Art and Decoration for Town and Country Homes
Tables for Beauty and Service
KATHERINE M. CALDWELL
HISTORY, romance, beauty, usefulness — what do you ask of your tables? There was a time, doubtless, when the demand on a table began and ended with that for a raised level surface upon which various objects might be
placed. But that time was long ago! In the middle ages there were tables galore— we can still see for ourselves some fine specimens, fortunately preserved to us in various collections—the carved and ornamented furniture that marked the transition, from the austere types of medieval days, to the elaborate developments of the Renaissance; and before any of these, away back in the tenth century, we know that the great Charlemagne gathered his chiefs around him, at a table which probably bore many evidences of their rapidly developing ideas of luxury and civilization. We are told that "no person of rank who visited the King, could leave without sitting at his table or at least draining a cup to his health." A hospitable soul, Charlemagne! But even this tenth century monarch had nothing new when he acquired a dining table. There is a record, estab lished by authorities on Roman furniture, of a table made for Cicero from precious Alrican wood, a table which was not only a thing of beauty but had a sacred signif i caiice; the combination made the cost of the table a million sesterces-a sum equal to about $45,000! Amongst the tables of that day, however, this one may not have seemed tremendously extravagant, for the Roman furniture of the day was of a costly kind. Tables of gold, silver and bronze set, frequently, with precious stones and enriched by workmanship of extreme delicacy and beauty, vied with tables of rare woods, ornamented with precious metals or carved ivories and veneered with consummate skill, to show the full beauty of the markings of the woods. But these were late developments of the table. We are told that nearly a thousand years before Christ, when the prophet Elisha visited the Shunammite, there were set ready for him "a bed and a table and a stool and a candlestick." One wonders-has the modern guest room progressed as far as we had sup posed? Dining Tables LTHOUGH we do not seem to have originated many of the staple furnishings of our modern homes, we can at least felicitate ourselves on the wide range of uses we have found for those that have been handed down to us through the ages. The types of our tables are legion and they strike a high average of beauty and usefulness. Let us consider, for a moment, the one which claims our atter~ion first perhaps by sheer size, perhaps by dint of its im portant place in the family routine-the dining table. Dining tables have, of late years, been once more living up to their possibilities and have become interesting. For an interval, they seemed to be cut largely from the same pattern, and a dull pattern it was. But if you go shopping for a dining table now, you will find a stimulating variety of styles. Just the right tabh.the one which suits the size, shape and style of your room-will be such a source of future satisfaction! A difficult room.
perhaps? Then the greater the triumph if one manages to capitalize irregular lines or odd proportions. For instance-it may be long and nar row. The oval table you had thought of having will scarcely leave passage behind the chairs-especially if sideboard or
serving table must stand against one of the long walls. The long narrow refectory table comes to mind. It echoes perfectly the propor tions of the room. It will give the key to a delightful scheme of furnishing and decor ating-an old-time scheme, of course, severe in line but with a gleam of rich color that of itself recalls the hospitality of medieval days. Around such a table, in the hall of some great feudal lord, knights and courtiers were wont to gather; from what we know of the lordly dishes set upon it, we conclude that its numerous sturdy legs, its strong supports and the heavy board that formed its top, were particularly suited to the task allotted them. True, the refectory table of to-day is de veloped on a smaller scale. But if you were to visit Holyrood Palace, for instance, and see there the illustrious forebears of your modern refectory table, you would observe with joy that its maker has faith fully reproduced the ancient lines of the tables made in the sixteenth or seven teenth century. If you have such a table, you may, perhaps, have given a fleeting tribute to the ingenuity of the modern furniture
maker, when you drew out the clever extension which doubles its length and enables you to seat a large dinner party. Prepare for a shock, then, when you see the great carved oak table in the palace, which in the seventeenth century was made to extend in that very way!
But these visions of laden boards must not be allowed to create an impression that the long narrow table is only suitable~ for entertaining on a large scale, or for the use of a large family. There is really no more charming table for the repas a deux, for the places are then set opposite each other, in the most companionable fashion, with an elongated centre decora tion-flanked, if you will, by the candles that suit such a table so well, and by the extra serving dishes and so forth. No table will adapt itself more readily to the formal or the intimate style. More Conventional rypes 1~/EOST dining tables follow the con iVI ventional oval or square shapes (the sharp corners of the latter being rounded off, much or little). Sometimes the buyer has an open mind on this point but a fixed preference for a certain wood or a suite of d-afinite style. One hears arguments for and against these two leaders; the oval table undoubtedly leaves more floor space-and the corners of a table are really not used a great deal. But many oval tables that are beautiful to look at, are uncomfortable when seating certain numbers-the popular six, for example; the legs, when the table is not of the pedestal type, come at an awkward place and the unfortunate guest may he wishing heartily that its graceful cabriole curve could be twisted in the opposite direction! What of the pedestal? Again-it is a matter of personal preference. It is a very old style, too, and has been developed. through the various per iods, in a rich and interest ing variety of ways. For a table of modest size, there is usually a single pedestal. A large table necessitates two. About a hundred years ago, the double-ped estal dining table was fav ored and antique dealers are able to produce an occasional very fine one to-day; usually, the exten sion is arranged by lock ing in a centre section. or,
sometimes, this cen tre section has a pedestal or four legs of its own and makes a pleasant table for small-family use, the two end pieces being placed against the wall, where they fill the role of console tables, until needed, one or both, in their own capacity.
uwil p~cn.y. Modern furnishing has evidenced a fre quent informal trend that has been, in the case of the dining room, revolution ary. An old time dining room was almost in variably one of two things: rich and digi~i lied-or sombre to the point of grimness. To-day's dining room may still be the first of these-but never the second! The revolt against heavy furnishings, uncheerful walls and dull furniture, has brought to us the last word in informality, the painted dining room suite. We demand a sunny, cheerful atmosphere and paint has proved itself a great help in developing it, when perhaps no other method offers. For it will cover a multi tude of sins-be they of paper or of wood -and will effectively hide much that is ugly. For these painted suites for dining or breakfast rooms, the choice seems to fall most often upon drop leaf tables of various kinds, including the much-liked gate-leg. Informal, too, are the gate-leg tables of walnut, dark oak or mahogany, which, with Windsor or ladder back chairs and shelved dressers, have won their way into so many modern dining rooms. The gate-leg table has always been considered a domestic type and, owing to its fundamental simplicity, has persevered through many eras-sometimes happily interpreted, sometimes not, as when it developed as many legs as a centipede, making it awkward to sit at and dis quieting to look upon. Pedestals and Gate-Legs. B OTH the pedestal and gate-leg styles are used for the small "occasional" table, as it is often called: the table we use in drawing room_or living room, for the most part. To the making of such tables there is, in truth, no end. Oval, round, square; sturdily built, with an air of great de pendability; airily poised on legs delicatey fashioned, after the manner of Sheraton and Adam-slender and straight of leg or with the graceful cabriole curve; tilt-top tables, on bases of a hundred types; quaint little pie-crust tables, beloved especially of the early settlers on this continent; the aptly-named butterfly table; tables with lovely tops of rosewood or mahogany, on the lyre base that has always offered such tempting scope to the artist in woods. Plain tables, carved tables, fluted and beaded and inlaid tables -surely from amongst them all there can be chosen just the right table to strike the note that will harmonize with any happily furnished room!
The long narrow table that stands behind the chesterfield has come into general use. The ultra-comfortable upholstered furniture has won over even the lover of antiques, and the pleasant mingling of old furniture, and modern chesterfields and chairs, has given us a blend of the comfortable and the artistic.
The close intimacy between chesterfields and the long tables that so frequently consort with them, is not, however, a development of our day. “Sofatables” were made long ago. In one of my most interesting furniture books there is a picture of a most delightful sofa-table designed by Sheraton one hundred and twenty years ago.
Another table, made popular by the socalled upholstered furniture of to-day, is the tiny elbow table that rests so chummily beside the arm of chair or chesterfield. The average room can usually stand several of these little tables, so useful to hold a reading lamp, or the books or needlework that are the companions of our restful hours.
Cards and Writing Tables
RECREATION brings also the card table—usually of the folding variety. Sometimes it is the light, baize-covered table that is brought out when required and, when not in use, folds its legs up neatly and retires to any narrow lodging place. Or you may choose a fine old card table or a good reproduction—a table which, whilst it is of correct height and size for the card game, will really spend more of its time effectively filling the role of the occasional table.
The first card tables, historians tell us, made their appearance in the time of Queen Ann. They are described as delicately carved, usually with the characteristic scallop shell on the knee of the cabriole leg. A circle sunk in the wood, held the large silver candelabrum which was the predecessor of to-day’s adjustable bridge lamp.
The pedestal card table also made its appearance and it, too, was developed in lovely woods. Old or new, these tables are usually made with a top which folds in half, swinging half way around on a pivot to support the second leaf when opened. You may find effective use for such a table if you place it against the wall and raise the upper leaf, resting it against the wall so that it will mirror the beauties of whatever you place upon the table. It is interesting to have it assume the role of a small writing table with a few fittings of silver, bronze or pottery.
Your real writing table may take any of a number of graceful turns. If it is called upon for heavy service, it will be weighty enough to inspire confidence and built along lines of uncompromising solidity. Such a table, well poised upon its several legs, is chosen for the library or for the family sitting room if it is to serve as a “catchall” for everybody and, possibly, as a study table for the children.
The writing table that bears no heavier responsibility than that of giving a graceful turn to social correspondence, may be as light and charming in design as you care to have it. The re-making of the old fashioned spinet or small organ into a pigeon-holed writing desk, has proceeded uninterruptedly for years and new desks are being made with the leg turned like that of the old spinets, and the deep back and sides that hint at a prior identity. Tables with a few drawers at either side and sometimes with the curved front that makes them resemble more closely the old-time “knee-hole” desk, are kept light and graceful enough for the modern room that is furnished in the lighter manner, and others of weightier mein are developed in carved oak or walnut, after the fashion
of some of the good old English and Italian designs.
Tables for the Hall
IF YOU seek a table for your hall, you may draw from almost any of these styles, or from others we have not yet mentioned. The shape and size of a hall dominates, to a great degree, the kind of table chosen for it. Nothing is worse than a hall which gives an impression of crampedness and we are careful to help to create a desirable illusion of space, if the real thing is lacking.
Narrowness is a frequent condition we have to meet. Naturally, we choose a shallow table. If the hall is long, the table may be long, and we can flank it with two harmonizing high-backed chairs—or one, if that is better. These long tables are usually of polished wood, but interesting examples appear of wrought iron or with tops of dark marble.
The very narrow crescent-shaped table is helpful when space is strictly limited. Its well-rounded front and absence of projecting corners, make it unobtrusive, without detracting from its usefulness or decorative effect.
Console tables, like the folding tables we were discussing, come in many charming styles and in many woods that may be adapted effectively to hall use. Many of the simpler styles are being carried off to milady’s bedroom to play the part of dressing table, with a quaint mirror on a stand, perhaps, or a hanging mirror supported by silk cords. To the bedroom, too, has come the convenient bed-side table—the tall, straight little table that holds our reading light.
The trim, needlework table has been given a new lease of life. All the delightful designs, inspired by the accomplished needlewomen of days gone by, have been acclaimed again; practical little tables, after the manner of those that found their origin in the domestic feeling of Queen Anne’s day, will probably be of walnut whilst others will bring a more frivolous air to the performance of their duties, masking their efficiency behind mahogany. —veneered, carved, inlaid, as you will—or delicate panellings of satin-wood or rosewood.
So, too, with the tiny tables that partake of the intimacy of the tea hour. We can find them in any wood that suits our fancy, from the conventional polished woods to the wood painted in gold-decorated black or Chinese red, to resemble lacquer; some of these latter have a top of glass. These little tables are usually “nested,” in sets of from three to five, and are delightful accessories to the tea service.
To the tea hour, too, belongs the wheel table beloved of the “household” engineer. Such a table, with its two or three tiers, will transport a whole tea party at a single trip or will carry an extra course for the hostess-served dinner or luncheon. (And a humble relative, strongly built of painted wood, does valiant work in the kitchen, where it can be drawn hither and thither to supplement the service of sink or work table.)
The wheel table is convenient in summer time, when the verandah or garden suggest the out-door meal. Light tables of wicker, reed, etcetera, are much used out of doors, and of course there are permanent garden tables of painted wood or iron.
Our table-tale might be indeed a long one, for each individual type we know to-day has a most interesting history; the development of our modern tables, the fascinating stories behind so many of them, the history and craftsmanship and romance that form their background, form just one small part of the great story of furniture—a story in which people are taking an ever-increasing interest, as they find it more and more worth while.