little under 4ft wide, it’s 2ft narrower and has one central door and cupboard instead of two. It has the same attractive curves, three drawers and is a similar depth and height. However its size makes it more versatile for smaller spaces, such as hallways, offices and bedrooms.
So there you have it … if you’re looking for a sideboard, we have three of a kind: weathered oak classics with a contemporary twist for today’s most stylish homes!