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]

Chipstone

Chipstone

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    

Vintage Sewing Box Table Eames Danish Mid Century Modern Teak Art Deco 50s 60sMid Century Modern Original Knoll Warren Platner Steel Rod Side Table EamesHerman Miller Eames Ltr Rosewood Side TableGreat 19th C Hanging Or Table Cupboard Original Grungy Robin's Egg Blue PaintVintage 30's Art Deco Lloyd Loom Wicker Laundry Basket Corner Bedside Table ChicRare 1950s Edward Wormley/dunbar Marble/brass/rosewood X Base Side Table-ex!-nr!Antique 18thc Rare Georgian Solid Silver Table Nutmeg Grater Box, London C.1791Fine Rare Antique True Period High End French Art Deco Walnut & Silver Table BoxVintage Globtrotter Trunk Chest Industrial Coffee Table, Rustic Chic Blanket Box1960s Danish Modern Teak Compact Low Entry Chest Table Mid Century VintageVintage Library Bookstand Slant Top Reading Table Large Book Stand Turned WoodAntique Indigo Blue & White Irish Chain Crib Table Quilt Primitive FarmhouseOld Zuni Bear Table Fetish With Turquoise EyesAntique Big Machine Age Industrial Machine Table Legs Heavy Duty Cast Iron Vintage Homer Laughlin Fiesta Ware Table Vase Tulip Ribbed 10" Tall Retro YellowVintage Zarges Mid Century Modern All Aluminum Aviators Storage Trunk/table NrQing China Trade Export Victorian Hardwood Marble Plant Vase Stand Table Yqz19th C. Chinese Blue And White Table Vase With Figures And Landscape1949 Harvey Probber Mahogany Nuclear Coffee Table Mid Century Modern Danish Teak Triangle Coffee End Table Mid Century Modern Eames Hans Wegner Beautiful Antique C19th Regency Dish Top Table, Possibly IrishAntique Cast Iron Industrial Kitchen Butcher Block Work Bench Table Legs StandsAntique English Oak Round Barley Twist Petite Wine Tea End Table Or Plant StandVintage Bronze Miniature Traditional Japanese House Garden/table OrnamentAntique Vintage Cast Iron Industrial Machine Adjustable Age Table Legs BostonStunning Antique C1700-1720 English Solid Oak Tripod TableNice Original Antique Cast Iron Industrial 31" Machine Lathe Table Stand LegsRare Edwardian Samuel Jacob Novelty Solid Silver Dog Mounted Table Top VestaVintage Fontana Arte Brass/glass Library Steps Mid Century Italian Modern Table Danish Modern Teak Small Entry Chest Side Table Juhl Wegner Eames Era Danish Modern Teak Floating Top Coffee Table Vintage Mid Century Kagan PearsallFabulous Old Antique Wood Carrier, Perfect For Harvest, Farm Table!!Vintage Mid Century Mod Hairpin Metal Legs 4 Table Desk Chair Stool FurnitureVintage Industrial Machine Table Legs Work Bench Base Salvage Stand Steel Old**round Marble Top Danish Modern Coffee Table* Mid Century VintageWeber Antique Drafting Table * Heavy Duty Iron Industrial Steel Strength 60 LbsAntique Guilloche Enamel Sterling Large Table Box Collectible Superb Large Solid Silver Table Box Classical Nude Cigarettes Jewellery CigarsMackenzie Childs Pedestal Table Collectible Furniture PieceVtg Mid Century Modern 60's Retro Coffee Table Tile Inlay Geometric Tapered LegsAntique Industrial Cast Iron Standard Sink Table Bench Pedestal Stand Legs PostsMid Century Modern Hans C. Andersen Teak Pedestal Table Danish Modern Singer Sewing Vtg Antique Cast Iron Machine Age Factory Industrial TableAntique Chinese Export Silver Table Napkin Ring Blossom Tree Wing OnEames Mid Century Modern Table Plant Stand Colorful Formica Tops Danish Walnut Cast Iron Industrial Drafting Table Adjustable Garden Bar Mid Century Tall StandAntique Vintage Industrial Adjustable Cast Iron Steampunk Drafting Medical TableMoorish Carved Wood Table Inlaid Brass Copper Taboret Side Table Eastern IslamicMid Century Modern Molded Plywood Herman Miller Eames Table Mid Century Lane Acclaim End Table. Eames Era Danish ModernSugar Nippers / Cutters R. Timmins Made In 1800's Table Top StyleD.r. Dimes Porringer Coffee Table SignedVtg Italian Hollywood Regency Gold Gilt Wheat Sheaf Round Glass Coffee End TableWillcox & Gibbs Treadle Sewing Machine Table Top W/ Drawer & Coffin Dome Lid5-5" Fluted Victorian Wide Oak Table LegsVintage Mid Century Modern Walnut Jens Risom Coffee Table Old Antique Coal Side Table Retro Spider Leg Table - Folding Table Legs - 20" Diameter X 18" TallAntique Early 1900's Victorian "shabby Chic" Pie Crust Demi-lune Side TableA Clam Shell Pattern Sterling Silver Table Napkin Clip London 2000

Recent News: Tables

Source: Google News

A do-it-yourself long-term renovation works for an Alexandria couple
Washington Post, July 25th

When high school sweethearts Wendy and Alex Santantonio finished taking the SAT, they didn't head out for burgers or go to a movie to celebrate. Nope, these two spent the afternoon refinishing an antique table that now sits in the couple's Old Town ...Read more

Old license plates can be valuable
Lewiston Sun Journal, July 24th

We recently had an antique table repaired and refinished. The results were terrific, and the price was much better than an estimate we got from an antique store. — No Name via email. DEAR SUN SPOTS: You have helped me several times in the past, and I...Read more

Prom Body keeps it cool by keeping it real
Tucson Weekly, July 23rd

So, she buys me this snare drum, and I lit this candle or stick of incense on this antique table—I don't know if I was the last one to leave the house or what but I left it burning on the table. It fell over somehow ... the firemen said the fire...Read more

Detox Your Clutter: Simple Strategy for More Peaceful Living
Ladybud Magazine, July 22nd

Auditing your belongings is a study in how you are currently living your life vs. how many belongings are clogging your life. Do I need the stained vintage table cloths that are too small for my table anyway? The awesome grape root wine bottle opener? Nah...Read more

Local Woman Wants Others to Learn Her Hard Lesson About Insuranc - News ...
KWQC 6, July 20th

Your normal every day shampoos, make up, antique table." Her first thought was to call the insurance company to file a claim. "It took 24 hours before I heard back from anybody and then when I did hear back," she said. The storm was Tuesday morning...Read more

Forties-obsessed man spends YEARS transforming his house into a shrine to ...
Irish Mirror, July 19th

"Then I got an antique table and then I wanted props, like newspapers and wallpaper. “I gradually created something like my present home on a smaller scale . “I was only 15 and it was easy to get my hands on stuff but now anything vintage is hugely...Read more

Sales of the Week 071914
Morris Sun Tribune, July 19th

4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. Furniture (including love seat, recliner, antique table), sewing machine, humidifier, dehumidifier, office chairs, antiques, household, decor, many shop & garage items. 20510 470th Avenue, Morris. (0.6 miles north of Heartland...Read more

'Dumpster Diva' gives forgotten items new life
Berkshire Eagle, July 17th

Using white wash paint with splashes of turquoise, she refinished the antique table, giving it a unique look that tied in with the beach theme of the house. She also replaced the salmon-colored terra cotta backsplash in the kitchen with gray and white...Read more