Although we get coffee tables that are styled to look as if they’ve been plucked right out of Mr Darcy’s sitting room, they are not a traditional piece of furniture and were actually created much later in history and then styled to make them look older.
You see, the idea of taking tea was still popular in bygone eras, but this was mostly done in the dining room or smoking room and the idea of taking drinks and snacks into your lounge area and hosting your party around a small table would have been unthinkable. Thankfully, these days we’re far more liberated, and having a cup of coffee in the sitting room whilst watching TV is very commonplace.
This is largely responsible for the design of the coffee table- once low backed sofas became more popular in households the demand for a table that was on the same level increased and thus the low level coffee table was invented in around the 20th century- though many older tables actually had the legs shortened to make them into coffee tables, hence, we sometimes assume there are older coffee tables out there.
Because as a modern society we’re naturally fascinated with the past, a lot of our traditional coffee tables are styled to look old fashioned and typical with curved edges and oval tops, possibly even with a glassy kind of carving on the legs and around the edges as well.
These then evolved into the contemporary wooden designs we have today that, as tastes began to favour a more minimalist style, became a smoother finish and were generally more square and simplistic in order to follow fashion. However, wood was still a very common feature in the design and even today you can’t beat solid oak furniture.
However, as metal, plastic and even glass became popular styles for coffee tables there started to be lot more tables pushed onto the market that are made from these designs. Shiny plastic was favoured for very funky, retro looking furniture and curved tables made a comeback with circular and even wavy, shaped designs becoming highly popular for small tables.
Metal and glass then became the construction materials of choice and see-through glass tops balanced on stylish chrome steel became a popular addition to most households. These were artfully used in a minimalist setting to really show off how classy they were and for the first time coffee tables really became pieces of furniture in their own right that people could admire, rather than just functional pieces that you balance a tray of nibbles and coffee on at a party.
They became a feature and a piece of furniture that matched the other decor in the room, or even set off the trend themselves.
Wood, however, is still a wonderfully popular choice, and it’s typical to find wooden coffee tables all over in many different styles- be them an intricately carved design made to look like a quaint little antique, or a smoothly finished pale oak table to give the room a cosy, farmhouse style appearance that will make guests feel wonderfully at ease and at home.