Dining tables are, of course, of various sizes and forms, and made or purchased to suit an apartment or home with consideration of how many folks needed to be served.
Various methods have been applied to tables to increase size on occasion and reducing in size when not in use.
One of the most common in use decades ago was made of mahogany with a fixed center section and folding leaves or flaps supported by fly-rails and legs constructed to fold out or left back under the center section when not required. These tables were made round or square. A variety of them, named a “cottage” dining table had the fixed center section not over 18 inches wide, thus occupying little space when not used against a wall.
A square table was increased to a rectangular type by pulling out fly brackets onto which was placed loose leaves or flaps as they were termed in mid-1800. These flaps were held in place by dowels fitted into appropriate holes in the table. Some were strengthened by iron straps let into the table below the top. A thin rail may be put on with hinges to fold down and conceal the flaps when not needed.
“Pembroke” tables were the small breakfast tables with four legs or a center pedestal three footed affair. A small drawer was placed under the center section with folding leaves about a foot wide on either side. Many of the early designs were also made of mahogany because other woods had a tendency to warp or become loose.
The familiar pedestal table of large size with the pillar and three claw feet was called a “loo-table.”
Small breakfast tables for one person was the “tilt top type,” originally named just “breakfast table.” These were made in several styles, but the most familiar had a large round top. Another round table was only about a foot and a half or so across, and yet another tilt table was rectangular.
Library tables have been used for many decades. This type was my first desk when I was young. These are firm and solid. Some had leather tops, and the mission oak types were wood topped. Early English styles had carved legs or trestle type support, and a large drawer or two for writing accessories was in the side.
Pier-tables were the type that was placed between two windows. The top was generally a form of marble or “scagliola.” When the slab was supported by a “consol” – two supports often elaborately carved or pillar shaped – it was called a “consol-table.” Sometimes these tables had shelves, and were also ornamented with two carved or plain columns. This type of table was topped with a marble slab and placed under a wall mirror to enhance the attractive vases or article placed upon them.
Card tables were first four-legged plain tables. Later versions had tops that swiveled to allow storage of cards or other items under it. These card tables could be embellished or plain, and there was little to distinguish them from similar other tables.
Sofa tables were small and elegant and were placed in association with a sofa. Today we refer to them as coffee tables. These were and are of fine woods and were richly carved and/or inlaid or other modes of ornamentation. These were sometimes called “occasional tables” and some had three-footed pedestal supports. Some were topped or vividly painted or japanned.
Billiard tables were often found in villas where they were used for entertainment. In the older days, levels were attached in some to insure a level status and screw devices were in the legs to adjust for this condition.
Ladies work tables, now referred to as sewing tables, were small for holding the lighter material and articles and possessed small places for needles, thread, pins, thimbles, scissors, etc. They were sometimes plain, constructed of mahogany, had small drawers, and a few had a silk bag attached to one end that was pulled out for use. These tables were of several shapes, sizes and designs.
Small stands for sewing were also made and were supported on a single, narrow pedestal on the usual three feet. A very attractive type had two shelves surrounding the pedestal; the lower one smaller in circumference than the top. Doweling supported a circular rim of wood on each shelf.
There were other tables that deserve description, enough to fill a book.
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