Art Deco Coffee Table Design and History

An essential piece of furniture for any home is the humble table, but the coffee table was a relatively recent innovation in European and American furniture during the Art Deco era. Other cultures had used low tables for dining for centuries, but not in the West. Prior to the invention of the coffee table, tea and coffee houses used tall tables like you can still find in Parisian cafes or formal English tea settings. 

So what marks an Art Deco coffee table? They are not much different than the coffee tables you might see today. Common materials for Art Deco tables are wood and metal, though you can find the occasional glass table. Another innovation for this era was the use of Formica as a tabletop surface. Finding an intact Formica table top is rare though due to the fragility of the material.

In our current collection, our Art Deco style coffee tables are made of wood with metal accents, while our Mid-Century Modern pieces trend toward the use of glass with metal accents. Let's take a look at an example piece:

This is a modern German-made coffee table done in an French Art Deco style. The twin table surfaces are made of black lacquered wood, which is a staple of the era. The stacked tables are separated by galvanized chrome spheres. Reflective surfaces like lacquer and chrome are very common in Art Deco-style pieces. They helped capture the light off of early electrical lighting in the home like a jewel. Shining surfaces were seen as luxurious just like today.

This is an unusual piece due to the stacked design. Most modern pieces would have the top made of glass so you could see what was on the lower table. Considering the piece is only 13” high, it could conceivably be used as a foot rest if placed near a couch.


This piece is dated back to the 1940s and was made in France. It's very large for a coffee table at roughly 5 feet by 2.75 feet and standing at 14.5 inches tall. There is a lot of room under the table for legs, which could suggest this piece might have intended to evoke Eastern dining habits of kneeling at low tables. The piece uses contrasting bands of burled wood and black lacquer. This would serve as an excellent Art Deco game table for the family. 

Burled wood is taken from damaged portions of trees. Each piece of burled wood has a different grain pattern, and this uniqueness was highly sought. Skillfully using burled wood pieces in a pleasing design was a sign of a craftsman's art.

Browse our catalog to see other examples of Art Deco coffee tables and cocktail tables that could serve as centerpieces for your living room or den. Even a modern reconstruction can serve to make a strong statement about your love for Art Deco and luxury.