Behold the credenza, that oft forgotten piece of furniture that sits in your hallway or maybe a dining area only remembered when you need a place to set your bags. But, low, long, and full of useful space, the credenza is a versatile piece that can be showcased in any room.
Getting a Chic Start
With a little imagination, and the right decorative techniques, you can transform a credenza from that thing you leave your keys on to a focal point and conversation piece. Because of its long low nature, the credenza offers a staging area for interesting design strategies, so as you begin gathering your decorative pieces, your picture frames, and artwork, you might want to first consider some methods for building a beautiful space on and above your credenza.
- Layering–To effectively create a layered look, place large artworks either on the wall above the credenza or leaning against it at the back. Use decorative pieces of varying size and orientation. Prop smaller pieces in front of the larger pieces and alternate landscape orientation with portrait. Try interspersing interesting objects such as vases or ornaments for that tactile sense.
- Pyramid–Create an interesting visual effect by placing medium height matching objects on the ends of your credenza. Then hang a wider piece of art that bridges the space below and above the top level of your end pieces. Place a smaller piece of art centered above the bridge piece. Now fill in the surface with smaller objects to complete the pyramid structure.
- The Scale–Envision your credenza as an old-fashioned balance beam and place objects on each end that you feel visually balance each other. Try tipping the balance on one end with a piece of art set off-center and then rebalance the other end by adding a lamp or large vase.
- The Useful Look–sometimes a credenza looks more appealing when it appears to be in use. For a bar setting, place a an empty glass on a cocktail napkin. If you’ve decorated the surface with books, fan one open on one end and place a pair of reading glasses next to it.
- The Not Useful Look–the ubiquitous use of credenzas as TV stands means that you may want to distract from the television that sits front and center. To create more aesthetic appeal around your TV, try painting the wall behind it a darker shade and then placing a contrasting bright piece above to draw the eyes away. Another distraction technique is to place objects on each end that are of a similar height to the TV. Then fill in the area above and around the set with various artworks or photos.
Once you feel like you have the hang of creating a stunning visual for your credenza you can start to plan interesting projects for its use. Here are some possibilities you might consider.
Dining Like Royalty
Did you know the credenza has a proud history? The term “credenza” comes from the Latin word for “trust” and, indeed, the original credenza involved deep trust. It was the name used for the surface where food designated for kings, lords, and popes was laid so that servants could taste-test it for poison.
Let’s forego the poison, but why not showcase your best silver and china by displaying it on a credenza. Or honor its tradition by laying out a buffet-style feast for your next family meal or holiday gathering. Placed in a dining room, a credenza can be the perfect place to store cloth napkins, table covering, dinnerware, and serving pieces. And there’s something about the low long stretch of a credenza that creates the perfect focal point for a large piece of art displayed on the wall above it.
Drinking in Style
Another nod to the credenza’s past is to create a stylish bar in a game room, living area, or den. Are you into Moscow Mules? Top your bar with a copper finished ice bucket and matching mule cups. Display your vodka and other spirits on an attractive tray, or, if you prefer to store your liquors, stow them in a cabinet below. For the mint julep fan, nothing says Kentucky Derby like a silver shaker set and silver cups. You might even add a touch of green with a mint plant from which you can pluck leaves to garnish your drink on race days.
Whatever your drink of choice, a credenza is a lovely place to display crystal decanters and set up your bar. You can place a wine rack on top or store a small wine refrigerator in the cabinet below. You can even add a small regular refrigerator for beer and garnishes.
Not Just Any Nursery
A credenza can be the perfect accent to a baby’s new room. The low flat surface makes a nice place for setting up a changing station, and drawers and cabinets are great storage spaces for diapers, creams and powders, or spare outfits. You can also proudly display baby’s collectibles on a credenza. Accent photos of your little one with the silver comb and brush set, a christening cup, or other memorabilia to remember baby’s first days.
The Gardener and the Gourmand
Placed beneath a window in an office space or living area, a credenza is the perfect surface for arranging an assortment of plants. Accented by a chique vase or a few crystal ornaments to catch the sun’s sparkle, you’ll feel like you’ve captured a bit of the outdoors. Or place your credenza in a room near the kitchen and top it with rosemary, sage, thyme, and any other favorite herbs to add that fresh flavor to your gourmet dishes. And an added benefit, your house smells great!
While we’re talking kitchens, how about a credenza as a decorative cookspace? Top it with your favorite cookbooks, a beautiful waterford crystal bowl filled with fruit, or a decorative spice rack. A nicely finished piece of butcher’s block turns the surface of your credenza into a functional work area, and think of all the additional storage areas. A wood drawer liner provides ample storage for extra utensils, and cubbies are the perfect stow space for those lesser used appliances.
For the outdoor gourmand, a rustic weatherproofed credenza can provide character to a covered deck or patio and serve as a space to keep your grilling utensils. Plus it gives you a nifty surface to display your grillables buffet-style or to set up a temporary bar area.
For those nights of binge-watching your favorite shows, use your credenza as a TV stand. DVDs and remotes can be hidden away in drawers, and you’ll have plenty of space for a surround sound system, gaming devices, or any other electronic additions you desire. Or if you’re not into television, use it for a sound system. Go retro with a turntable and vinyl displayed in cubbies or glass-doored cabinets. The credenza is also a great place to store games for those family nights and offers a flat surface on which to play them.
A No Clutter Necessity
The credenza can be used, of course, for its most basic use as a storage accessory. Added to a reach-in or walk-in closet, a credenza creates a layered space where you can store not only hangables, but socks or sweaters in drawers, shoes in cubbies and cabinets, and it even provides a nice surface to place your jewelry boxes.
In a child’s room, a credenza is a great storage space for toys, games, clothing, school supplies, and more. It also acts as an ideal staging area for a pet. Picture an aquarium filled with brightly colored neon tetras or that adorable hamster, but with all the messy food supplies, the packages of bedding, the cleaning implements stored away in drawers and cabinets.
The credenza can be a custom fit for those specialized areas of the house as well. Into sewing? Use a credenza as a surface for cutting cloth, or for storing your sewing machine. Keep bobbins of thread tidy in drawers, stack bolts of cloth in cubbies, or stack swatches of material in cabinets. Have a man (or woman) cave? What better place to display your humidor, to place a crystal decanter full of scotch, or store your TV remotes. In short, the credenza is a functional staging space for any hobby.
Made for You
Don’t let the appearance of an old credenza stop you from taking advantage of its potential. Experiment with new hardware, take off doors and remove drawers, or try painting wood with an accent color for your favorite room. You can top it with pictures, add storage baskets, frame it with end lamps, or find a gorgeous ornament or piece of art to showcase at its center to create a beautiful and functional addition to your home.
In a child’s room, try painting your credenza in bright pastels with friendly animals sketched on cabinet doors. Top it off with a silver piggy bank or pictures framed in animal shapes. Or how about painting whimsical music notes and a line of a favorite nursery rhyme or song. Complete the top with a musical jewelry box and dancing figurines for that budding ballerina.
In an entryway or living space, experiment with mirroring as accents to cabinet doors for a dramatic sense of style and as a way to create aeriness from reflected light. In your bedroom, try removing doors completely and filling the space with attractive baskets in which you can store laundry or extra bedding.
Replacing hardware with brass marine cleats and using storm lanterns as end lighting makes for a seaworthy addition to any ocean themed space. Wrought iron and rustic, stressed, wood painted in white or milk tones say country chique. Or for the modern minimalist, how about a nickel-finished, sunburst sideboard adorned by a simple piece of art in copper or polished steel.
Whatever use you imagine, the credenza can be custom decorated to fit the vision you’ve created. So take that piece that’s been sitting in the hall or forgotten in your garage and try something new. You’ll be surprised by how versatile a credenza can be.