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Originally published Friday, August 24, 2012 at 10:00 PM

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Dining-room buffet reflects your style, adds versatility

The best thing about buffets is that they are an ideal addition to just about any room in your home. Here are some quick tips on how to pick and use a buffet to add style to your home.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Dining-room designs are changing quickly, and we're finally free from the matchy-matchy edict that said your dining-room furniture had to be a set. Now we're all having a blast exploring new ways to create dining rooms that better reflect our own style.

But one tradition I'm keeping is to include a buffet in dining-room decor.

When we have guests for coffee or cocktails, it makes the perfect beverage server.

Every time I pack my table full of guests, then gobble up the middle of the table with a big centerpiece, it saves the day by providing room from which to serve the food.

And it gives me a stage for an ever-changing seasonal display.

Here are just a few advantages to using buffets:

  • Buffets make a beautiful anchor. These attractive, versatile pieces can add style to almost any room. Along with bookcases, secretaries and hutches, I frequently use buffets as that stalwart wooden piece that gives a room structure and strength. (Plus, they give the bonus of additional storage space.) Top the buffet with great accents, surround it with artwork -- and your room is done.
  • Buffets are versatile and hardworking. Buffets make an ideal place to put a flat-screen TV, hoisting the screen to just the right height so it's easy to see. Or if you prefer to hang your TV on the wall, slide a buffet up underneath it, so the TV is not visually floating on the wall. Whether the TV is sitting on top of the buffet or mounted on the wall behind it, include the TV in your overall display on the buffet. Work in a few accents on the tabletop that balance out the screen, and incorporate the screen into a montage of artwork. You'll be amazed by how this helps the TV melt into the background when it's not in use.

You can also put a buffet in your entry, topped with a large mirror. Or put one against an empty wall in your living room to serve as a bar when you entertain.

If you have a boring hallway that needs some life, put a buffet against one of the walls, top it with an accent lamp and create a grid of great artwork behind it. (Maybe some great photos of your family?)

  • Pick the right buffet for your space. Use these four guidelines to help you select the right piece:

1. How are you going to use the buffet?

Will it be in your dining room, providing a spot to hold food and beverages? Or will you use it in another room, mostly for decorative purposes?

2. Does the style suit your home?

Do you want a sleek, modern buffet -- or something more traditional? Do you prefer informal pieces, like a buffet that looks like it was taken from an old farmhouse, or one that's very high-style? No matter what you pick, make sure the piece harmonizes with the other furnishings in the room and in your home.

3. How much do you want to invest in your buffet?

Like most furniture, buffets come in a wide range of prices, and the quality can vary. Do you want a buffet you can enjoy for five to 10 years? Or do you want one that you can hand down as a family heirloom?

Once you determine the life span of the piece, you'll have a better feel for whether you want something trendy or timeless, budget or built to last a lifetime.

4. What size fits your space?

Because buffets can be space hogs, it's important to measure the length of the spot where you'd like to put the buffet to be sure it will be a good fit.

Another dimension to keep in mind is the depth of the buffet, especially if it will be in a hallway. Make sure it's not so deep you can't get around it easily.

If your buffet will be in a dining room, make sure you get one that is 3 to 4 inches taller than your dining table. It's important to have different heights for visual variation in a room.

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