If you are searching for furniture pieces for your dining room or living room, chances are you will come across many different terms for furniture items. I was confused about the differences between the terms I was seeing online like hutch, credenza, buffet and sideboard. Are they all really different and do they serve specific purposes or are the terms interchangeable? I went on a mission to find out exactly what each of these furniture items are and what purpose they are intended to serve.
A hutch, credenza, buffet, sideboard, hutch and china cabinet are all pieces of furniture originally intended to be used in a dining room setting. Although these pieces of furniture are similar and sometimes can be used interchangeably, there are a few differences to take into account when looking to buy one for your home.
What is the difference between a hutch, credenza, buffet, sideboard and china cabinet?
I searched for the perfect vintage mid century credenza for our living room for 2 years. I wanted something that was affordable, good quality and vintage. I finally found the perfect piece on Facebook Marketplace and it’s still my favorite piece of furniture that I own. While I was in the depths of searching, I came across so many different terms for furniture and I had no idea what any of them actually meant. I decided to get to the bottom of all the different terms like hutch, buffet, sideboard and credenza. Hopefully this information will help you when you are looking for the next perfect piece of furniture for your home.
What Is A Credenza?
When I think of mid century furniture, credenza is the first term that comes to mind. As I was searching for my piece of furniture to go underneath our TV, credenza is what I would search for on Facebook Marketplace. What is a credenza actually supposed to be used for and how is it different from other types of furniture?
A credenza is usually a low piece of furniture with short legs and an elongated body that is intended to be in a dining room. It’s typically made of wood and has cabinets and drawers for storing dishes and serving pieces.
History Of The Credenza
According to this article from Merriam-Webster, the credenza originated in the middle ages and was often used as a place for servants to taste food before serving it to royalty. It also typically did not have legs, according to dictionary.com.
The Modern Day Credenza
In modern times, credenzas typically have short legs. They are still traditionally found in the dining room but they are also commonly used in the living room as an entertainment center. Credenzas can also go in the entryway or even as a dresser in a bedroom. Credenzas are typically smaller than buffets or sideboards, making them more versatile.
What is a sideboard?
A sideboard is also a long piece of furniture that is used in a dining room. According to an article on Wikipedia, if it has no legs, then it’s considered a sideboard. If it does have legs, then it would be referred to as a buffet or credenza. According to Elle Decor, a sideboard oftentimes comes with a hutch that can be placed on top, whereas a credenza is usually a stand alone piece of furniture. The difference is mainly found in the fact that a sideboard does not have legs.
The history of the sideboard
The sideboard dates back to the renessaince era and was used to store tableware and linens. Sideboards often had drawers and cabinets and had intricate details carved into the legs. Historical sideboard typically had legs, but modern day sideboards usually do not.
Modern day sideboards
As I said earlier, most modern day sideboards do not have legs. Usually when a low piece of furniture has legs, it’s referred to as a credenza. Another conflicting distinction that I found on Wikipedia states that when a sideboard is in a living room it’s referred to as a sideboard, but when that same piece of furniture is in a dining room, it’s referred to as a buffet. Either way, it seems like the term “sideboard” is fairly interchangeable with “buffet” and “credenza”.
What Is A Buffet?
Some sources state that buffets are more substantial pieces of furniture than sideboards and credenzas. According to this article from Unruh Furniture, buffets sit on longer legs than credenza (which typically have very short legs) and sideboards (which usually don’t have legs).
The history of the buffet
Buffets date back to the 15th century. Historically, buffets had intricate details and paneled cupboards. Much like sideboards, they were used to serve food in a dining room situation.
Modern day buffets
Since buffets are usually larger pieces of furniture than credenzas, they are most often best suited for a dining room situation.
What Is A Hutch?
A hutch is a piece of furniture that is made up of 2 parts. The lower part is a cabinet (similar to a buffet or credenza) and the top part is a display case made up of shelves that sits on top of the lower cabinet.
History Of The Hutch
Hutches typically had a more simple style than china cabinets and were more functional than decorative.( This article was helpful in determining the style and distinction of hutches and china cabinets.)
Modern Day Hutch
Hutches can be used in a variety of ways in a modern setting. You can use hutches to display dishes in the dining room, house books in a bedroom or even use them as a shelf for plants (this is how I’m currently using mine after I recently painted it). Because the top portion of the hutch is not connected, it’s a very versatile piece of furniture for your home.
What Is A China Cabinet?
A china cabinet is piece of furniture that typically has glass doors to display dishes and china (as opposed to a hutch which is composed of 2 pieces). China cabinets are often more formal and ornate than hutches. China cabinets are traditionally found in a dining room.
History of A China Cabinet
According to Wikipedia, china cabinets gained their popularity in the 17th century in England and they are still staple pieces of furniture in traditional dining rooms. Their main purpose was to display china collections.
Modern China Cabinets
Although the typical way to use a china cabinet is to display dishes in a dining room, there are no set rules for their use in modern day design. You even can paint a china cabinet a funky color, use it to display knick knacks, books or plants (much like a hutch).
Can the terms buffet, credenza and sideboard be used interchangeably?
In my opinion, after digging into the origins of a buffet, credenza and sideboard, I believe you can usually use these terms interchangeably. The differences are so minor, that the terms generally refer to the same type of furniture in modern day decor. With that being said, china cabinets and hutches are a little more distinct in their characteristics and the terms aren’t as interchangeable.
For more information about furniture, check out these posts!
- How To Paint An Old Hutch In 10 Easy Steps
- How To Clean Furniture From The Thrift Store
- How To Renovate An Old Dresser