The Classic Piece of Furniture Every Home Needs

Need some extra, hidden-but-easy access storage, or a place to display all of your plants and picture frames? Look no further than the credenza, a common cabinet-style storage option that can add functionality and flair to your space. While original credenzas have roots in the dining room, you can find a variation on a credenza that works in just about any room of your home.

Typically, credenzas come with specific features, but if you’re looking for a cabinet-style piece to fulfill a different function, consider a sideboard, buffet, or console, all close relatives of the low-and-long credenza.

Here’s what you need to know about credenzas, their history, and key characteristics, according to an interior designer.

What Is a Credenza?
Design: Emily Henderson; Photo: Ryan Liebe

According to Sempliner, a credenza describes a cabinet-style piece of furniture that’s most often found in the dining room. While credenzas are appealing because they offer additional storage, they’re not only used as storage cabinets. “Because credenzas are low and wide, they also provide an additional serving surface or display surface, depending on where the piece is used,” Sempliner says.

Credenzas are often found in gathering spaces, but they can be used in virtually any room of a home—for example, as a console in an entryway or hall or for additional storage in a home office. “I highly recommend [credenzas] for the benefit of closed storage and style,” Sempliner says.

What Features Make a Credenza?

Credenzas can some in a number of sizes, finishes, and styles, from antique to contemporary, so you can easily incorporate them into your existing aesthetic and layout. While the exact design of your credenza may vary, you can count on most credenzas having a few key features:

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Cabinet-style storage
Long-and-low shape
No legs or very short legs
Sliding doors or cabinet-style doors
Potentially, glass doors for display

Enjoy entertaining? Use your credenza to store liquor or wine bottles and glasses as you would a bar cart, or instantly create extra surface area at a gathering for drink and food service.

The History of Credenzas

As with many essential furniture pieces, credenzas have an interesting history. Sempliner says the name “credenza” comes from an Italian word meaning “belief” or “trust.” ” In the sixteenth century, credenza referred to the process of servants tasting food and drinks for the higher-ups to ensure that nothing was poisonous,” she says. “This name was then taken on by the piece of furniture where the food and drink was stored for this practice.”

Several hundred years later, in the mid-20th century, credenzas surged in popularity once more as Scandinavian designers crafted high-end, long-and-low cabinets with or without legs.

While the original, 16th-century credenzas had a more decorative, architectural look typically featuring a stone top and column decorations, today’s credenzas often pay homage to the Scandinavian resurgence with their more modern feel—think sleek design and warm wood finishes.

Types of Credenzas

While it’s true that historic credenzas were most commonly used in dining areas, this essential furniture piece has since evolved to play different roles in the home. Here are a few types of credenza-style furniture pieces you may want to incorporate into your space:

Buffet

Similar to the historical credenza, a buffet usually sits in the dining room to serve food or store dinnerware. Like credenzas, buffets come equipped with plenty of storage, though they are generally taller and have longer legs.

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Sideboard
Getty

Like a buffet, a sideboard can usually be found in a dining room or even a kitchen, but they often contain more storage than other similar pieces of furniture, featuring accompanying hutches for storing china or other dishes. Think of a sideboard as the prototype for today’s kitchen cabinets.

Console

A console may look and function exactly like a credenza, but when it’s used for media storage in the living or family room, some people call this piece a console. Or, a console can be a long, low table without cabinets that’s placed against the wall or at the back of a sofa for displaying decor.