What exactly is a sideboard?
What are Sideboards?
Sideboard as a term came into use in the Middle Ages and originally was an alternative word for side table. These first side tables were open stepped shelving structures used to display fancy eating utensils - really a way to show off the status of the owner when people came round to dine.
The sideboard started to get more useful with added storage drawers for cutlery and napkins in the 18th century. More innovation came with additional holders for wine bottles and rails for displaying plates.
In the 19th century sideboards became a familiar piece of furniture and were developed for the wider public. Cupboards were added to store plates and glasses. Styles and decoration became more and more showy - inviting friends and colleagues over for supper was an opportunity to share food, conversation and to impress with a highly carved and decorative piece next to the dining table.
Sideboards and the rise of Open Plan Living
In the twentieth century several factors have given rise to the popularity of open plan living, where kitchen, dining and living rooms are fluidly connected in an open space. Those factors include a pressure on housing space (less space for separate rooms) and less help in the home - parents need to keep an eye on kids, and hosts want to talk to guests whilst they are preparing dinner.
In the new open plan interiors, which became incredibly popular in the 70’s, the sideboard really came into its own, as a way to store the overspill of items from a kitchen area, to tidy up quickly when guests come around, and to do their original job of showing off some of the owner’s favourite possessions. They made a convenient added serving area when table space is squeezed, and they let cooks delegate the setting of the table to guests or family.
Nowadays the sideboard is still working as a storage and display item in modern open plan homes, but it has a new use outside of the dining room. It’s now an ideal media or tv unit or a vinyl record collection cupboard, and you can find it in living rooms and hallways, not just next to your dining table.