Why Antique Dining Tables?
Antique dining tables are one of the most popular pieces of furniture that antique hunters look for. There are many reasons for this, starting with the warm atmosphere a quality table brings to a home. Second, antique dining tables are commonly found for very reasonable prices in comparison to other furniture types, because a dining table in mint condition is almost unheard of. After all, this is one table that has likely seen a lot of use, heard a lot of stories, and watched several generations grow at it’s side.
Formal dining rooms are relatively new, and houses one hundred years ago had a table that was used for not only dining, but also many practical tasks as well. If you find an antique dining table that is quite large, it likely came from the home of wealthy owners who took pride in the status it brought. Because of this, these are the tables that survived the ages and can be found today.
Although some antique tables were constructed of wrought iron, the majority were made of wood. The most common woods used were mahogany, walnut and cherry for the highest quality tables, and pine, oak and cedar for more casual, rustic pieces. The oldest tables that can be found today are trestle tables, which were made of long planks of wood on top of trestles, and originated in the middle Ages. One feature of these tables was that they could be easily dismantled and moved to other places.
Although dining events in present times are enjoyed with everyone at one great table, it hasn’t always been that way. In medieval times, all the invited guests sat together in a large hall, while the host and hostess of the estate sat at a small raised table nearby. But during the 16th century, the host and his family had moved into a separate room! Here, fixed tables were built, and the term “refectory table” was born. These became popular throughout Europe. Dining tables during this period were often heavily carved and ornate.
A century later saw gate-legged tables emerge, where flaps that could be turned under when the table was not being used were designed. Originally, these tables were very large, but over time the size was reduced. As tables moved into the 18th century, they became more slender and refined, and lacked the carving of earlier years.
If you are looking at the rectangular top of an antique refectory table, you should see two to three planks of wood with a wonderful patina that is earned only through age and use. You will know it is a reproduction made of floor board planks if you see signs of filled-in holes. Also, if you see wood dowels, be sure they stand out from the table top surface, as they will not have shrunk as the table will. Also check the legs to note the wear that should be there, leaving edges that are smooth and rounded.
When antique dining tables were made and first used, nobody could have imagined what value they would bring in today’s market. The tables that survived and are enjoyed today were not saved for the investment value they held, but rather because they were useful, practical and represented a level of achievement for the family.