Small tables used for serving food, entertaining and decorating bare walls have been in fashion for centuries. While they've changed in form and function with different styles and practices going in and out of vogue, these useful pieces of furniture still serve their purpose.
Continue down below to see a number of different styles, including these types of antique accent tables:
- Butler's table
- Console table
- Demilune table
- Guéridon table
- Kang table
- Piecrust table
- Pembroke table
- Tea tables
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Through the 18th century right up until the 1770s, a good number of small rectangular tables and round tilt-top tables were crafted in Colonial America, especially in Queen Anne and Chippendale styles. We usually refer to them as “tea tables,” but did they really have much to do with tea?
Service With Flair
Yes, actually, tea tables were all about tea presentation. At a time when tea prices were high and having the means to serve the beverage was considered prestigious, every well-appointed home had a tea table in its foyer, hall, or living area waiting to serve its purpose.
These tables were placed out of the way for daily use and then moved to the middle of the room in preparation for indulgent tea parties, according to Marvin D. Schwartz’s reference American Furniture: Tables, Chairs, Sofas, and Beds.
Styles, Storage, and Woods
Tea tables used during the early part of the 18th century tended to be of the rectangular variety, some of which had tray tops to aid in serving like a butler's table.
Later, round tea tables featured tilt tops so they could easily be stowed along a wall when not in use. Mahogany was widely used in tea table manufacture, but other woods such as maple were occasionally utilized as well.
The Decline of the Tea Table
When tea prices went down after the American Revolution, celebrating tea service as such a grand affair was no longer in vogue. The tea table’s popularity waned, and they were scarcely produced until Colonial revival furniture became a fad much later in history.
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Originally this was a two-legged table style that was attached to a wall, usually via brackets. That early style became popular in the later 17th century, probably in France under Louis XIV, since console means bracket in French. Some are still made in this manner today.
A console table can also mean any table with at least one undecorated, straight side, which allows it to be placed up against a wall, and they are usually rectangular in shape. Not always though, as in the instance of the semicircular demilune table.
Pier table is another term used interchangeably with console tables.
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This is a type of pedestal table, usually on three legs, with a round top trimmed with a raised, scalloped edge that looks like the crimped rim of a pie crust. The edging can be either carved or molded, and the top often tilts up making for easy storage against a wall in small homes.
Piecrust tables were developed in the 18th century. They were typically used for serving tea or coffee, and do qualify as a type of tea table. They are often associated with Queen Anne and Chippendale designs.
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This style originated as a table consisting of a tray atop a folding stand developed in England in the mid-1700s. The earliest stands consisted of two X-frames. Later examples were constructed with four legs, often joined by an X-frame. The tray can be rectangular with a fixed gallery or, in the most familiar Chippendale-style variation, have a rectangular center with prominent hinged sides that form an oval when extended. In either case, the tray sides have slots that function as handholds.
The butler's table originated as a two-piece, portable item of furniture—typical of the light, portable furniture developed in the 18th century. In the early 20th century, as part of the Colonial Revival style, manufacturers developed tables with the tray no longer detachable but affixed to the stand or four-legged base. Knowing the difference can help you date your own butler's table.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
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The Pembroke table is a small, light table, possessing two hinged leaves, which can be raised to increase the size and a drawer at either end. The sides and table itself can be of various shapes, but a rectangular table with rounded or scalloped sides is the most familiar. Legs are usually slender, sometimes connected with an X-stretcher.
Dating from mid-18th century England (and possibly named for the Earl or Countess of Pembroke), it is typical of the portable furniture pieces popular at the time, and characteristic of Georgian, Neoclassical and Federal styles, including those of Chippendale, Sheraton and Hepplewhite (who called it "the most useful of this species…the long square and oval are the most fashionable" shapes).
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This is a type of Chinese long, low table that is usually rectangular and typically with short cabriole or elephant-trunk legs and paw or claw feet (although others are used as well). They are often made of a single piece of wood.
Kang tables were originally meant to be placed on a kang, which is a raised three-walled platform used for sleeping or relaxing. Dating back to the third century BC, this style flourished in the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) and continued into the Qing Dynasty (1644 to 1911), growing increasingly ornate. They are also known as Kang Ji and K'ang Chi tables.
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Demilune refers to the top of a piece of furniture—usually a small table or commode—shaped like a semi-circle or a half-moon (the words demi lune translate to half-moon in French). Probably developed in France, the style came into widespread use the 1750s and has remained popular ever since, though it's especially characteristic of Louis XVI and Neoclassical designs, such as Hepplewhite and Sheraton.
Demilune can also refer to a semi-circular table with a drop-leaf that is flipped up to form a full circle. The flat side allowed the piece to be kept against a wall, to be moved into a room when needed—a typical practice in 18th-century rooms.
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Guéridon (pronounced gwair-ee-dawn) tables originated as candle stands in the shape of blackamoors used to hold a candelabra. They date from the 17th century and were often made in pairs. The style may have originated in Italy, but was further developed in France where it came to mean any small occasional table or pedestal with a circular top set above a tripod or column base.
Four-legged varieties developed towards the late 18th century, with a second circular tray connecting the legs in the middle. Over the centuries, guéridons changed greatly in appearance, reflecting contemporary furniture styles, but all are characterized by circular or oval tray tops.