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    

A Large Victorian Burr Walnut Table CabinetVintage Danish Mid Century Modern Night Stand End Table Unusual Built In RackPaul Mccobb Vitrolite Drink / Cocktail Table, Mid-century Modern, Brass & GlassFritz Hansen Teak Mid Century Modern Occasional Coffee Side Table Eames 1950s Danish Modern Arne Vodder Teak Coffee Table Mid Century Vintage An Edwardian American Walnut Table BoxVictorian Glass & Sterling Silver Travel Inkwell 1846 Antique Dressing Table BoxA Fantastic Anglo Indian Inlaid Table Antique Syrian Inlaid Islamic Occasional Table, 19th CenturyA Fantastic Anglo Indian Inlaid Table 1960s Original Knoll Warren Platner Steel Rod End Side Table Carrera Marble TopStickley Telephone Table19c Chinese Watercolor Painting Figural Interior Scene Woman Seated At Table Nr2 Victorian Glass & Sterling Silver Boxes Ldn 1846 ~ Antique Dressing Table JarsAntique Primitive Cast Iron Table Top Grinding Wet Stone Sharpening Wheel VgRare Vintage Herman Miller By Charles Eames Low Wire Base End Table Original4 Antique Cast Iron Table Legs - Steampunk Industrial Super Fancy - Unique RareAntique Cut Glass & Solid Silver Topped Dressing Table Pot, By Levi & Salaman19c Chinese Watercolor Painting Figural Interior Scene Figures At A Table No ResAmazing 50s Italian Mid Century Modern Brass Glass Side Table Hollywood RegencyA Anglo Indian Inlaid Table Antique 1800s Willcox & Gibbs Treadle Sewing Machine Cast Iron Stand Table BaseVintage Collection Of 4 Zuni Hunting Table Fetishes Wow!Stickley Dining Table - All Original - No Reserve50s 60s Danish Modern Smile Table Ufo Johannes Andersen Silkeborg Mid Century Factory Cart Coffee TableRare Antique Satellite Adjustable Table Co. Cast Iron Industrial Base Steampunk19th Century Chinese Rosewood Side Table W Marble TopAntique Sterling Silver Art Nouveau Dining Table Crumb Brush Dated 1908Large Antique Hm 1872 Silver Open Table Salt Pot Cauldron Maker Rh 83g Not ScrapCast Iron Legs From Industrial Coil Winding Table- Rare Form Narrow- SteampunkAntique Miniature Table Top Printing Press Cast Iron - 1800s Salesman Sample?Victorian Glass & Sterling Silver Pill Box Ldn 1846 ~ Antique Dressing Table JarAntique Salesman Sample Mannequin Table Top Dress Form Victorian Store Display !Vtg Mid Century Ashtray Smoking Stand Table Metal Legs Retro Eames Candy DishGenuine Antique 1874 American Lens Walnut & Brass Table Top Pedestal StereoscopeMid Century Hollywood Regency Gilt Wheat Sheaf Table Base W/ Glass Top Vintage Mid Century Danish Modern Glass Top Coffee TableVintage Mid Century Hollywood Regency Studded Brass Trunk TableAntique Cast Iron Machine Industrial Age Table Legs Michigan Superb Pair Solid Silver 9.25 Inch Table Candlesticks, 866 Grams, 19671930's Evinrude Elto Ranger Ouboard Motor Shipping Crate Coffee Table Rare Antique Cast Iron Adjustable Base Table Legs Water Heater Stand IndustrialAdjustable Cast Iron Legs For Table Kenney Bros & Wolkins Boston Mass No. 7Cellini French Hand Carved Sofa And Marble Table Formal Furniture Antique Art Nouveau Silver Hm Birmingham1906 Dressing Table Pin Jewellerytray Vintage Mid Century Modern Weld Steel Table Sculpture Cat Tails Jere Bowie EraLarge Antique Victorian Curved Wood Table Top Bird Cage. Nice !!!!!Vintage Warren Platner For Knoll Coffee Table - Mid Century Modern Wire GlassDavid T Smith & Co. Queen Anne Kitchen Table, Cherry Top And Apron W/ Maple LegsTell City Furniture Vintage Dough Box Maple End Table 1950's Chest Pick-up OnlyA Matched Pair Of Antique Sterling Silver Table Salts Chester & Birmingham 1907Retro 60s Style Kitchen Table Alidade Open Sight Survey Plane Table Level Compass Vanes Keuffel Esser BrassVintage 60s Hollywood Regency Wicker Elephant Coffee Table,stool GardenVintage Brass & Glass Display Case Wall Mount Table Top Mirrored Shabby GreenMid Century Danish Modern Walnut Night Stand~end Table~commode Sculptural LegsCottage Home! Vintage Green & White Irish Chain Table Or Crib QuiltMid Century Modern Brutalist Curts Jere Paul Evans Inspired Copper Bronze TableAntique Danish Modern Teak Coffee Table

Recent News: Tables

Source: Google News

Flood insurance 101: Understand your risk, reduce costs and increase home ...
Snoqualmie Valley Record, October 30th

If medicine needs to stay refrigerated, have a cooler handy, because floods often mean power loss. Antiques are covered, but only at functional value. That means that your grandmother's antique table may wind up being replaced by just another new table...Read more

Carol Reese: A leaf, a moment, as time goes by
Jackson Sun, October 30th

Somewhere, people are setting plates atop an antique table formed by leaves using sunlight that blasted the earth centuries ago. The water these people are drinking may have moved through those same leaves as vapor, lifted to the sky and returned to...Read more

KP church offers Christmas bazaar in November
Keypennews, October 30th

For lovers of all things vintage, the Vintage table will be piled high with hydrangea wreaths, ornaments, linens and assorted collectables that harken back to bygone days. “And we'll also have a huge baked goods table,” Pinter said. “We call it the...Read more

Flat of the Hill hosts trunk show
Boston Globe, October 29th

down 15 percent tomorrow through Sunday. The selection includes contemporary, vintage, and antique table and floor lamps, pendant lighting, wall sconces, and more. The store is at 238 Highland Ave., Needham, 781-449-0900. www.bostonconsigns.com ...Read more

Miss Vino & Vintage // Operation Junkstock
Omaha World-Herald (blog), October 24th

It's unlikely you'd find a complete set large enough for the entire wedding, but if you don't mind the mismatched look, pick a general color scheme (I spotted a lot of white, pink, and blue) and create a beautiful vintage table setting for a fraction...Read more

2014 Ultimate Up North Kitchen Tour #9: Coastal Living
MyNorth.com, October 7th

New French doors topped with transoms replaced the old sliders and allow daylight to pour in—helping make this the room that Amy describes as the heart of the home. A church pew from Amy's childhood and an antique table the couple purchased from ...Read more

Shopping Scout: Antique table, canning jars, more
Allentown Morning Call, October 3rd

Someone who sells items on eBay: Rosemarie of Bethlehem is looking for someone who sells items on eBay. She has items. Antique table and chairs: Kris of Northampton is looking for an antique white table and chairs. Quart-sized canning jars: John of ...Read more

Antique furniture, scales stolen from St. Joseph County mill
Mlive Kalamazoo, October 1st

Among the items stolen are: two Fairbanks Morse antique scales, copper wire, an antique doctor's chair with metal foot rest and black leather, several sheets of 0.5-inch particle board, and a large wooden antique table with folding sides and fluted legs...Read more