The vogue for sideboards - traditional, vintage and edgy new designs - offers novel potential throughout the home for storage and the opportunity to channel our inner stylist, writes Carol O’Callaghan
The sideboard is well and truly reinstalled in our interior lives.
Maligned, and unfashionable for years after a couple of centuries in dedicated and, sometimes, infrequently used dining rooms, it’s found new purpose thanks to its inclination towards multi-function.
It also happens to be my favourite piece of furniture and I’ll take one any day over a console table for its ample top surface and roomy storage behind closed doors.
Why it went out of fashion in the first place baffles me. Perhaps it’s something to do with formal dining rooms being seen as wasted space, simply for dishing up the Sunday roast and special occasion dinners when it could be used more purposefully all year round.
Even in its heyday, the sideboard was relegated to the role of dining room side dish where the table and chairs were the main delights. Nowadays we’re getting crafty and seeing the value this versatile piece which we can adapt for use in just about any room of the house.
I’m loving this development, as is a growing band of interiors bloggers and social media influencers.
Designs are limitless and there’s something to suit all tastes. Just try a search like #sideboards on Instagram to throw up nearly 23,000 options. Go further and try #sideboardstyling for about 5,000 ideas more on how to play stylist with the surface to create a vignette of your favourite accessories.
Michelle Halford of The Designer Chaser blog regularly subjects her 237k followers on Instagram to the delights of this trend. “I love a good sideboard,” she says on the blog. “Even though it's one piece of furniture I have yet to acquire, it's definitely on the wish list. “Today's sideboards come in many different modern and contemporary styles but because they date back to the 18th century, there are always antique and vintage finds on offer. I particularly love mid-century sideboards which work well in all styles of interiors, contemporary or classic. They have a timeless quality but a coat of white paint or splash of colour will give them a modern edge.”
I totally agree with her, having picked up a bargain 1960s McIntosh in teak a few years back. With some loving strokes of fine sandpaper, followed by a lick of tung oil it’s in great shape, posturing in the kitchen among lesser units, reinvented, multi-functional and looking handsome.
“Aesthetically, sideboards can make a big impact in hallways, living or dining areas,” Michelle adds, “but they are also a versatile and practical addition to the home. Depending on the design, they can be useful for both storing and displaying items. Keep the things you want hidden behind closed doors or in drawers, and the things you want to display on open shelving and/or on top of the sideboard.”
The latter is where things can get tricky, however. No one cares how table wares and linens are organised inside, if it’s full of toys, or has become the place where bills and household paperwork are stored. I came across a compact sideboard in a hall recently leading a double life of part console and part storage for hats, gloves and scarves.
The surface has the potential to bring out the artist in all of us, but it can also end up looking like a stall at the car boot sale if we get too enthusiastic about accessorising.
A woman with something to say about how to tackle accessories is interior designer and award-winning blogger Maria Jones who, incidentally, gets an average of 2.6 million views on Pinterest each month.
Known online as The Interior Editor, she says, “Without accessories your spaces, no matter how beautifully decorated or furnished, will be left looking and feeling incredibly unloved. Think of accessories as the icing on a cake, offering visual interest, and detail. They are a powerful tool and here’s why: They make your spaces come alive as they add texture, colour, pattern and form. They aren’t just eye candy; objects can be functional in their forms such as vases, books, and bowls. Accessories pull your design scheme together. Large objects aside, grouping accessories together offers greater visual impact.
“A good tip to remember is that smaller items will be lost if spread out. Varying the scale of your accessories, as well as taking into consideration their shape, will provide impact and visual interest.”