Buffets And Beyond: Choosing The Best Storage For Your Dining Room

In any dining room, the table and chairs are going to be the stars of the show. But while they may take front and center (and certainly get the most use), it’s not unusual to sneak in an extra piece or two for added storage. That said, there are a whole lot of options out there above and beyond classic buffets, and which one will work best for you depends a lot on how you use the space and what exactly you need to store. This list is just a few of the most common options, as well as a breakdown of where and when they work the best.

Classic Buffets

Liberty City Buffet 199055 in Walnut and Black from Zuo Modern
Liberty City Buffet 199055 in Walnut and Black from Zuo Modern

Buffets – also sometimes called a buffet table, sideboard, or credenza – are probably the most common type of dining room storage, and the one you’re most likely to see paired with a dining set. These are long, low cabinets that are typically shorter than your dining table, which allows them to sit below eye level and relatively unnoticed along one side of your dining room. The closed cabinet storage is perfect for stowing spare servingware, dinnerware, and linens, keeping them close at hand in a dining room where you entertain big groups of guests.

Taller Side Cabinets

Nightfly Bar Buffet in Ebony R413302434103 from Rossetto
Nightfly Bar Buffet in Ebony R413302434103 from Rossetto

While most buffets are wide and low, they are available in a wide range of other sizes and shapes as well, including relatively tall, narrow cabinets that are a bit more dresser-like in shape. These types of buffets are a little more visible, since they’re right at eye level while sitting, but largely the difference is a practical one: the size, shape, and arrangement of the cabinets and drawers can be quite different from one design to the next, and depending on the size of your dining room, one might fit better than another. Another thing to keep in mind, though, is that long, low-to-medium height buffets can be used as serving tables, while narrower and taller tables are often better for mixing and serving drinks.

Curios and China Cabinets For Displaying Your Dinnerware

Barcelona Buffet With Hutch China Cabinet 701-HB from Meridian Furniture
Barcelona Buffet With Hutch China Cabinet 701-HB from Meridian Furniture

Buffets are something of a workhorse – designed to hold a lot of stuff while keeping clutter to a minimum. But if you happen to have a really nice set of dishes for entertaining, you probably don’t want them out of sight and out of mind. A china cabinet makes it possible to keep all your dinnerware, glassware, flatware, and servingware on display in your dining room, whether you’re using it or not. These cabinets are much larger, both tall and wide with glass-fronted displays up top and closed cabinets down below, so you do still have a place to stow those spare linens as well.  China cabinets are generally best suited to big, grand dining rooms. If you want to show off your best dishes, this is the way to do it.

Wine Racks and Cabinets

Marciel Mirrored Wine Cabinet 24519 from Uttermost
Marciel Mirrored Wine Cabinet 24519 from Uttermost

Of course, dishes aren’t the only thing you might want to display (or keep close at hand) in a formal dining room. If you have a fairly extensive wine collection, or even if you just want to keep a nice selection of bottles close at hand during dinner, a wine rack can be a great standalone or supplementary storage.  More even than the other options listed here, wine racks come in a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and styles, from simple stands or wall mounted caddies that hold maybe a half dozen bottles to huge, wall-sized cabinets built to house a large collection, so it isn’t hard to find one to fit your space and fill your storage needs. Wine racks are also a pretty common feature of other types of dining room storage, so it shouldn’t be too hard to find one built into a buffet or china cabinet.

Cocktail Carts For A Full Drinks Service

Nicoline Iron Serving Cart 24307 from Uttermost
Nicoline Iron Serving Cart 24307 from Uttermost

On the other hand, if your drink of choice is something other than wine, or if you’re looking to show off your bartending skills, drink carts are another great choice for a dining room. These are basically decorative serving carts, usually featuring metal frames with glass surfaces, and designed to hold a set of liquor bottles, glassware, ice bucket, shakers – everything you need to mix up a nice cocktail on the spot. Most models are relatively compact (making them a good choice for a smaller dining room) and have wheels that can be locked in place as needed, or used to easily relocate the cart to a living area if you want to do your entertaining elsewhere. For a true mixologist, a full built-in bar (with a sink, mini fridge, ice maker, and more) is also an option, but that’s a topic for another day!

Built In Bookshelves

Glass cabinets can have a very formal, hands-off feel, but open bookshelves are much homier, more inviting, and encouraging of a more eclectic display (by AGK Design Studio)
Glass cabinets can have a very formal, hands-off feel, but open bookshelves are much homier, more inviting, and encouraging of a more eclectic display (by AGK Design Studio)

Last but not least, I want to offer a slightly less conventional option: bookshelves. Now, if you’re an avid bibliophile, this is probably a possibility that’s already occurred to you, but even if you aren’t trying desperately to find a place to store your extensive book collection, this can be a good option. Built-in bookshelves have many of the same features as buffets and china cabinets – shelves up top, cabinets down below, surfaces if you need them – and they don’t have to be used exclusively for books. Lots of nice shelves are a great spot to put conversation-starting trinkets on display, and particularly if you have them custom built, you have the freedom to add exactly the type and amount of storage you want right where you need it, making this something of a hybrid of all the other options put together.

Making the most of your dining room means choosing the furniture that most closely suits your needs, and not neglecting to consider your storage!