Dining Room Sideboards
English style dining room sideboards, the major types in history, and their uses in modern dining rooms.
After dining tables come sideboards, side tables and dressers ; whichever term we prefer to use.
There is a noticeable reluctance in the displaying of food in any prominent place in modern times : possibly this is a survival of the trying days when hosts felt rather apologetic about the rationed meals they and their guests endured rather than enjoyed ; it is certain that we are no longer in sympathy with the ideals that prompted our grandparents to look upon a double supply of viands arrayed before a duplicating mirror. The heavy bevelled glass framed in massive mahogany, crowned with a pediment of vague ornament, has no welcome place in contemporary dining rooms : rather do we turn to the simpler forms designed by Sheraton, with a thin brass rail across the back on which a curtain may hang. But we are not beginning at the beginning : first comes oak, and much it has to offer us in good, straightforward models.
A Jacobean oak dresser is a useful piece of furniture, for it is provided with drawers for the storing of knives, forks, table mats and so forth, and its top is sufficiently roomy to make an excellent serving table. The dressers with sets of shelves are useful for displaying pewter, china or glass ; they are strong, plain pieces, and utility is their chief point. They may be used as sideboards and are in perfect harmony with other oak or walnut furniture.
Small William and Mary and Queen Anne tables can be obtained, and there are many attractive designs of Queen Anne dressers in walnut and lacquer.
In mahogany the sideboard becomes fully developed. The simplest forms with cupboards and drawers, inlaid with a few lines of satinwood or moulded only, with brass handles and tapering legs, appear side by side with designs that have panels of kingwood and satinwood, wonderfully figured and delicately inlaid, with plate cabinets at the back that disappear when a lever is pressed, and other complicated and ingenious devices. Long or short, broad or narrow, plain or highly-finished, Sheraton sideboards are always attractive, and few designs possess the utility and proportion they embody.
Modern sideboards in plain oak or painted wood lack the subtle line, the effortless grace of their eighteenth century predecessors. It would almost seem that furniture designers of our own time are so keenly alive to the value of colour that it has betrayed them into ignoring other things equally vital though not so apparent. They have shaken off the influence of the nineteenth century very largely, but how many of us would hesitate to select the work of craftsmen long dead were we offered the choice of a simple Sheraton sideboard in plain mahogany or a modern sideboard in plain oak? That is the true test modern furniture must pass, and it does not always succeed in convincing us of its superiority in either design or utility.
Modern Sideboard, 1867, by Edward Godwin.
Dramatic looking but quite practical with drawers, adjustable shelves, and a rack fitted to take a large dish between the cupboards.
Next: Small Occasional Tables.