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How to Select Sideboards, Consoles, and Credenzas

How to Select Sideboards, Consoles, and Credenzas

Expert advice on which one is right for your needs

A sideboard, a credenza, or a console: These modern office furniture pieces can be interchangeable, leading to occasional confusion among consumers. But each has a specific purpose, and YLiving consulted with San Francisco interior designer Eugene Nahemow, known for his warm residential spaces, to help delineate the differences.

YLiving: Some people use the term "credenza" for their modern office filing desk, but I'm not sure that's the right word.

Eugene Nahemow: A credenza is normally used in an office as a companion piece to a desk. You can use it for files, or maybe electronic storage. It does not have a standard length, though it is typically set up on high legs, around 30-32 inches, to match the height of the desk. The depth is generally 18-22 inches. Many times, a credenza is placed opposite the desk and has the same look and feel. For that reason, I like the Florence Knoll Two-Door and Five-Drawer Credenza with its matching desk. We use them a lot for offices because frequently a desk is floating in an open-plan space and a credenza will then sit up against a wall, as an anchor. In this case, we will leave the desk free for papers and work and meetings, and then the owner can turn around to a credenza and use his computer. Another example we like is the Ward Bennett H-Frame Credenza.

YV: What about a sideboard?

EN: Historically, sideboards were long tables set up for smorgasbords, but now they are really meant to be used as storage or as a narrow table, which is why they are sometimes referred to as buffets. Sideboards are used in the kitchen or dining room and typically have room to stow dishes, serving pieces, tablecloths, and napkins. Because the point of them is to maximize storage and to serve, they have short legs — drawers or cabinets would go almost to the ground — and they rise about 34-36 inches so you can comfortably serve food off of them.

Audrey Four-Door Buffet
Audrey Four-Door Buffet from Copeland Furniture

Although sideboards can be used decoratively, and can even have a hutch on top for display pieces, they were always meant to be utility pieces. For a contemporary space, I like the Audrey Buffet with Optional Hutch and the Reflect Sideboard. To be honest, in a contemporary setting, a decorator wouldn't call it a sideboard — he might call it a console. So it can get confusing.

Reflect Sideboard from Muuto
Reflect Sideboard from Muuto

Tone Cabient
Tone Cabinet from Leif Designpark
Eugene Nahemow

YV: So then the console must be for my television, right?

EN: Sort of. A console is an electronic and media cabinet, and it can be used anywhere in the house. It can be any size or any shape, used to hide electronics in bedrooms and living rooms. Consoles are very popular, but how they look depends on the room. In a bedroom, people try to hide the TV in a console cabinet with doors; in a media room, they might have a low console table with some drawers to get the wires out of the way but sit the TV on top of it so it's always out in the open. So a console, whether cabinet or table, can really be any height.

Stanley Console Table from Gus Modern
Stanley Console Table from Gus* Modern

One important distinguisher is that a console table normally sits up against the wall. Traditionally, it would have no storage and one or two decorative legs and the back would be attached to the wall. But now you see them in a foyer or entrance to a bedroom with decorative items, as places to drop keys, or just long tables to separate a space by perhaps putting one behind a sofa. They tend to be fairly dainty. I like the Stanley Console Table and the Strand Console Table.

Seattle Media Cabinet
Seattle Media Cabinet from Calligaris

The console cabinet, on the other hand can be very large — a wall unit used to house a television, speakers, equipment, and DVDs could be called a console cabinet or media cabinet. Some of my favorites are the Seattle Media Cabinet, the Tone Cabinet, and the Seneca TV Cabinet.

Seneca TV Cabinet
Seneca TV Cabinet from Cattelan Italia

Heidi Mitchell


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