Antique Table Glossary


As a help to novice antique collectors we offer this beginning to a series of brief glossaries. The first edition pertains to some of the types of tables often referred to in antique collecting reference books. Sometimes antique books, particularly older ones, are insufficiently illustrated and can be quite confusing to the uninitiated.

While most experienced collector will probably learn little from the series, we all have to start somewhere. For those just beginning to beautify their lives with antique furniture these glossaries might help when speaking with dealers, researching information, and identifying finds.

Draw Leaf Table- This term applies to any table made with extra table sections that are stored under the main tabletop when not in use. Most commonly applied to dining tables but other smaller table sometimes have the draw leaf design. More complicated draw leaf tables often feature amazingly ingenious mechanisms for moving the leaves into place and securing them when stored.

Drum Table- A table built with an extra thick top that allows draws to be set with the top. The pedestal tables (see below) are the most common starting point for drum tables. This is true to the extent that, as a rule, you can regard drum tables as a variety of pedestal tables.

Gateleg Table- These tables are ones constructed with a pair of tabletop extensions that store flat against the sides of the table when not in use. The side panels are mounted on hinges and will swing into place. The name comes from the commonly gate-like structure of the central supporting legs. The central frame must be very sturdy to keep its stability with the top extensions in place.

Pedestal Table- A table supported by a central column as opposed to a table with legs attached at each corner. Small legs attached to its base support the pedestal. Usually there are just three legs but sometimes four. A common design for dining tables, corner tables, and plant stands.

Pembroke Table- A table easily confused with a gateleg table (see above). Pembroke tables have a tabletop extension on each side but lack the formidable central structure of gateleg tables. Since they are not as stable as gateleg tables the extension pieces are usually smaller to prevent tipping.

Side Table- Any table built with the intention of displaying only one side. Side table normally have one unfinished side that is meant to be placed against a wall or another piece of furniture. They are often semi-circular or rectangular in shape.

Sofa Table- An unusually tall table built to stand behind a sofa. Often they are constructed with small flaps at each end that can be locked into an upright position when needed. They often also have a pair or more of draws. They are sometimes mistaking identified and used as serving tables meant for the dinning room. However, sofa tables are normally smaller than serving tables.

Tavern Tables- A very old form of the dining table. Tavern tables were almost always rectangular and built with exceptionally strong legs at each corner and usually in the middle as well. It is common to find stretcher supports either running between the ends at floor level or somewhat higher. These tables were obviously built for strength. They were often used in public houses to hold great quantities of food, serving platters, and diners.


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Silas Finch is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Collectible Antiques Etc. He can be reached at Content and Solutions.

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