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 60sVictorian John Carter Patent Adjustable Reading Table Sofa Side Stand Antique NrVintage 50's Side Table Dansette Portable Record Player Table Atomic Retro ChicSuperb Very Rare Georgian Chippendale Mahogany Low Boy Table With 3 Drawers 1760Original 1950s Teak Sewing Box Table Sideboard Storage 60s 70s Mid-century RareHeywood Wakefield M 395 Record Cabinet End Table M395 Original 1950's Rare2 Antique Industrial Cast Iron Table Legs ~ Old Vintage Salvage Furniture PartsAntique Art Nouveau Silver Topped Cut Glass Dressing Table Jar, 1912, W J MyattVtg Danish Modern Finn Juhl Diplomat Teak Side Table For France & SonLovely Quality English Antique Victorian L1838 Solid Sterling Silver Table BoxFine & Large 19th Century Carved & Polished Cow Bone Circular Table Box.Early 1800s Side Lying Gilt Cologne Amber Perfume Bottle Antique Vanity TableVintage Art Deco Solid Silver & Faux Tortoiseshell Table Box,j.gloster, Bhm 1931Vintage Bedside Cabinet Art Deco Side Table Cabinet 30's Shabby Rustic Chic 40'sPaul Mccobb Planner Group Side Table, Small Coffee Table, Wichendon, No ReserveAntique Vtg 1940s Drink Coca Cola Cast Iron Industrial Table Lollipop Sign BasePair Of Antique Britannia Silver Table Kitchen Peppers, William Comyns, 1914Vintage Danish Modern String Wall Mount Shelf Telephone Table Nisse 50s 60s 70sAntique Figural Bronze Cherub Or Angel Desk Or Table Top Thermometer Mint !Mid 1900's Heavy Vintage Queen Anne Antique Oak Candlestick Table Tripod YqzCast Iron Legs Industrial Machine Legs Table Legs LatheImprwssive 19c Chinese Carved Teak Wood Table Altar Stand Red & Gold Lacquer NorAntique Tiger Maple Two Draw Stand Table Sheraton Turned Legs Early 19th Century8 Antique Sterling Silver Table PiecesVintage Mid Century Modern Slat Bench. Coffee Table 60" Made In Yugoslavia. TeakVintage Modern Iron Glass Alanda Cocktail Coffee Table By Paolo Piva B&b Italia Antiq. Vtg. Leather Brass Studded Chest /trunk /coffee Table-folk Art-sarreidSuperb & Stylish Solid .830 Silver Continental Table Dish.Fabulous Cityscape Dining Table By Paul EvansVintage Decorative Table Cover Embroireded Net Openwork Border1890s John J Ford Carved Bench Coffee Table Los Angeles California Hawaiian 2of2Vintage Mid-century Modern Kinetic Atomic Ball Tree Table Art Sculpture 17"Vintage Herman Miller/eames 4 Star Table Aluminum Base Mid Century Modern Antique Art Deco Chrome Smoking Stand Push Button Ashtray TableThree Dressing Table Jars/trays Circa 1860Circa 1940-50's Mahogany Dining Room Table W/ 4 Chairs Upholstered Carved ChairsVintage Mid-century Modern Wood Chrome Acrylic Chess Checkers Table Eames EraRare Mid Century Modern Sculptural Tripod Table By T.h. Robsjohn Gibbings ProjecMid Century Mcm Danish Style Bent Wood Kitchen Dining Table And Chairs KodawoodAntique Silver Topped Dressing Table Vanity Bottle Or Jar London 19134 Vintage Mid Century Table Legs Tapered Wood, 4 1/2 InchesBeautiful Antique Victorian Influenced Art Deco Era Vanity Dressing TableMid-century Modern Knoll Burke Dining Tulip Table Base Kipp Stewart Declaration Drexel Mid Century Modern End TableHuge Solid Silver Table Caster - Walker & Hall, Sheffield 1918Mid-century Arthur Umanoff Chairs, Table, And BarVintage Smith Patterson & Co. Ornate Sterling Silver Table Center Piece Mid Century Conant Ball, Russel Wright Cocktail Cofee TableVintage Petite Size Solid English Oak Twist-top Double Drop Leaf Table Silverplate Metal Cherub Acorn Serving Dish Candy Nut Table Display Art Deco4 Vintage Mid Century Table Legs Tapered Wood And Metal, 10 Inches19th Chinese Crackled Tea Dust Glaze Table VaseVtg Mid Century Modern Lane Acclaim Dovetail Step Up End Side Table Danish StyleAntique Kenny & Wolkins Adjustable Steel Table Legs Industrial Machine AgeAntique Solid Cherry Drop Leaf Dining Room TableOriginal Mid Century Lane Coffee TableCollectible Decorated Old Lute Inlaid Stones Carved Flower Mechanical Table ClocAntique Cast Brass Winged Lions Paw Table Feet Foot Leg Furniture MakerArtist Drawing Desk ✦ Architecture Drafting Table Industrial Antique PedestalVintage Rattan Gossip Bench Chair Attached Glass Top Side Table Phone Book Shelf

Recent News: Tables

Source: Google News

Nisqually Land Trust to Host Annual Auction and Conservation Dinner
ThurstonTalk, March 3rd

Auction highlights include a four-night stay at a resort-winery in Argentina, a Seattle Seahawks game-day getaway, a studio tour with local artists Nikki McClure and Jay Scott, an antique table and spindle-back chair set and a Salish Indian mask...Read more

Yard sales for Saturday Feb. 21
WECT-TV6, February 21st

Here you will find collectable items, porcelain dolls, baby clothes, radius arm saw weight, machine antique table saw, gun cabinet, and trampoline and much more. Click here if you would like to send information on your yard sale Or email Kim Ratcliff...Read more

Painted table to be auctioned to pay for stray dog's vet bills
The New Orleans Advocate, February 18th

Photo provided by Kathleen DesHotel - An antique table had been painted with a hibiscus by Kathleen DesHotel to raffle off to pay the cost of veterinary care for an injured stray dog and her puppy...Read more

Presidential Lost & Found
Fine Books & Collections Magazine (blog), February 16th

Masur mentions one -- in 1984, Lincoln's last address was found in the secret compartment of an antique table in Long Island. Malcolm Forbes then bought it at auction for $231,000. An amazing find, completely unknown to the consignors, but obviously ...Read more

Yard sales for Saturday Feb. 14
WECT-TV6, February 14th

4847 Coastal Dr. Southport. There will be collectable Items, porcelain dolls, baby clothes, radius arm saw, weight machine, antique table saw, gun cabinet, trampoline and much more. 2. 94-35 Cottonwood Lane in Leland. This is from 7:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m...Read more

Gourmet to-go at Katharine & Co.'s new West End spot
Beaumont Enterprise (blog), February 8th

While the small space is not intended as a dine-in spot, a cerulean blue velvet couch with a vintage table inside and a smattering of small tables with chairs outside will tempt customers to linger for a spell, maybe with an expertly prepared Illy...Read more

Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett prep for Grammy Awards, second album
Los Angeles Times, February 6th

She and Bennett ran through the title track from their recent duet album three times, backed by an acoustic jazz ensemble with piano, upright bass and drums, the baby grand accented with a couple of small, vintage table lamps. FULL COVERAGE: Grammy ...Read more

Antique Table Trattoria Combines Atmosphere and Good Italian Food
Winthrop Transcript, November 18th

Executive chef and co-owner Abraham Gallego along with owners Carlos Soto and Mario Perez,has brought his award-winning culinary talents to the town following up on the success of the Antique Table restaurant in Lynn that opened in 2009...Read more