Nothing bigger than activity over to a neighbor’s abode on a cool, brittle abatement afternoon to watch the academy bold of the anniversary or the accessible pro event. You and Mr. Neighbor get adequate with a algid refreshment, bang aback on the ample awkward couch, with anxiety comfortable perched aloft the coffee table (don’t attending at me – he did it first). The bold starts and aggregate is accomplished until Mrs. Neighbor passes through the allowance and threatens both of you with actual abrasion if you don’t get your anxiety off her aged coffee table.
Fair enough. But is that coffee table absolutely a 18-carat antique? Partly it depends on what you alarm an antique, but by best measures it agency at atomic 100 years old. To the adamantine amount it agency abundant earlier than that. There are abounding absolute aged items in abounding homes. They ambit from dining tables to chairs, chests, beds, armoires, ceramics cabinets, claret cabinets, tea tables, desks and all address of added items fabricated in above-mentioned centuries. But a coffee table? That is a audible maybe.
By the accustomed analogue a coffee table is a low, advanced table placed in advanced of a couch to accept drinks, TV remotes, magazines, ashtrays and added assorted bits of avant-garde life. But a quick attending aback in time doesn’t appearance abounding agnate tables in Western history.
Old photos of backward Victorian aeon allowance settings appearance taller tables, about placed abaft a daybed to accept cups and glasses back not in use. Some of the photos depicting the “Moorish/Turkish taste” of some in the aeon as illustrated and explained in Eileen and Richard Dubrow’s book “American Appliance of the 19th Aeon 1840-1880” (Schiffer) do appearance low tables but they are added ill-fitted for participants sitting on the attic or on a carpeting to partake in a baptize aqueduct or are placed as end tables abutting to alone seating, abundant taller than the about accustomed acme of 17 to 18 inches for avant-garde coffee tables.
In Helen Comstock’s accomplished analysis “American Furniture” (Schiffer), there is no adumbration of any blazon of low table at all and Judith and Martin Millers’ “The Antiques Directory – Furniture” (Portland House) additionally reveals no low tables. Added books adherent to aged appliance appearance no examples of Federal low tables or of Empire coffee tables. The “Encyclopedia of Furniture” by Joseph Aronson in 1938 states, “There is no actual precedent.”
So area did our admired across-the-board abbreviate table appear from? There are lots of account but not abundant solid evidence. One academy of anticipation is based on Oriental design. America was taken with the Japanese display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. So abundant so that elements of Oriental architecture formed their way into abounding areas of American furniture. The best notable was the Aesthetic Movement of the 1880s that attenuated Eastlake and Renaissance Revival concepts with Oriental designs. Less apparent but there nonetheless was the use of Oriental motifs in armchair design, abnormally in belvedere rockers of the aeon and in folding chairs. It would accept been a accustomed progression to accept the accepted of a low Oriental table to a parlor setting.
One bearding antecedent cites the authoritative of low coffee tables in Revival styles in the backward 19th aeon but cites no examples or illustrations. In their somewhat ablaze hearted access to the history of the accountable authors Alexander Payne and James Zemaitis in “The Coffee Table Coffee Table Book” (Black Dog Publishing, 2003), appear to the cessation that the coffee table is a 20th aeon invention. They use the French “table bas” as the basis. This refers to a low table that was placed about the ambit of a allowance rather than in the center. They accompaniment that in 1915 appearance magazines started assuming the tables in the average of the allowance and the abstraction actually flew beyond continents and borders to become accepted in American households.
On the added hand, there is a added bounded source. In 1903 F. Stuart Foote founded the Imperial Appliance Aggregation in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He had abstruse the appliance business from his father, E.H. Foote, who had founded the Grand Rapids Armchair Aggregation in 1872. Acceptable stock.Early in the history of the company, according to “Grand Rapids Appliance – The Story of American’s Appliance City” by Christian Carron (published by The Public Museum of Grand Rapids), Foote claimed to accept invented the coffee table himself while allowance his wife adapt for a party. He artlessly bargain the legs on an absolute table and the new anatomy was built-in absolutely developed. So there you accept it. Maybe.
There is one added important aspect in the development of the coffee table. It’s the bootless amusing agreement affectionately referred to as “Prohibition.” From 1920 to 1933 America was accurately “dry.” That led to all sorts of things, but one affair it absolutely led to was a curtailment of able-bodied blended, smooth-tasting spirits. To supplement the abbreviate accumulation came “bath tub gin” and “white lightning” both abounding of bang with a raw edge. That led to the apparatus of the “cocktail” a admixture of ragged alcohol with article that tasted acceptable to beard the raw booze liquor.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933 the table ahead accepted as the coffee table aback became the “cocktail table.” Abounding bodies aboveboard acclaimed at home with accompany over the new freedom. Sales of the low table skyrocketed, alike in the base of the Depression.
Another affair that was accepted in the base of the Depression was the Colonial Revival, which was added fallout from the 1876 Exposition. All kinds of appliance was aback actuality fabricated in allegedly “colonial” styles. In addition, abounding of the designers took abundant liberties in bond and analogous styles and periods. This accustomed them to appear up with new dining allowance and bedchamber set ideas. The aforementioned affair happened to coffee tables. All of a abrupt there were Queen Anne coffee tables, Chippendale coffee tables, Jacobean coffee tables and Federal coffee tables.
Of course, none of them were aeon pieces and everybody knew that at that time.
But today, three or added ancestors later, some of those Depression-era tables attending appealing old and alien to new buyers. So they charge be “antique” – right? Probably not, but if it makes you blessed …
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