Tables are sometimes treated like the poor cousins to chairs, which have captured the imaginations of Arts and Crafts designers like the Stickley brothers, architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Danish Modern furniture guru Hans Wegner, and Mid-century Modernists Charles and Ray Eames. But tables deserve our respect, too. Whether they were built for decoration like the console tables of the 1600s or for purely functional use like the Shaker seed tables of the 1800s, tables are often the focal points of the rooms they occupy.

One of the first things furniture designers did after they seized upon the idea of raising a horizontal surface into the air via legs was to devise ways to reduce the size of their creations in order to save space. The surface of a tilt-top table, for example, folded vertically, so the table could be stored against a wall when not in use. Drop-leaf table surfaces were designed to be folded down against their legs, often creating a narrow rectangular table that appeared to be wearing a skirt.

Some drop-leaf tables had gate legs (also spelled as one word, “gatelegs”), which could been swung out to support the leaf when needed or collapsed against the stretchers connecting the bottoms of the legs when not. Others revealed a chair when the tabletop was tilted up and out of the way, although the resulting seat was not especially practical.

The efficiency of other tables was more obviously elegant. Side tables such as console tables were meant to be permanently situated against a wall, often between a pair of windows. Sometimes these occasional tables, as they were also called, had drawers to store household items. Side table surfaces could be rectangular, but half-circles were also popular, allowing the table to be placed flush against a wall.

Center tables, as their name suggests, were typically placed in or near the center of a room. Usually round and mounted on a single pedestal attached to a wide or footed base, center tables were favorites of the Georgian and Victorian Eras, when entertaining one’s guests meant gathering around one of these ornately carved and ornamented pieces for a rousing game of cards.

Though not as associated with storage as desks and cabinets, tables were often asked to pull their weight in this department. Hutch tables, popular in rural 18th-century America, contained hidden compartments beneath the table surface and between the wide trestles that supported it. Library tables often had a wide, horizontal stretcher between the table’s trestles or legs to keep books up off the floor and out of the way. Fancier library tables were elevated by small bookcases at either end.

Early examples of dining tables resembled the communal tables found in both monastery refectories and neighborhood pubs, perhaps the only thing those establishments had in common...

When it comes to interior design, though, no table has had a greater impact than the coffee table. Low-to-the-floor painted, carved, or inlaid tables were historically common in Asia. Coffee tables made of exotic woods, steel, glass, and even mirror were a signature of Art Deco. And after World War II, coffee tables were staples of Mid-century Modern.

Perhaps the most iconic coffee table of the 20th century was designed by artist Isamu Noguchi. His IN50 coffee table for Herman Miller, 1944, featured two interlocking curved legs that supported a thick, glass top. Early in the following decade, Charles and Ray Eames placed a narrow, black, surfboard-shaped ellipse on a pair of wire-rod bases, similar to those used in some of their chairs.

Another minimalist, albeit with a more organic orientation, was George Nakashima, whose slab tables reveled in their defects and irregularities, which the designer took pains not to correct. Other woodworkers, though, preferred their tables fully finished. Sam Maloof, for example, riffed on Shaker traditions by replacing straight lines with gentle curves and contours.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Buffalo Architecture and History

Buffalo Architecture and History

Chuck LaChiusa's wonderful guide to the architecture and history of Buffalo, NY, also happens to host an impressive… [read review or visit site]



This beautiful site showcases the collection of Stanley and Polly Stone of Fox Point, Wisconsin, consisting of earl… [read review or visit site]

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

Kentucky Online Arts Resource

This huge online database from the Speed Art Museum is a rich trove of beautiful photos and reference information o… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Danish Modern Teak Morphing Dresser Chest Drawers To Desk Or Vanity TableAntique Islamic Table Engraved Brass Top Barley Twist Base Persian Arts & CraftsAntique Chinese Carved Zitan Hard Wood Recessed Leg Immortal Mahjong Games TableDietzgen Drafting Table With Cast Iron Legs Very Old Antique From 1920Wonderful Old Antique Wood Morning Cup Coffee Box, Crate, Table, ChicagoAntique 30" Arts & Crafts Mission Oak Stickley Era Round Plant Stand Table NrAuth. 16thc Chinese Ming Dynasty Green Yellow Glazed Table With Food OfferingsPair Cantilevered Glass Wedge/slab Brass Tube Side Table Pace/karl Springer EraVery Large 1926 Silver Pique Inlay Shell Cut Glass Dressing Table Pot Jar Box 1882 - H&a Chester Silver Top And Cut Glass Decanter / Dressing Table BottleVintage Modernist Signed Japanese Woodblock Print, Architect Man Drafting TableEkornes Stressless White Leather Lounge Chair Recliner W/swivel Table NrSuperb Antique Persian Solid Silver Repousse Decorated Table Box.Neat! Rare! Texas Mexican Or California Art Deco Era Tile Table W/ Iron BaseAntique Cabin Trunk Blanket Box Trunk Vintage Bentwood Chest Pine Coffee Table Aafa 19th C New England Hanging Wall Box Antique Table Box Original FinishOriental/middle Eastern Brass Coffee Table On Lacquered Wood Base 48cm DiameterAntique Industrial Cast Iron Drafting Table Base Antique Victorian Walnut & Burled Walnut Renaissance Revival Center Table Nice!Mid Century 22" Hairpin Legs W/gliders Eames Era Atomic 1950's Table Night StandModern Danish Design - Rosewood Table With Royal Copenhagen Tiles - Wegner EraMid Century Atomic Age Floating Table Five Surfaces Multi Colored Formica TopsVintage Mid Century Hairpin Table Legs Retro Coffee Table LegsSuperb Victorian Sterling Silver Table Box City Of London Royal Artillery 1853Roy Sheldon Free Edge Black Walnut Table American Modern Studio Craft FurnitureVintage 1930 Hummingbird Feedsack Crib Or Table Quilt 50x32" Great For DecorVintage Cast Iron Legs Table Base/steampunk/industrial/project/coffee Table Vtg Antique Hendryx Dome Beehive Brass Bird Cage W/ Table Top Stand Made In UsaAntique Industrial "karl Manufacturing" Cast Iron Wheeled Table Base W/wood TopVintage Silver Bir-1924 Engine Turned Trinket Box Dressing Table Ring Pot LadiesUnusual Indian Hand Carved Bird Table Fetish With BundleMachine Industrial Steampunk Iron Adjustable Table Base Legs 24" Kenney BrosVintage Brass Glass Top Table With American Bald Eagle Statue Sculpture Art DecoMid Century Modern Coffee Or Cocktail Table -boomerang Shaped - Atomic Era BiVintage Antique Bosch & Lomb Opticalcast Iron Industrial Adjustable TableAntique French Provincial Walnut End Table W/ Beautiful Parquet TopFabulous Antique C1900 Red & White Doll Or Table Quilt Primitive FarmhouseVintage M. Buccellati Sterling Silver Duck Figure Table Ornamnet1960's Danish Modern Walnut Table Round Coffee Or Side Mid Century Retro Vintage Cast Iron Base-anvil Stand--steampunk Iron Table Base-industrial DecorVintage Oak Sheet Music Cabinet Bedside Stand Table Lingerie Chest From EnglandVtg Industrial Typewriter Stand Table Base Cast Iron Parts Wood Castors4 Table Legs Ormolu Figurines Red MahoganyMid Century Lane Acclaim Dovetail Nightstand End Table Side Table Commode TableMid Century French Louis Xv Style Brass & Marble Table Stand Plant Stand4 Vintage Retro Mid Century Hairpin Adjustable Metal Tan Chrome Table Legs Danish Modern Beautiful Teak Sewing Side End Table W/ Wicker Basket And Y-legVintage Hamilton Drafting Table And Universal Drafting Machine4 Vtg Mid Century Danish Modern Wooden Furniture Table Tapered Legs Metal BaseCastro Convertible Combination Dining-coffee Adjustable Table, Brown Formica TopCharles Hollis Jones Lucite And Chrome Dining TableFrench Provincial Marble Top Coffee TableRosewood Danish Modern Coffee TableVintage 60s Danish Modern Oakwood Foldout Sewing Table TrolleyMersman Coffee TableVintage Wedge Triangle End Side Accent Table Mid Century Furniture Wood LegRare Mid Century Mod French Cocktail Table Hairpin Legs Eames Era Made In FranceAdjustable Cast Iron Legs For Table Base G.s. Perry & Co. Machine Age IndustrialAnglo Indian Carved Table C1900Low Antique Wood Marble Top Table!!!!

Recent News: Tables

Source: Google News

For Your Home: How to get a fresh look on a budget
Sioux City Journal, September 20th

This might be an optimal choice if you are trying to capture that industrial look or marrying them with an antique table. Check out Europe2You's wooden dining chairs with a cane bottom in a natural finish. These will work well if you love the Parisian...Read more

October 2014 Issue Product Guide
House Beautiful (blog), September 16th

Side table, antique. Table lamp behind sofa—John Rosselli (T); Rugs—Pottery Barn; Powder room: Trim color, Ivory White—Benjamin Moore; Wallcovering, Pheasant in Olive Green—Twigs Fabrics ...Read more

Tastemaker Susan Kidd Will Amp up Fine Antiques
Over the Mountain Journal, September 16th

“You can put a piece of great pottery on an antique table or use wonderful fabrics on the frames of chairs,” she said. “The most interesting rooms combine the old and the new.” Up-to-date touches like fresh fabrics and rugs, for example, are smart ways...Read more

Great deals at yard sales are bad deals for sellers
Pocono Record, September 5th

A Chippendale table sold at a yard sale in New Jersey for $35. The buyer, who knew the value and origin of the table, resold it for $3 million at an upscale antique furniture sale. Would you recognize a valuable antique table sitting in your...Read more

Antique table from Carnegies' mansion returned to Glynn library
Florida Times-Union, September 4th

Read Moving Systems workers had to disassemble the big antique table in Jesup, drive it 40 miles south and put it back together in Brunswick. It was also a struggle to get the heavy glass top on and off the truck. The table has been at the library at...Read more

History gets personal for home tour
Battle Creek Enquirer, September 3rd

An antique table sits underneath is a mirror Bob made from a kit and painted to look old. A lightening rod and a meat grinder have been turned into decorations for the living room. Pat Shirey is especially interested in folk art, or pieces made by whom...Read more

Flea markets offer creative outlets, good deals
Herald & Review, August 28th

After hearing about the flea market, Waller and her two sisters collaborated to form 3 Suzabelles, a booth with various items and crafts such as a bed frame repurposed as a bench, antique table cloths and aprons and personalized lawn ornaments for the ...Read more

DR. LORI: Losing money at your yard sale
Kingston Daily Freeman, August 22nd

Would you recognize a valuable antique table sitting in your grandmother's den? At a Pennsylvania yard sale, I picked up a clearly marked platinum and diamond ring with a $10 price tag on it. When I told the yard sale host what I had found, she argued...Read more