When you antique furniture shop to buy antique furniture, you’ll find that some of the most popular pieces are formal antique dining tables. We all need one of them…that’s what makes dining tables one of the most desired pieces of antique furniture.
Buying an antique dining table can be a bit complicated, as quality and costs vary greatly. The most important elements in pricing are: originality, length, width, period, quality of wood used and colour. As a general rule the earlier the dining table was constructed, the higher the quality of the wood used. Tables that still have all their original leaves are rare and are much more valuable, than those with replacement leaves.
Width is important, when people are sitting opposite each other there should be adequate room in the centre of the table. Look for tables 48 inches or more in width. One that is just 42 inches deep would be worth less than half that of an identical table that was 48 inches deep. The length is also important, with tables that sit 10 or more people very sought after.
The earliest type of dining table that is still in existence today is the trestle table, that was used in the middle Ages. The top was made from long wooden planks resting on trestles so the tables could be dismantled and moved to the side of the hall whenever the space was needed for activities other than dining.
During the medieval period, guests all dined together in the great hall, along with the host and hostess of the house who were commonly seated at a smaller table raised on a dais. By the mid-sixteenth century, it was customary for the master and his family to eat in a separate room and thus, the need for more stationary tables developed. Refectory table has been a name given to these early stationary tables since the 19th century. Although the styles were different, these tables were fashionable throughout Europe.
In the mid-seventeenth century gate-leg dining tables, with side panels that could be folded down when the table was not being used became popular. In the earlier years, these tables were often quite large – sometimes up to eight or nine feet in diameter. However, as time passed, it became fashionable for numerous smaller tables to be used, rather than one large one, so they became smaller.
The most expensive dining tables date from the mid-eighteenth century to the early nineteenth. They vary in length from two to four pedestals and usually have a rectangular shape. The pedestals act as supports for additional leaves and also control how many leaves can be added. The more pedestals a table has, the longer it’s length and thus, the more desirable the table is.
An example would be an antique double pedestal table from the 1790’s…the table would have one fixed leaf on each pedestal and, with the support of stretchers and clips, could take an additional leaf. The maximum length of a table like this would be approximately eight or so feet in length.
Another important element in making an antique dining table from this period very desirable and expensive is the quality of the wood that was used, and the table’s utility. The additional pedestals can extend the length up to twenty feet. We usually see extending tables that are made of mahogany, which is a durable, strong and attractive wood.
All periods of antique furniture had different characteristics. Early antique Georgian and Victorian dining tables had pull-out mechanisms…a relatively simple construction that extends the table and allows additional leaves to be inserted by pulling the ends open.
Later Victorian antique dining tables were constructed with wind out mechanisms, allowing the tables to be opened, by the use of a winding handle. Many of the antique dining tables from those periods still exist today, are of superb quality and many still have their original leaves.
The purchase of antique dining tables is an important topic and one I will address again in greater detail in later posts, but for an overview of the subject, I hope that this post will provide you with some insight whenever you buy antique furniture.