Sideboards, Consoles and Buffet Tables: What are the Differences?

Quite often, sideboards, consoles, and buffet tables are names used interchangeably to refer to furniture which appears to have the same functionality.  When in truth, they are names for individual pieces of furniture each with their own unique functionality, style, and appearance.

Because it is their shape and functionality which—in most cases—determines whether a piece of furniture is a sideboard or a buffet table, a console or a side table.

In this blog post, we are going to take a look at the difference between a buffet table, console table, and sideboard.

What is a console table?

A console table is wide, shallow table about as tall as a normal sized table or desk. And, it is usually placed against a wall or sofa. When placed at the back of a couch or sofa, it is called a sofa table.

When you are placing a console table anywhere other than against a sofa, its width and height can be whatever suits the space best.

When it is being used as a sofa table then you want it to be no higher than the sofa’s back. Ideally, the width should not be more than about 15 centimetres at each end of the sofa.

As console tables usually stand alone in a hallway, entry wall, or home office, they provide a great opportunity to be creative. Enabling you to have table of unique styles and materials to suit your office or home.

Many great console table options are available. From a simple design of a table with one surface, to console tables with several shelfs, and draws for extra storage. These are usually great for lounge rooms/living areas where you want to display objects like souvenirs, family photos, and other such special knick-knacks.

Console tables are also used as media and electronic cabinets. Making them great for hiding electronics in living rooms and bedrooms. For example, in a bedroom, some prefer to put their TV in a console cabinet that has doors.

On average console tables are 70 centimetre in height. However, there are designs which range from 71 to 81 centimetres. As console tables are typically placed behind a sofa, they are high enough so it is easy to reach for objects, but low enough that they will not stick above the edge of a sofa.

What is a sideboard?

Sideboards, nowadays, are used as a narrow table or as storage. And this is why sideboards are sometimes instead called buffets.

Sideboards are used in the dining room or kitchen and its defining characteristics are usually cabinets that reach all the way to the floor and short legs. Or, indeed no legs, and just cupboards and other storage space. Modern sideboards come in a variety of styles with many different features to suit different styles, decors, and needs.

5 features and facts about sideboards

Here are some features that make a sideboard a sideboard:

  1. The original function of a sideboard was for serving food. As time progressed, cupboards and draws were added for storing household items like dishes and linen.
  2. Their narrow depth means they can fit in smaller spaces.
  3. They are versatile, often used in hallways, foyers, living rooms, and dining areas.
  4. When used in a dining room for storage, displaying dishes, or serving food, they are called a buffet table.
  5. It’s a low, long cabinet that usually has short legs. Many modern sideboards have cabinets which extend to the floor.

What is a buffet table?

A buffet table is much the same as a sideboard. In fact, if you look at our consoles and buffets range, you will see they look remarkably similar. One key difference is if you are looking to buy a table with a hutch, most places sell buffet and hutch, not sideboard and hutch.

(Although, it is important to keep in mind, you might find somewhere that does sell sideboards with hutches, and they will tell you, you cannot buy buffets with hutches. They are not, strictly speaking, wrong.

It is just different manufacturers and companies have different names for things. Also, it can be a form of branding or advertising. At the end of the day, they have the same functionality, versatility, and—usually—appearance.)

5 features and facts about buffet tables

Here are some features and facts about the buffet table:

  1. Buffet tables originated in Sweden. They were tables used for serving pre-dinner drinks. Eventually, they were turned into a smorgasbord table for serving food.
  2. They offer more space horizontally than vertically. This is what makes them ideal for serving a variety of different dishes.
  3. These tables provide plenty of cupboard and drawer space (perfect for storing crockery and linen).
  4. They are a popular choice for laying out food for self-service.
  5. Typically found in the dining room where people eat. Many have taken to placing them in their kitchen to help with storing and serving food.

Buffet and hutch

Some buffet tables have the addition of a hutch. This is a set of cabinets or shelves which are added on top of the buffet table. The obvious advantage of a buffet hutch is it provides more displace space as well as storage.

Buffet with hutches is very popular in the kitchen or dining room. However, because these tables look so good and are so versatile, they can also be placed in a bedroom or foyer to provide extra storage.

The difference between sideboards and buffet tables

As we mentioned above, there is really one main difference between sideboards and buffet tables: which room you use it in.

In practice, if a table is a low, long storage piece on higher legs, it is usually called a buffet table. If it’s on shorter legs (or has no legs) than it’s considered a sideboard. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Because, again, if you buy a buffet table and put it in your hallway or foyer, then it is no longer a buffet table, it is a sideboard.

The difference between sideboards and console tables

The difference between a sideboard and a console table is that they are two separate styles of furniture. Whereas sideboards and buffets quite often look similar—console tables and sideboards do not.

A console table takes up less space than a sideboard and can be placed in a lobby, smaller dressing room, or bathroom. Making them quite a versatile and functional piece of furniture.

They are ideal for narrow spaces such as entryways and hallways, because of their unobtrusive appearance. Also, if space is at a premium they can act as desks, vanities, bars, or up against a sofa.

When you walk into a furniture shop, distinguishing between the two types of tables is easy. It is typically one or two shelves, and will sometimes have draws for extra storage. The legs of these tables are often long, and the overall effect is a minimal appearance.

Console tables provide extra storage, and with the addition of baskets are an ideal safe place for essential items like wallets and keys to be placed until it is time to leave.

A sideboard—or buffet—is usually used to store linen and crockery used for special occasions. And the surface of the table is ideal for placing food for guests to help themselves. Alternatively, if it’s in the living room it can be used to place electronics on, or special items and knick-knacks like artwork, photos, bowls, or candles.

In appearance, these usually don’t have any legs (or very short legs) and have plenty of storage (draws and/or cupboards) with a flat tabletop.

Picking the right sideboard, console table or buffet for your space

Now that we have looked at the differences between each piece of furniture, the question becomes: what is the right piece of furniture for your needs?

There are three questions which are useful to consider:

  1. Where are you looking to place the furniture?
  2. How much space should the piece of furniture take up?
  3. What function will the piece of furniture have?

The way you answer these questions will help you decide which is the ideal piece of furniture for your needs. Once you know the answer to these three questions, it is simply a matter of determining which style of table you want to fill your space.


At La Maison we have a wide variety of consoles and buffets, as well as sideboard buffet tables. Depending on what look you are going for, buffets and sideboards can either match your dining room or can be a very different style to give the room a more electric, modern look.

If you have a smaller dining room, a buffet with glass cabinet doors or open shelving often looks lighter and gives the room an airy feel. A table with closed cabinetry can look heavy and is often best used for larger dining rooms.

If you would like to know more, or to check out or range of sideboards, consoles and buffet tables, contact us today.

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