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Home furniture can be kind of a confusing place sometimes, can’t it?

At first it all seems so simple – there’s chairs, there’s tables, there’s dressers, and there’s probably not a lot of difference between them all, right? At least not at first, until you start digging a little deeper. That’s when you start running into all those terms your mom or grandma used to throw around in regards to the word cabinet- or dresser-looking things you’d see around the house; one of them is a credenza, one is a sideboard, and suddenly you have no idea what you’re looking at.

It’s happened to all of us, but fret not! We’ve got some quick facts and details here on what the difference between all of these different furniture types, as well as what you can use them for (and where):

Credenzas

WHAT ARE THEY? Historically speaking, credenzas are any storage furniture with no legs that stretches all the way down to the floor, probably with sliding doors and/or a little display shelf. You’ve probably seen them a million times and just called them “cabinets” and while you’re not wrong, the English language is a funny place sometimes.

HOW DO YOU USE THEM? Credenzas tend to appear most often in bedrooms and offices; their height and design usually makes them a good call for wardrobe storage or the safekeeping of non-food goods like office supplies or bathroom accessories (not unlike an armoire, which is a whole separate thing). Depending on their height, a lot of them can pull double-duty as a writing desk, too.

Buffets

WHAT ARE THEY? To a lot of people, buffets (also known as buffet tables) tend to look like very squat bedroom dressers, and while that’s not far from the truth they’re a little more interesting than that. Buffets are almost the opposite of credenzas in that they stretch more horizontally than they do vertically, offering pull-out drawers (and occasionally side doors) to store whatever you’re keeping in there.

HOW DO YOU USE THEM? Befitting their name, buffets tend to find a home in a lot of kitchens. Many people with buffets use them for serving stations near the kitchen, and the extra drawers and doors are a great place to keep silverware and plates to free up space in your other cabinets (for the twelve different hot sauces you keep around for when your son comes over for dinner).

Sideboards

WHAT ARE THEY? A lot of people will try to tell you that sideboards and buffets are the same thing, and while they do have a lot in common this isn’t quite accurate. Sideboards share some design similarities with both buffets and credenzas; they’re short and offer a lot of flat space on top to hold and serve things, but they’re designed more similarly to credenzas in that they’re a little more tall than they are wide and usually have drawers or doors on the bottom. Imagine a slightly bigger end table and you’re on the right track.

HOW DO YOU USE THEM? Sideboards are maybe the most versatile of the three things we’ve talked about today. Their small-ish size lets them fit in a lot more settings than buffets or (most) credenzas, giving them uses ranging from extra table space and/or storage in the dining room, additional desktop space in offices, or even right next to the TV stand to give your movies and cable boxes a little room to breathe. If you need more flat space, more drawers, or both, sideboards are your best bet.

There, that wasn’t so confusing, right? And the next time your parents come over for holiday dinner you’ll actually be able to tell them where the buffet table is and sound like you know what you’re talking about!

It’s the little victories, sometimes.

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