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The History of the Sideboard: 18th Century to 2019

The design of today’s white gloss sideboards often harks back to their ancestors in 18th century Britain. Those sideboards emerged as an essential household item that helped to facilitate the opulence of a Georgian dinner.

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The Sideboard in Georgian Britain
First popularised by the Scottish architect and furniture designer Robert Adam in the 1770s, sideboards provided storage for cutlery and glasses and other dining accoutrements in its cupboards and drawers. Because they stood waist-high, food could also be displayed and served buffet-style from the sideboard. Georgian sideboards were elegant in their design with subtle inlay and veneers, and usually rested on twin pedestals.

Evolution During the Regency
The sideboard was almost universally found in the dining rooms of aristocratic houses by the end of the 18th century; however, by the Regency no dining room of the upper and middle classes was complete without one. During this time, the larger Adams-style piece was reduced in scale, although it retained many of the features found in the Georgian Period. The handcrafted Regency era sideboard had more of a sophisticated, neo-classical design than its predecessors, capturing a grace unique to the period, while also introducing both the bow-front and the serpentine front.

Mass-Production of The Victorian Era Sideboard
With an expanding middle class due to the Industrial Revolution, it could be argued that the sideboard had its heyday during the Victorian era when more and more people could afford a separate room for dining. Victorian sideboards were both sturdy and substantial, often made from oak and mahogany, and covered with heavy carvings depicting historical or religious themes. These sideboards were mostly mass-produced, adding to their affordability to the middle classes, and the whole lower part contained cupboards extending to the floor. A primary function of the Victorian sideboard was to display items such as tureens, silver candlesticks, and polished brass oil lamps.

The 20th and 21st Centuries
Into the 20th and 21st Centuries the sideboard has retained its functionality, but in terms of design, it has stylistically to reverted something simpler and closer to the Regency era. As Europe recovered from the Second World War, so too did the sideboard with Scandinavian designers producing some incredibly inventive work. These Nordic innovators, along with British designers such as Gordon Russell, have reinvigorated the sideboard, making it not only a useful piece of furniture, but also something to catch the eye, a work of art as it were. And with regards contemporary 21st century design, only white gloss sideboards can match the grace and quality found in the best of its predecessors.

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