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 George Nelson Swag Leg Side Table Herman Miller Mid Century Modern EamesAntique 19thc Folk Art Faux Grained Painted 2-draw Drop Leaf Work Table Stand NrAntique Miniature Marquetry Killarney Tunbridge Ware Inlaid Table Circa 1880Large 31" Cast Iron Wheel Steampunk Industrial Farm Vtg Table Base Metal GearAntique Vintage Stickley Library Table #614Blond Modern Maple? Library Card Catalog Mid Century? File Cabinet Coffee Table!Mid-century Modern Harry Bertoia Vintage 60s Long Wood Slat Bench Table ProjectBeautiful Vintage European Solid Silver Grape Table Scissors 119 GramsQuality Antique Sterling Silver & Hobnail Cut Glass Trinket Vanity Table BoxAntique Singer Black Childs Hand Crank Table Top Sewing Machine ToyVintage Wrought Iron Table With A Marble Top Salvaged Garden Table Rustic ChicVintage Tea Chest Industrial Coffee Table Quirky Retro Sofa Table Rustic ChicBeautiful Unusual Hand Cut Glass & Sterling Silver Vanity Table Trinket Box 1907Beautiful Antique Flat Top Steamer Trunk Coffee Table 1900’s Louis Tiffany Bronze Table Cigarette Canister - Inlaid Colored Stones LidMid Century Atomic Era Table ~~ Bullet Planter~ Fiberglass ~ Tripod ~ RetroAntique California Taylor 12 Tile Table Mission Arts & CraftsBundle Of 20 Items Of Vintage Table Linen Tablecloths, Toppers Hand EmbroideryAntique Victorian French Sewing Pin Cushion Thimble Box Chair Table ClampVintage Heywood Wakefield Cocktail Table M 307 G Coffee Mid Century Wishbone LegVintage Lane Walnut Mid Century Danish End Table 997-18Antique Pine Chest Coffee Table Navel Vintage Pine Trunk Storage Box Rustic ChicMid Century Vtg 1960's Danish Modern Slat Bench Table Nelson Miller Eams EraBeautiful Sterling Silver & Green Guilloche Enamel Dressing Table Brushes Mid Century Charles Hollis Jones Brass Lucite Hollywood Regency Coffee Table-nr!Vintage C1900 Moorish Inlaid Octagonal Wooden Table#2334: 1930's Chinese Wooden Karaki Long-legged Table Garden Tub Flower VaseAntique Rococo Brass Plant Stand Occasional End Table Mask TerminalsAntique .925 Hm Sterling Silver & Cut Glass Dressing Table Toilet Jar Pot 1910Antique Brass Candelabra Table Sconces With Lion Heads PairMid Century Charles Hollis Jones Brass Lucite Hollywood Regency Console Table-nrAntique Brass Miniature Snooker TableAntique Edwardian Solid Blonde Oak Table Box With Small Silver? Cartouche On LidAn Antique Mid C19th Victorian Era Chinese Mutton Bone Small Sewing Table Clamp.Antique Cast Iron Ornate Victorian Steampunk Sink Table Legs / BracketsAntique Old Victorian Merklin 1880s Multi-tiered Pedestal Fern Stand TableEarly 1900's Keuffel & Esser Drafting Table On Cast Iron Base, New York, NyVintage 1930's Wolfgang Hoffmann Art Deco Chrome Table By Howell 1920's 1940'sAntique .925 Hm Sterling Silver & Cut Glass Dressing Table Toilet Jar Pot 1921Antique C.a. Bobrick Adjustable Cast Iron Table Legs Industrial Machine Age3 Vintage Japanese Burl Wood Table Display Stands For Ikebana Vase Or Bonsai3 Primitive Halloween Candy Corn Pokes Ornies Black Mason Jar Shelf Table TopperVintage Salvage Cast Iron Legs Feet Coffee Table Home Decor Foot Stool Metal OldBeautiful 800 Silver Mini Figural Side Table Trinket BoxVintage Mccobb Style Wrought Iron Table Stool Nesting Legs Mid Century ModernCollectible Decorated Old Lute Inlaid Stones Carved Flower Mechanical Table ClocLot Of Miscellaneous Silver Table ItemsAntique Mission Style Double Tier Oak Side TableSilver Topped Dressing Table Jar Sterling H'marked 1918 English Antique 925 NrOrnate Sterling Silver Handled Table Crumb Brush RepousseVintage Solid Wood Side Table/chess Table3 Vintage Stacking Tables - Mid Century Modern Alvar Aalto Style Table - SwedenVintage 1950s Black Metal Wire Lp Record Album & Player Rack Table Mid CenturyVintage Enamel Top Green Table W/ Extending Leaves & 2 Chairs Art Nouveau Floral Sterling Silver 6' Inch Table Vase Marked 925 Not ScrapRare Vintage Beautiful Cast Iron Table Base Legs Industrial Mid Century Art DecoAntique 19th C Chinese Hand Carved Rose Marble Top Table Stand Dragon Heads1900’s Two (2) Tiffany Ball-foot Decorative Sterling Table SaltsEricsson Type Phone - Ktas Antique Table Telephone 1914-model Stunning !Cedar Lined Tobacco Humidor Safe Box Table Cabinet Stand

Recent News: Tables

Source: Google News

Antiques appraised Aug. 25
Keokuk Gate City Daily, July 30th

Mark Moran of Iola, Wis., explains the features of an antique table during one of his events. He'll be at the Keokuk Public Library Tuesday, Aug. 25, to conduct appraisals. Posted: Thursday, July 30, 2015 10:33 am. Antiques appraised Aug. 25 By Cindy...Read more

The 10 most beautiful things we saw at Beat-Herder 2015
Gigwise, July 28th

Getting home from Glastonbury is never a pretty exercise. Locating your car or a Somerset train station is a mission in itself, and the majority of folk simply have to accept the arduous day that lies ahead of them when the final tent peg is pulled...Read more

Take over your own Wild West ghost town
Telegraph.co.uk, July 28th

Fruit and vegetables come from Dunton's farm and vineyard, lamb and cattle are sourced locally and visitors dine at a long antique table in a grand saloon, a popular tradition that in its own subtle way insinuates the sense of community romantic types...Read more

Shades of pale on Nantucket
Boston Globe, July 19th

On Nantucket, the unobstructed views of the ocean from this second-floor guest suite played into its design. Cambridge-based interior designer Susan Reddick, who created the scheme for the whole house, went for a beachy look to create cohesion between ...Read more

Medina's CDC Garden Party Summer Highlight: What's Brewing
cleveland.com, July 17th

The yard of the Simmons home was filled with couples strolling about and sitting at tables covered with vintage table cloths and holding casual flower arrangements constructed from the gardens of CDC members. After stopping at the refreshment table to...Read more

Cops: Suspect swipes man's wallet
Brooklyn Daily, July 15th

Police said that the perpetrators entered the home near E. 24th Street through an unlocked rear basement door at 11 am after trying to get in through a first-floor entrance. In addition to the ducks, the burglars stole an antique table, a stained-glass...Read more

Create some drama in your home
Napa Valley Register, July 10th

Combining the old and new is a great way to add enjoyment, such as adding a stand-out piece of older furniture to a modern silhouette. Old, grand things easily add intrigue in your home. One antique table instantly gives even a new house a sense of...Read more

The Hamptons: New store with flair for old opens at mall
The Daily Times, July 9th

There is a Drexel table for $99 and an antique table priced to sell, at $159. A gorgeous walnut china cabinet is ready for a new home, priced at $499. What you see today might not be what's there tomorrow. Hampton loves variety and replaces what's sold...Read more