Sideboards come in many styles and sizes, from classic mid-century originals to rustic chunky beasts to contemporary designer pieces. But whatever the type, these useful storage pieces are more than just practical: their large surface area makes them a display opportunity as well. But how to style (or not style) yours? Check out these ideas to get some inspiration.

1. Create symmetry (but not too much).

This clean-lined white sideboard (made from three cabinets joined together and mounted on a wooden plinth) has been styled with confident restraint—and hidden symmetry. Though it’s not bookended with identical lamps or decorative items, there’s still a lot of balance going on here. Note how the glimmering gold artwork sets the tone and is connected to the display below by a couple of colour-matched details and the sconces that punctuate the arrangement on either side. The black, glossy lamp is echoed in the picture frames, and while the greenery and tonally similar pottery are on their own, they’re a group of three—the magic number in design that creates its own balance. When arranging any display, use your eyes to decide whether there’s equal visual weight on either side, if your colours have partners, and if there’s enough variety of height and shape.

READ MORE: An Interior Designer on How to Style a Bookshelf

2. Max out your midcentury tones in your furniture.

Here, the sideboard is part of a magic trio with the mid-century chair and table, each of which is made from wood in similar tones. The display ramps up the vintage era of the sideboard, particularly in its use of colour. The earthy accent hues are pure 1950s and ’60s and, combined with the bright-but-muted blues in the painting and recurring black, create a distinctly mid-century palette. Check out some instantly nostalgic period-specific palettes or colour swatches online and use them to build your display.

3. Make the sideboard practical.

This painted piece is positioned at the end of a dining table, making it eminently useful for holding plates and glasses. It can be tempting to put only your best dish and glassware on display, but make your sideboard part of the family by using it daily, and make your everyday tableware lovely instead. To boost the well-loved furniture effect, further combine function with beauty by creating a gallery wall above your sideboard. Pay attention to colours and frames when assembling your collection, going for some element of coherence to keep it from looking too busy.

READ MORE: 8 Stylish Consoles to Upgrade Your Living Room

4. Keep an eclectic collection tidy.

This sturdy, rustic piece supports a packed and eclectic display. But don’t be fooled, it’s been carefully styled with an artful eye. And symmetry again comes into play, though in a slightly different way. For your own busy arrangement, choose items that provide symmetry—a trick that will make the display look pulled together rather than chaotic. In this home office, the matching table lamps on either end of the sideboard do that job, allowing a free-flowing collection of treasures in between.

5. Have a theme.

A sideboard can serve as a helpful focal point that quickly establishes your room’s theme.

6. Let an artwork shine.

Sideboards are perfect for holding pretty objects, good-looking books, stylish lamps and plants. But you can also use them as a mini stage by leaving them almost bare. Here, it’s all about the wonderful large-scale artwork on the wall, which has little to detract from it—just a low plant and delicate bowl in colours that echo the art. If you have one standout object or image, don’t be afraid to keep things simple to make the most of it.

7. Go au naturel.

If you have open shelves or shelves above your sideboard, keep either the top of the sideboard or the shelves sparsely populated to prevent them from competing visually. Even on a sideboard without shelves, attractive books stacked on their sides make a great display; choose your colors with care though, and consider removing the paper jackets.

8. Use mirrors.

If your sideboard is positioned to face a view of greenery or is perpendicular to windows or doors facing the garden, the mirrored effect can be especially lovely as the reflected foliage becomes part of your interior.

9. Treat yourself to flowers.

The sideboard is the perfect place for a fresh vase of flowers. Make sure you have a couple of really good vases of different shapes and sizes (for varied flowers) that work with the colours in the room, and make your blooms a key part of the display. It’s a great way to vary your sideboard display weekly, as different styles of flowers will create different moods, from strong and sculptural to soft and country. Or simply opt for blooms in a striking shade that complements a statement object large piece of art, as seen here.