When exactly did we start using coffee tables? The first time we saw the term in print was in the late 1800’s toward the Victorian era. They were still rather tall when compared to what we think of as the modern coffee table. Low tables have been popular in different cultures and eras, but they don't fit the modern concept of a coffee table. They are considered to be a late development in modern home furnishing.
What really popularized the coffee table was the television. By using a low table between the couch and the television, items could be placed on it without obstructing the view. All styles have been used for the coffee table, including Art Deco.
Here is an example from our current collection. This U-form pedestal base is a common feature in low tables from the period. Tables themselves naturally have a strong geometric shape, and the curved base adds a necessary contrast between smooth curves and bold lines for that Art Deco styling.
Note the detail on the edges of the pedestal base and the table top. This is called a burled edge. Burls are portions of damaged wood on trees. On a living tree it looks like a tumor, but when you cut one open, you can get amazing and unique patterns.
The base of the piece is coated in black lacquer, another common feature of Art Deco design. The top of the piece is covered with a lacobel glass topplate. Lacobel is a brand name for a particular type of colored painted glass that is quite sturdy.
This piece is immediately identifiable as a coffee table, but is from the Mid-Century Modern period. It can also be found in our collection. Unlike the previous example, there is plenty of room underneath for the feet of adults or for the legs of sitting children. Gone are the curves, replaced by sturdy metal and simple geometric designs. Whereas a coffee table may have served as a focal point for conversation in an Art Deco living room, by the Mid-Century Modern period the focal point had turned toward the TV.
To see more Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern coffee tables available for sale, please check out our website.