Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Coffee Table

I'm joining all the Tabletop Tuesday participants
over at A Stroll Through Life with our fun hostess Marty.

I'm joining Show and Tell Friday over at Cindy's My Romantic Home.
Come over and share something today for Show and Tell.

I'm also joining in for Furniture Feature Friday over at Miss Mustard Seed's

Coffee table or cocktail table?
However  you refer to it, this piece of furniture usually sits in front of your couch, sofa or devan .....which is a whole other what do you call it conversation.

If "antique" is defined as being 100+ years old, then most likely you don't own an
antique coffee table.  Most so called antique coffee tables are really just lovely vintage
pieces done in a style from a prior era.

The coffee table as we know it was adapted from the much earlier "tea table" in use throughout Europe in the 17th century. These tea tables were usually tall and round, set beside a chair or in front of a seating arrangement. Later they also came with a tilt top, so that the table could be put against a wall until the next tea time.

Archduchess Marie-Christine, Archduke Ferdinand, Archduchess Marie-Antoinette, 
Archduke Maximilian, Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor, are shown in this old painting with a "tea table."

This table recently appeared in a post titled It's So Ruffly

By the early 19th century the tea table had evolved into a rolling cart or trolley brought out specifically for serving tea. Other forms of tables in use at this time which could be placed
next to a sofa were called occasional tables, end tables, and center tables.
The first wooden tables in Britain specifically called coffee tables were made
during the late Victorian era.

In the United States during the early 20th century the development of the coffee table grew quickly.  It was usually low and rectangular and credit is generally given to J. Stuart Foote of the Imperial Furniture Company, who claimed to have cut down the legs of a dining table and used the resulting low table as a "coffee table." Coffee was gaining in popularity at this time and was preferred  over tea. It's likely this had some influence over the table's name.
The repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s brought about another name, the "cocktail table."

The coffee table functioned as a centerpiece for casual enntertainment. Magazines were becoming increasingly popular and the coffee table provided a place to display the colorful covers. It wasn't long before the coffee table was accessorized with ceramics, vases of flowers and coffee table books.

When I lived in post WWII Germany with my family, this coffee table was created by an early recycler.  He was repurposing the many very large dining tables coming out of older homes and estates into "coffee tables."  Many of the dining tables were much too large to be used in the
down-sized living spaces created following the war, so he began cutting the legs or bases to a shorter length and then cutting out sections of the massive wooden tops to serve as the top
of the coffee tables.

I was along the day my mother went to choose her coffee table.  In the back workroom were dozens of huge dining tables to choose from and patterns for the shape of the new coffee tables.  This is the shape my mother chose to have cut from a large maple topped table.

A few weeks later we returned to pick up the coffee table, with its glass top to protect the very old wood.  Here it is about 60 years later, having crossed the Atlantic by ship when we returned to the states.  It lived in Chicago for a few years and then in Texas for a long time before it came to live at my house about 10 years ago.

What's on your coffee table?

Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, I do appreciate it!


  1. wow! what a history and precious table too! love the look of the table.. so elegant!

  2. did your homework. your table is gorgeous..

  3. Wonderfully interesting post. I so enjoyed reading and learning about tea tables and coffee tables. Your tables are beautiful pieces of furniture. So elegant! Our coffee table is a butler's table with four sides that fold up. At the moment there is a stack of books and a large bowl of moss covered balls. I cycle different vignette onto this table ever so often.

  4. Just found you, sweetpea! Your pictures are very good—sharp, crisp, clear and LARGE. I love bigger pix on the blogs. You've done a beautiful job with that coffee table, chick, and the glass will protect it for years. Darling blog...

  5. Thank you all for coming by to take a look at the coffee table, come back soon for another visit!


  6. I thoroughly enjoyed your table history and a peek at the lovely heirloom you have. What a treasure! Hope you'll stop by and see us. Jane F

  7. Those are two beautiful tables. Thanks for the history on the tables. Your flowers look wonderful in the jar!

  8. Hi Candy
    I have been enjoying your blog for some time. I have wanted to write and tell you that your dishes, home, kitchen and roses are exquisite and you are amazing. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life.

  9. this looks very lovely. I have enjoyed every post that I have visited! Looking forward to more!
    The table is beautiful!

  10. Thanks for stopping by to check out my coffee and tea tables! And thanks also for your generous comments.


  11. What interesting history of the coffee table. I love the piecrust tilt top table too. It is stunning. YOur mother's coffee table is exquisite, and what a wonderful history. Aren't you thrilled that you have it now. It really is gorgeous. I love your table top vignette too. It looks interesting without taking away from the beauty of the table. Thanks so much for joining the party. Hugs, Marty

  12. Thank you for the history lesson! I am a sucker for the history of all things. I had no idea and always wondered why the tables folded. I know that table is so special to you. You always do such a great job dressing up your tables.

  13. Thank you both for your lovely comments!

    And thanks Marty for hosting your great weekly get together!



Thank you for your lovely comments.

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