Antique Dining Table Styles and Types

Illustration: The Spruce / Madelyn Goodnight

There are many different types of antique dining tables. Some are large, solid pieces of furniture while others are more portable and light in weight. Learn more about a number of different types of dining tables made through the centuries including those with gate-leg and drop-leaf features.

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    Butterfly Table

    Butterfly Table
    Pine Drop-Leaf Gate-Leg Butterfly Table Castle Hill Antiques on

    This is a specific type of gate-leg (see more specifics below), drop-leaf table which is characterized by two prominent wing-shaped braces that swing out to support the drop leaves. It is usually smaller and lighter than a conventional gate-leg table. A table like this would typically be used in a breakfast area or other small dining space, accommodating only two to four chairs, and would serve as an accent table when not in use. 

    Butterfly tables are also characterized by splayed legs, which add to the sense of movement created by the wings. The table top itself can be oval or square, sometimes with a drawer, as shown in the illustration. Legs are usually turned, connected with a plain or ringed box-stretcher, and rest on ball or bun feet or casters.

    Thought to be American (probably from Connecticut) and developing around the turn of the 18th century, it is typical of William and Mary style furniture. Frequently made of maple, a plentiful wood in colonial New England, butterfly tables were often painted red, black or other colors.

    Many variations and updated versions have been made since then.

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    Gate-leg Table

    Typical Gate-leg Table Assembly
    Typical Gate-leg Table Assembly

    This is a type of drop-leaf table in which the sides are attached to legs that are hinged beneath the tabletop. The legs swing out, gate-like, allowing the leaves to be raised to expand the size of the table. Another style popular for dining in small areas, since it can be collapsed and displayed against a wall as an accent table when not in use. 

    The tabletop itself is usually round or oval, and plain, while the legs are often elaborately turned or spiraled and connected by stretchers. A single drawer is common. Most examples are made of oak, walnut or maple (if from New England), though fancier mahogany versions do exist.

    Dating from the late 16th century, this Baroque-style flourished throughout the 17th century and is highly characteristic of Jacobean and William and Mary furniture, representing the less formal, more intimate dining customs of the period. It was commonly used throughout the 1700s, gradually waning in favor of more graceful portable designs, such as the Pembroke table. The later 18th-century versions usually have thinner, simpler legs, and rectangular tabletops.

    Later versions were also made, especially during the Great Depression years in the United States.

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    Hutch Table

    Hutch table, ca. 1780-1800
    Connecticut River Valley Hutch Table, ca. 1780-1800

    Halsey Munson Americana 

    Hutch tables, sometimes referenced as chair-tables, are an early form of tilt-top table, in which a square, box-shaped base has a hinged, disproportionately large top. This top can be swung back and locked upright, creating an armchair with a sizeable back (usually round, but could be square or other shapes, as shown here).

    Often the chair base has a drawer or compartment—hence the name "hutch." Though dating from the Middle Ages, this form was perfected in the Jacobean era and remained popular in England and America through the early 19th century as a space-saving, multi-purpose piece of furniture.

    Most hutch tables are plain country pieces, so those found decorated with delicate carving are the most prized among early furniture fans.

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    Trestle Table

    Trestle Table
    Pennsylvania Pine Trestle Table


    One of the first types of European table, dating from the Middle Ages, the trestle table consists of a rectangular board placed atop two or more trestles. These usually consisted of vertical posts placed in the middle of horizontal pieces, forming the shape of a T, or they could take the shape of a V-shaped pair of legs, like a sawhorse. Although they began as simple, portable pieces, trestle tables often became quite solid and ornate during the Renaissance.

    This style remained the dominant form of dining table until the late 17th century and continued to be popular in institutional and country furniture thereafter. It and was revived by Arts and Crafts furniture-makers like Gustav Stickley around the turn of the 20th century. They are sometimes referenced as refectory tables or kitchen tables.

    Trestle tables have seen a resurgence in popularity in modern farmhouse decorating of late, and they are often used with chairs on one side and a bench on the other.