We often have people coming in looking for a mid-century modern "credenza," or "sideboard," or "buffet," or even sometimes a "dresser," but end up describing the same furniture pieces. You know the one, it's about waist tall with a solid top and storage below in the form of cabinets, drawers or cupboards. These items are sometimes referred to interchangeably but do you know the history of how different pieces came to be one in the same to some? Technically, we don't know for sure, but we are going to take a stab at it, starting with a quick search of the word credenza. Here is what we found, let us know if you know anything more!
In the 16th century a servant performed the act of credenza, from credence, for important people like a lord or noble person. This act was the testing of food and drinks for poison. What a job! It's thought that the act then eventually passed to the furniture where it was performed, which is where the food and drinks are -- naming the piece of furniture a credenza. This is the same piece that is more commonly called a sideboard.
Sideboards gained popularity in the 19th century as households became more prosperous and were able to dedicate an entire room solely to dining, also known as the dining room. Traditionally, the sideboard was used in the dining room to serve food, display dishes, and store related items. Some however call this a buffet. The term buffet originally referred to a French sideboard where the food was served which was then applied to the serving format, buffet. We have all been to one of those - all you can eat! If you want to get picky, as we are trying to do, a sideboard typically has shorter legs or no legs at all. Whereas if the piece has longer legs it would be referred to as a buffet.
So how does dresser fit into all this? When we say dresser in American English this is a piece of furniture that is typically waist high, series of drawers and has a flat top for adding a mirror and storing our clothing. In British English a Welsh dresser is what we would call a china hutch, or sometimes a kitchen dresser. The kitchen dresser is also referred to as a sideboard or credenza which brings us full circle.
No matter what you call it, they come in all shapes and sizes and can store everything from clothes to dishes to records. What do you call this piece in your home?
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