In Inspiration, Styling

How To Style A Sideboard

ten tips to styling a sideboard perfectly like an expert

Sideboards have rocketed in popularity with the resurgence of mid-century modern decor. As well as handy storage, they’re a great opportunity to add character and personality to a space with the way you style the top of your sideboard.

I’m forever faffing with the arrangement on ours, so I’ve pulled together some tips that you can take collectively or separately to help you create a balanced, characterful display of your own. But before we start, here’s a few sideboards themselves in case you’re still in the market for one…

Psst! Want more styling tips? Try these guides:

How to style a mantlepiece perfectly every time

How to style a boho bed

Home Office Tips: 10 Ways to Improve Yours

First, find the right sideboard for you

How To Style a Sideboard: Ten Tips To Success

Here are my top ten tips for how to style a sideboard. But remember: interior design isn’t paint-by-numbers. Think about expressing your personality through your home – it’s as individual as the way you tell a story to friends. These are just guides that might help nail some of the basics of sideboard styling like shape, symmetry, rhythm and proportion, so that you can add the spirit and creativity through your own originality. Most importantly: have fun. Or else, what’s the point?

1. Don’t expect to get it right first time

Scrolling through Instagram or browsing Pinterest, it can feel as though everyone else styles their spaces perfectly, first time and every time. They just effortlessly stack books and drape a plant tendril without even looking and – bam! – it’s a vision.

I promise you that’s not true – there’s a lot of trial, error and faffing involved before you achieve a look that feels right. So don’t be afraid to keep changing it up – don’t commit to particular items definitely living on the sideboard because they might just not work there.

2. Balance over symmetry to style a sideboard

Unlike in architecture, true symmetry is rare in styling – not least because it means having identical pairs of everything you want to use!

So focus instead on balance, by which we mean even weighting across a space. The two fool-proof techniques for balance on a sideboard are similar to my guide on how to style a mantlepiece: anchor the vignette in the centre with a large piece like a mirror or piece of art. And/or use a medium-sized piece of similar height on either edge. Both of these techniques help the eye move seamlessly over the space.

But balance doesn’t just have to mean shape and size – you could also consider the balance of colour and texture. For example: if you have a dichromatic scheme (two colours – black and white, pink and green, etc), mix up the amount of each colour across the space rather than being tempted to group either colour on the edges.

3. Try building a theme to style your sideboard

This is a tip I learned from a Proper Stylist that will make your sideboard look effortlessly professional – thematic similarities in your items will lend a subtle cohesion to a space that allows the eye to positively glide over it. What do I mean by ‘thematic similarities’?

Basically: similar stuff, not necessarily by colour or shape, but by theme. For example, metallic textures across a candle, vase and mirror frame. Or several vintage collectibles from a similar era but otherwise unconnected. Organic, woven textures could bring together linen, rattan, cane and wicker.

In this example, the neutral-toned ceramics of both vases, the bust, the trinket jar, plant pot and even the mug inside the sideboard create a thematic point.

4. Use the wall behind it

The wall behind and above a sideboard is part of the styling picture, so it’s important to keep it in mind when deciding how to style your space.

Think about how you can style a sideboard with a large mirror or piece of artwork. Hang a print or mirror (always think about what will be reflected though – a mirror opposite a window is excellent for upping light, unless you have people walking right by that window and will keep catching strangers’ eyes!) around one third of the way up the wall (so there is more space above the piece than between it and the sideboard).

If it’s on the wall, I recommend centring your piece above the furniture. But if it’s propped up, play around with off-centre until you get the balance you’re looking for.

Alternatively, if you’re renting or simply don’t want to put nails in the wall, prop up your art or mirror on the sideboard. This is my preference, and it gives a more bohemian, undone finish. Just be sure you have heavy pieces at its base to prevent slipping!

5. Mix up eclectic displays

If you aren’t into Jo Malone candles, pampas grass and styling beads – don’t use them! Use whatever you love, and whatever will make you feel happy to see in your home.

I like to use meaningful vintage books, framed photos and mementos from holidays. Mixing up textures, sizes and styles will create contrast and visual interest – it’s especially effective when using a theme as well, as in tip 3.

6. Try minimalism

If eclectic and maximalism aren’t your thing, try out a minimalist approach. If, while styling your sideboard, you feel it looks cluttered, try simply taking items away one by one.

A great minimalist option is a couple of flat, stacked books on either side, with an object – a candle, a posy vase, a plant, an ornament – on each.

7. Don’t underestimate the Power of 3

Trios are like an interior design cheat code – they’re hard to get wrong, because the human eye loves threes.

But the key to a great trio is a mix of heights and profiles – something tall and slim (a vase, a bottle, a slender lamp), something small (a ceramic, a paperweight, a trinket dish) and something between the two (a candle, a succulent). Try grouping the items on a tray or a large book.

Clustering a trio of small ceramics at the corner of a propped up print can help to soften the corners, as well as stopping it from slipping.

8. Add something living (or fake it!)

No matter what we’re styling, you’ll always get this tip from me. Nature needs no styling – foliage, flowers or plants soften edges and corners without you having to work hard at it. They naturally resist symmetry and change with the time of day – making your sideboard styling into an ever-transforming space.

I particularly love a trailing plant to dip below the vertical edge of a sideboard. It breaks up geometry and adds an additional dimension to the shape. Though if you need access constantly, it might not be practical.

9. Mix up finishes

Something old, something new – rich depth can be achieved by contrasting finish and texture. Polished brass and matte ceramics, glossy magazines and vintage paperbacks, shimmering glass and patina metal.

10. Don’t forget the power of books and magazines

A stack of vintage paper backs, a neat row of ‘coffee table’ hardbacks, propped up magazines with illustrated covers… The power of publications to act as decor is huge, and swapping them up by mood, season, or the latest addition to your collection is hugely satisfying.

See if there’s a handful of books with spines that fit your colour palette, and try them on your sideboard. Unless you’re a hardcore alphabetiser, in which case that will be sheer blasphemy…

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