Don't get sent sideways by sideboards

THE sideboard is a most versatile piece of furniture and my personal favourite, simply because of its multi-functional nature.

Of course it’s also about the streamlined aesthetic but let’s not get carried away with that just yet.

If you’re in the market for a new piece of furniture, doesn’t buying something that could work in several rooms in the house appeal? It’s better value too when every gasping breath has been wrung from your credit card.

Look at previously owned sideboards. You won’t go wrong with a model from the 1960s or ’70s, although at the rate these are being sourced you’re more likely to have to choose from late ’70s, or early ’80s stock. These fading beauties were crafted from teak and rosewood and will revive with a sup of tung oil lovingly applied.

G-Plan is the ubiquitous label and jolly solid it is too. Most second-hand shops will have one lurking neglected under a stack of office chairs, whereas vintage shops will have cleaned up versions.

If you are of the beady eye, seek out Macintosh of Kirkaldy, less well known than G-Plan with a smaller output which makes them more collectible, and pricier too, admittedly. But talk about clever: these boys have baize-lined cutlery drawers and a cupboard with a little pull-out table on which to perch your cocktail shaker.

If something brand new and of the moment are more your style, there are two trends to watch, the low level model inspired by styles of the ’60s and ’70s, and high boards which take all the practical features of the sideboard and design it on the vertical rather than horizontal.

When browsing the shops inevitably you’ll be drawn to a model by its appearance, but don’t get sucked in by looks. Sideboards are big pieces of furniture so make sure its storage meets your needs. Try to avoid ones where half the space is given over to wasteful wine racks. Opt for a mix of drawers and cupboards so if it’s in use in the dining room you can store cutlery and table linens in the drawers, and wares in the cupboards.

If deployed in a living area the television can sit on top and dvds stored inside. I know of one household who have done this and dedicated the rest of the sideboard as a toy cupboard because it’s low enough for little ones to access their treasures. The long-term plan is when the parents can get back to entertaining, the sideboard will revert to its original use.

Shorter models work brilliantly in hallways and offer more versatility than console tables, having out of sight storage to stow hats, gloves and umbrellas. On wide upstairs landings, surplus bed linens and towels that won’t fit in the hot press can find a home.

Even in its natural habitat, the dining room, books can also find a home out of sight behind the sideboard doors.

* Next week we look at the work of Irish designer Eileen Grey


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