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All about sideboards

Sideboards have fallen in and out of favour as lifestyles have been transformed over the centuries. Today, everyone knows what a sideboard is, but when did these useful pieces of furniture first appear and how did they develop into the stylish choices that we enjoy today?

Two urns and a table

In the 18th century, Robert Adam introduced the practice of placing large urns on pedestals adjacent to a serving table. These contained the cutlery and were later replaced by drawers. Adam was a leading Scottish architect and interior designer whose work became extremely fashionable. He was a leader of the neoclassical revival and designed fittings as well as the buildings in which they would stand.

After Adam created his serving arrangement, the convenience of having storage next to the table became obvious. As a result, furniture evolved which combined storage with a serving area. The sideboard had arrived.

Sideboards were used for a variety of purposes. Some styles incorporated sections to hold wine bottles and others were lined with metal to keep plates warm. Wealthy families with grand homes invested in substantial sideboards for their equally impressive dining rooms. This was at a time when ordinary people could only dream of owning a home with a separate dining room. Synonymous with wealth, the sideboard quickly became an aspirational piece.

Aspirational furniture for the modern age

Georgian sideboards were slender and elegant pieces, often incorporating fine inlays and veneers. During the Victorian era, increasingly extravagant sideboards were designed reflecting the fashions of the day. This furniture was substantial in size and epitomised the concept of a statement piece. Meanwhile, the industrial revolution was leading to more families becoming financially comfortable. The new middle classes could afford homes with separate dining rooms and a sideboard was a must-have addition to these relatively modest interiors.

Ideal for displaying candlesticks, lamps, decanters and silverware, sideboards were effectively status symbols which middle class families aspired to. Ordinary people wanted to create rooms which mirrored those in stately homes. A sideboard was an excellent investment as it was both decorative and practical. Sideboards were used to store crockery, cutlery and linens while being stand-out features of the rooms in which they stood.

The 20th Century

The excesses of Victorian furniture gave way to Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau pieces in the Edwardian era. Leading designers including Charles Rennie MacKintosh created stunning sideboards reflecting the artistic movements of the day. Cheaper pieces mimicking these styles became de rigueur in middle class homes. In the 1930s, the opulence of the Art Deco style ensured that it was the preserve of the rich and then World War II stopped furniture production in its tracks.

With the country recovering from the war in the 1950s, there was a return to furniture production and design. Scandinavian design began to influence British interiors and pieces resembling sideboards made their way into living rooms as well as dining rooms. Mid-century design found beauty in simplicity and celebrated functionality.

As the century drew to a close, the increasing popularity of open plan spaces saw sideboards fall out of flavour for a short period. Perhaps because they felt like relics of a bygone age or maybe because they were associated with dining rooms as opposed to dining areas, the sideboard was in danger of becoming a thing of the past. But it’s demise was short-lived.

Even contemporary homes need storage. Indeed, with many modern homes boasting a minimalist look, storage has become more important than ever. In addition, space can be at a premium in new homes. There has been a noticeable resurgence in the popularity of the sideboard. You can enjoy generous storage, a display area and pleasing aesthetics in a single piece of furniture. Interior design has turned full circle and the sideboard is once more a stand-out feature for any home.

Making a statement with your sideboard

In the 20th century, the trend for matching suites of furniture took hold but these days you have far greater freedom of expression when planning your interior. A sideboard is a useful inclusion but does not need to be confined to the dining area. Neither does it need to match your dining table and chairs. Choose a striking style which complements rather than matches your other furniture to create a focal point in any room. Use your sideboard to divide or define spaces in an open plan home or position a sideboard in a prominent position to become the star of the show.

Sideboards at Eclectic17

Industrial style sideboard

Our memorable collection of retro and industrial sideboards provides stylish choices for contemporary homes. Showcasing fabulous retro designs alongside urban industrial metal sideboards and much more, the collection features amazing ideas which should inspire the interior designer in you to create impressive spaces for your home. Contrasting materials and textures, the imaginative use of colour and on-trend design combine to give you unique and tactile pieces to treasure.


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