Finishing touches: The creative side to sideboards, consoles and coffee tables

Interior architect Marco Fumagalli has designed the Pallis sideboard for French brand Roche Bobois (€7,940).

Sideboards, consoles and coffee tables may all have a wide variety of practical uses, but these pieces also offer a prime opportunity for creativity to indulge our inner stylist, writes Carol O’Callaghan.

WHEN it comes to furniture, I find the temptation of a handsome sideboard sitting in a shop window irresistible, although I confess to already having the model of my dreams.

It’s a 1960s Macintosh in solid teak, acquired at a bargain price from what could be termed, in the loosest possible way, a vintage shop. At the time, the sideboard seemed to be truly past its best after years of neglect, but just a couple of hours of rubbing with fine sandpaper to eliminate daubs of paint and water rings, followed by a lovingly applied lick of tung oil to bring out its grain, and it scrubbed up remarkably well.

It just goes to show how good bone structure ages well, right down to the original red baize-lined cutlery drawer and the little pull-out cocktail table, the latter a rarity, I’m told.

I have to say, though, I’m traditional in how I use it for stowing my better tableware and cutlery and, of late, a modest gin collection, although more inventive uses are trending, making sideboards much more than a support act to formal dinner parties.

This sleek number comes from Ikea and includes a shelf and drawer space for magazines and remote controls (Tofteryd coffee table €195).
This sleek number comes from Ikea and includes a shelf and drawer space for magazines and remote controls (Tofteryd coffee table €195).

Maura Dineen, interior stylist at EZ Living, says: “Traditionally, sideboards have been used in the dining room, but you can also put one in a living room. Think about how you style it. Make it a focal point by hanging a piece of art above, or just leaning against the wall. Group objects together in different heights and different textures on the top; add greenery for a sense of calm. This is a big thing at the moment, where interior designers are looking to evoke a feeling and not just a look.”

Hall consoles are another useful interior addition, now they’ve moved beyond a purely decorative purpose to providing function and practicality.

“Address your needs,” Maura advises. “What is the console’s function in the entryway? Do you need a shelf for shoes, a place for keys? Think about scale. A mirror above it will make the hall seem larger, but if it’s longer than the console, it will look out of proportion. Another use is in a small guest room where a console with two simple drawers provides storage and a surface.

Multi-function comes with the Chiva coffee table’s lift up divided lid and storage beneath. The top features a mix of wood and tinted glass for a textured finish (from €750 at Bo Concept with a choice of finishes).
Multi-function comes with the Chiva coffee table’s lift up divided lid and storage beneath. The top features a mix of wood and tinted glass for a textured finish (from €750 at Bo Concept with a choice of finishes).

“The same goes for coffee tables,” Maura adds. “Storage has become important for books, toys and remote controls. In a small space, a glass version won’t make the room seem smaller. When it comes to styling the top, I like to make quadrants, with candles in one quadrant, books stacked in another; things that are visually pleasing.

“It’s an opportunity to add a splash of colour in accessories, and contrasting textures like putting a wood table with a metal vase or polished stone. Of course, if there are children around, what you put on it is going to be different.”

Before splashing out, Maura has some practical considerations.

“Measure up the space by laying newspapers on the floor, or use masking tape to see the depth and size of the space. Can I walk past it? Think of the design too; handles can date easily so consider going handle-free.”

For Nicole Reid, co-owner of interiors boutique Interiosity, the big thing in sideboards is industrial style, with metal details and reclaimed wooden tops, plus multi-function featuring large.

She says, “This is replacing the more sterile glass and metal sideboards and consoles, and they look great and are durable and family-friendly, not too precious.

The compact Monteray console makes it ideal for a small hallway or alcove. The industrial metal frame styling is softened by wood detailing in the handy drawer storage space (€349 at Caseys).
The compact Monteray console makes it ideal for a small hallway or alcove. The industrial metal frame styling is softened by wood detailing in the handy drawer storage space (€349 at Caseys).

Everything is much warmer and softer. We’re also seeing the low cabinet coming in as an alternative. These are a bit higher than sideboards, about four feet, but not as high as a typical cabinet, so they’re a lovely way of introducing a sideboard if a space is small.

“Sideboards are multi-functional now and being used for things like drinks, so there’s a bar on top and glasses stored inside. Some models have glass doors but with a frosted effect, so what you have inside is on show but not to the extent where you have to be particular.”

When it comes to coffee tables, Nicole says long, narrow versions allow more space to walk round, and agrees storage is now a priority, with shelves and drawers popular. She also cites a new trend to watch out for. “End-of-bed trunks are being used as coffee tables which means there’s space to hide things away.”

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