How to Determine the Era of an Antique Buffet or Sideboard

By Louise Harding
Heavy engraving and other details can establish the era of antique sideboards.

The era of an antique buffet or sideboard is determined by the style. Each era left its imprint through the designs considered fashionable at the time. An owner of an antique must verify that the buffet or sideboard is, indeed, an antique. Many companies replicate antique styles. The best way to evaluate an antique is to take it to an antique appraiser. The appraiser is knowledgeable in furniture styles and time periods. If an appraiser isn’t an option, consult antique furniture guides and match the style of your buffet or sideboard with photos and descriptions.

Look for any identifying marks on your antique buffet or sideboard. According to The Furniture, a buffet is the bottom portion of a cupboard or a low cupboard used for serving food. A sideboard is a cupboard used for displaying plates. Look on the back of the buffet/sideboard or under it. Often company names and dates are engraved, burned, etched, or inked on a back or under section. Company names, cities or dates can help you establish the date of your furniture.

Examine the construction of your antique buffet or sideboard. Take note of the way the wood is joined. According to the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, screws weren’t commonly used in furniture until the end of the 1700’s. Before that nails or tongue and groove construction was used. Tongue and groove was a method of joining that required no fastener. One wood piece had a protrusion, called a tongue, while the other wood piece had a slot for the tongue to slide into, called a groove. The absence of screws and nails usually dates your buffet or sideboard to before the 1600’s.

Photograph your antique buffet or sideboard. Use the photograph to browse online auctions and antique stores, or to take with you while visiting antique stores and live auctions. It’s easy to forget the finer details of an antique piece of furniture, and sometimes the little details are what determine the era of the piece. Pay attention to finer details: hinges, drawer pulls, knobs and carving designs.

Consult antique furniture guides to compare photographs and details of identified antique buffets and sideboards to your buffet/sideboard. The wood used to construct the buffet/sideboard often determines the era. According to Museum Furniture, Queen Anne style buffets and sideboards will have carved scallop shells with graceful, bowed legs. Walnut, cherry, mahogany and maple woods are the most popular. Queen Anne furniture dates from 1702 to 1714. Purchase books at bookstores or find in libraries.

Visit antique stores and examine antique buffets or sideboards. Compare features such as leg style, wood weight, style of carving and wood color. According to Museum Furniture, furniture dating from 1603 to 1625 is referred to as Jacobean furniture and is huge in size and commonly of very dark wood.

Hire an antique appraiser if you fail to find a similar antique buffet or sideboard in any books, stores or auctions. Appraisers charge a fee for evaluating your furniture, but their expertise is valuable for dating your buffet or sideboard and for providing the history of the era.

Things Needed

  • Camera
  • Antique furniture guides

About the Author

Louise Harding holds a B.A. in English language arts and is a licensed teacher. Harding is a professional fiction writer. She is mother to four children, two adopted internationally, and has had small businesses involving sewing and crafting for children and the home. Harding's frugal domestic skills help readers save money around the home.