A step-by-step guide for decorating a buffet, sideboard, or any flat surface like a pro. Learn how to transform this functional furniture piece into a room’s focal point.
Decorating sideboards and buffets in our dining rooms and other rooms in our home is so important! These are prime pieces of decor real estate that can show off our personality! Today I’m sharing easy ways to decorate a sideboard or buffet and useful, fabulous, and doable styling tips too!
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Let’s talk about decor basics and tips for decorating a buffet. These decor basics are invaluable so don’t skip them. They will make styling your buffet so much easier.
It does not take a lot of time or a great many things to decorate a buffet. With these helpful tips, you can style a buffet beautifully in minutes.
Most buffets and sideboards are wonderful areas to add pretty decor to your home and a big dose of your personality!
I thought showing you several different ways to style a buffet might be helpful. So I gathered up items to style a few different looks on our buffet in the living room.
A Quick History Of A Buffet
A buffet is a very versatile piece of furniture! Coveted for its long flat surface for decorating or serving food, a buffet is a great workhorse piece of furniture to own.
The word buffet is a French word that was adopted by the English to mean a place where a meal is served.
A buffet, typically a long cabinet, is a versatile piece of furniture originally designed to store and display dining essentials such as dishes, bowls, napkins, and serving platters, making it a convenient addition to any kitchen or dining room.
However, this well-rounded piece of furniture is also used in a living room and is called a sideboard, credenza, or console.
My White Buffet
My buffet has been with us in two houses.
Originally in the dining room at StoneGable, then came with us to the Tanglewood House and now resides in the living room.
At StoneGable, this buffet was a great storage area for all sorts of dishware and serving dishes. It also came in handy as a self-serve food station for guests. It was a dessert station for Christmas dinners, a salad and soup station for family meals, and countless other celebrations. It was used as a pop-up bar with trays of libations, mixers, and glassware, as well as platters of appetizers.
The buffet was near enough to the dining table to be handy and far enough away not to be crowded when friends and family were serving themselves.
When we moved to the Tanglewood House, we took it with us and used it in our very open-concept living room. The sideboard (because it is in the living room) stores some of my cake stand collection, books, vases, and bookends.
Our Tanglewood Home lends itself to an unfussy, airy, streamlined look, so I decorate the sideboard accordingly.
No matter your style, you can decorate a buffet like a pro following these tips.
Basic buffet decorating things to know…
- add light layers to your buffet decor
- a mix of larger and medium-sized items is preferred over lots of mini objects on a buffet
- use faux blooms and plants liberally making sure they are very realistic
- experiment and play with your accessories
- less is more
- keep a tight color palette
- change things up often
Where To Start
The first thing to do when styling your buffet is to read this post all the way to the end! There is lots of information here that will be very helpful to you before you even put one thing on your buffet or sideboard. Once you have read the post from beginning to end then…
Start With A Clean Slate
It’s important to start will a clean slate! Remove everything from your buffet, sideboard, or other flat surfaces before you begin styling. And if you can, remove anything behind the buffet that is on the wall. The mirror behind the buffet is so big and heavy that I was not able to remove it. But if you have something you can remove, you should.
I’m going to encourage you to take pictures with your phone of each step as you decorate your buffet. It’s amazing what your phone will show you that your eyes don’t pick up! Blogging has taught me to take pictures as I decorate.
Before anything goes back on the buffet we should be familiar with a few interior design concepts that will make a big difference in the final way your buffet will look and feel.
Choose A Tight Color Palette
The number one way to create a beautiful cohesive look when styling a flat surface like a buffet is to choose a tight color palette.
A color palette will create harmony between the items on a buffet and it will also help you choose things that complement the room your buffet is in.
It’s worth knowing your way around what goes into creating a color palette that adds to the beauty of your home. You might like to read How To Choose A Color Palette For Your Home.
Create a Balanced Design
Because a buffet is a long narrow flat surface, it is important to think about balance when decorating it.
Think of balance as adding things to an equal-arm scale or teeter-totter. When we decorate, we want to strive to make the scale as balanced as we can. In other words, if we draw an imaginary line down the middle of a buffet, the items on one side of the buffet have about the same visual weight as the items on the other. The items do not need to be the same, but they need to have about the same visual weight.
We access the visual weight of everything we see. It’s just something our eyes do. Trust your eyes! Finding the perfect balance on a buffet is not hard. You may just have to move things around until you feel that the decor on either side of your buffet looks right. Knowing about Visual Weight will make you a better decorator!
Why Balance Is So Important When You Decorate is a very helpful post when decorating things like buffets or anything else in your home. In this post, we also discuss concepts like symmetry and scale and proportion.
When displaying decor on a buffet or sideboard, it is important to vary the heights of objects to make the display more visually appealing!
Our eyes love to move from one item to another and when they can travel up and down over objects they deem what they are seeing as interesting and attractive.
When the height of items displayed are all the same size this looks dull and boring and uninteresting to our eyes.
So make sure to vary the heights of objects you are using to decorate a buffet.
The Magic Of Threes
Did you know there is magic in threes when it comes to decorating? There is! Our eyes search for things grouped in threes. There is lots of science behind the rule of three and why we love things grouped in odd numbers but for our buffet styling let’s just say we should have at least one group of three on our surface to be decorated!
There is, however, a right way and a wrong way to create a group of three. Think about creating a visual triangle.
A visual triangle is a perfect way to group three items together to be pleasing to our eyes. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Choose items with different heights so they make a triangle. Layer the smaller items slightly in front of the tallest item if you can.
Groups Of Items Can Be Divided Into Threes
Did you know that items grouped closely together can act as one on a buffet? Just see the image above!
Our eye often captures a group of decor items as one thing!
Texture is something we should always be thinking about no matter what we decorate. Our eyes have the ability to perceive how things feel. Rough, silky, fluffy, and shiny. When styling a sideboard be aware of the textures you are adding. They should be varied.
Use The Wall Space Behind The Buffet
The wall space, like the flat surface of a buffet, is decorating gold! So putting something as a backdrop up on the wall is a must! Add a mirror (like I did), shelves, art, or architectural elements to the wall.
I just changed out a big clock on the wall behind the buffet for a large, lightly antiqued 16-panel mirror. I’m enjoying how this mirror opens up the room and also reflects not only light but the items on the buffet.
I sometimes lean a smaller picture on the buffet in front of the mirror. I count this as part of the wall decor. Right now I’m enjoying a little picture of cut oranges I have leaned against the mirror for an added layer of decor.
Anchor items are items that you will probably not change as you style your buffet from season to season. Think about what will stay the same no matter how you decorate your buffet.
Anchor decor usually works best at the end of a flat surface.
Lighting is probably the most common anchor decor. Most of us do not change a table lamp too often. If you have a dining room sideboard you might want to use buffet lamps that are tall and skinny. They were made for a buffet they do not take up much room. And they highlight the food or drinks on a buffet by shining pools onto it.
A pair of sconces hanging on the wall on either side of a buffet make a beautiful upscale statement. Putting them on dimmers will make it easy to adjust the light.
Beautiful Accessories And Accent Pieces
One of the best parts of styling a buffet is adding accessories and accent pieces to the top of it!
When you have hung a mirror or artwork on the wall behind a buffet and put the anchor decor in place on the buffet, now is the time to decorate with beautiful home decor accessories! Below are some tried and true items that are popular on a buffet.
Using something organic will give life to the display you style on a buffet. We all love flowers and know how they can liven up a room! Make sure to use something, big or small, that is alive or looks like it is.
I love using real and faux organics when I decorate.
There is nothing like the real things. I found these tulips at the grocery store and knew I would use them on the sideboard. They not only add a punch of color but demand our attention!
However, don’t discount faux flowers or plants. Especially the ones that are fool-the-eye real! They can have the same attention-getting drama as their real counterparts with a lot less fuss. Read How To Make Faux Flowers Look More Realistic for the best faux flower tips.
Here are a few organics that make great additions to a buffet…
- a bunch of seasonal greens or flowers
- faux greenery
- moss balls or moss in a large bowl
- a low bowl of succulents
- a trio of the same potted plant
Candles And Lanterns
Candles and decorative lanterns are natural fits for a buffet. They add height and when lit add beautiful pools of soft golden light. They create ambiance and look beautiful!
They also add a different texture to a buffet display.
It’s a good idea to add a little something to bridge the decor on one side of a buffet or flat surface to the other side. And here is an easy way to do that as well as the exception to the visual triangle rule.
Three decor items that are similar and about the same size can work as one to make a beautiful bridge between the left and the right decor on a buffet.
This is a pretty look if you need something to add to the middle of your buffet decor.
Other Buffet Decor
A buffet or sideboard is the place to let your personality shine! Add decor you love and that is meaningful to you. Here are examples of decor you might like to use…
- low sided baskets
- beautiful bowls
- a sculptural piece
A buffet or sideboard is a useful piece of furniture for displaying decor on it’s top flat surface and for storing items in drawers and behind closed doors. These are perfect places to keep things you need out of sight.
Decorating A Buffet Quick Guide
Here is a quick guide for decorating a stylish buffet…
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FAQs About Decorating A Buffet Or Sideboard
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Decorating a buffet can be a fun and stylish way to add your personality, beauty, and function to any room it is in. Remember to change the decor on your buffet from time to time to keep it fresh and interesting. Follow these easy designer concepts and buffet decorating tips to style your buffet like a pro.