What’s A Credenza? How To Elevate Your Space With This Versatile Furniture

August 16, 2023

You’ve definitely seen one. You’ve quite possibly used it. You might even have one in your house. Maybe it goes by another name, a buffet or sideboard, perhaps. The credenza has been a part of kitchens and dining rooms around the world since the Middle Ages when it received its name from nobles in Italy. Read on for a deep dive into this trusty serving space.

HiBid.com features a wide range of furniture for sale, including credenzas currently open for bidding.
While most credenzas are made of wood, they vary in wood type, carvings, and tops. Some, like this example that was recently listed on HiBid, have marble tops.

What Is A Credenza?

A credenza, also referred to as a “sideboard” or “buffet,” is a long table used for serving food and displaying and storing serving dishes. The name credenza comes from the Italian word for belief. Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, poisoned food was a threat to noble and royal households. To ensure the safety of their food, these families employed servants to taste the food and drink after it left the kitchen but before being served. The act became known as the credenza, and as this tasting took place at the dining room’s sideboard, the furniture received the same name.

What Are Credenzas Used For?

While no longer used for culinary roulette, credenzas remain a popular and functional piece of home décor. In modern interior design, furniture makers work with a looser interpretation of the name credenza, and you will also find this historied cabinet employed in various spaces such as living rooms, offices, and entryways. They serve as TV stands, display and serving tables, and space to store items out of view behind closed doors. Floating credenzas mount to the wall, allowing owners to place them at their desired height.

Find used credenzas for sale like this Italian Baroque-style piece on HiBid.com.
This Italian Baroque-style credenza with distinctive edging offers both cabinets and drawers for storage.

What’s In A Name?

Though the names are frequently used as synonyms, sideboards, buffets, and credenzas each have some defining characteristics. Sideboards, used for storage and servings, were precursors to kitchen cabinets. They tend to be a little taller, have larger cupboards, and sometimes a hutch on top, while credenzas are typically long and low. Buffet tables, used exclusively in the dining room to serve food, tend to be somewhere in the middle, with the length of a credenza and the height of a sideboard.

Style & Function

Over time this simple piece of furniture evolved from a plain table draped in a cloth to a stylish yet functional display item. Credenzas from the Victorian period feature fine veneers, marquetry, parquetry, brass decorations, marble tops, mirror backs, figured woods, and other detailing to elevate the humble sideboard to an elaborate statement piece found in many locations throughout the home. Modern credenzas, such as oak and walnut credenzas, often feature sliding doors, rarely seen on buffets and sideboards.

Find used credenzas for sale like this Italian Renaissance-style piece on HiBid.com.
Traditional credenzas were long and low with either short legs or no legs, like this Italian Renaissance-style credenza that was open for bidding on HiBid at the time of this writing.

What To Look For In A Credenza

Credenzas complement any style, whether your home features farmhouse, modern, or vintage designs. When buying a credenza, consider where it will be located and how it will be used. Take measurements to verify that it will fit your space.

If used to serve food, ensure the credenza has a heat-resistant top, such as marble, to avoid damage from hot dishes. Restaurant credenzas are often stainless steel for easy repetitive cleaning without damaging the credenza. Consider the architecture and style of your home and choose a credenza that will match.

Traditional wood credenzas can often be found for sale at auction on HiBid.com.
While traditional wood credenzas are the most common and popular, bolder modern options, such as this Dorothy Draper-inspired lacquered piece with cut crystal gems pulls, can also be found.

If you’re in the market for antiques, look for identifying marks such as company names or dates engraved, etched, or burned on the back. The type of wood joinery used can also help date a piece and confirm authenticity. And, as with any second-hand item, inspect antique credenzas for signs of damage. Blemishes, such as nicks or scratches, can be fixed or add character. However, significant structural damage could result in wasted money, injuries, or damage to other items stored in or on the piece.

Elevate Your Style With A Credenza

You’ll find credenzas throughout the home today. From TV stand credenzas to office credenzas, these versatile pieces of furniture provide space to store items in cabinets and drawers and space to display decor across the top. In the office, credenzas provide additional surface and storage space. Office credenzas often feature cabinets, drawers, shelving, hutches, or pedestals.

Mid-Century Modern credenzas like these are often up for bidding on HiBid.com.
This Mid-Century Modern credenza has a simple design with no handles, pulls, or elaborate carvings.

Entryway or hallway credenzas display lamps and décor, and store hats and gloves, games, or other items. HiBid.com frequently has credenzas up for auction. From antique to sleek, there’s something to fit any style.

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