Tray & Coffee View All Tables
The Coffee and Tray Table
The omnipresent coffee table is a low table that is placed in front of a sofa or chair to put any number of things: magazines and books, a glass of wine, that beautiful Chinese blue and white bowl for chips, fancy crackers and French pate, your remote control or decorative objects.
There are so many variations on a theme: different woods and metals, different shapes, different styles, different colors. They usually have a glass top to protect the wood underneath from spills and can be easily cleaned.
Coffee tables did appear in the late 19th century in Victorian England and were usually used for tea, but are basically a 20th century invention. Many normal height tables (29”) were cut down to 18”–19” to fit the seat height of the sofa and so be comfortable to reach for that glass of wine. Low tables were popular in China and Japan since they sat on the floor to eat and so needed a low table. Thus, they were adapted as coffee tables. The height of antique trunks and chests make perfect coffee tables. Old paneled doors or cast iron radiator grates set on a frame also make interesting coffee tables.
Tray tables are another option. Antique Victorian trays made from tole or papier mache, painted with colorful designs or inlaid with mother-of-pearl were set on custom made stands.
Georgian mahogany butler’s trays also make wonderful coffee tables. Originally in the 18th century they would have been atop a normal height folding X-shape frame. Today they have been adapted to fit on a custom made stand and lowered to the seat height of a sofa or settee. The Chippendale style butler’s tray has a rectangular base with four hinged sides that form a gallery when closed and when opened, the tray becomes flat with oval sides. The sides also have openings for hand grips so the butler could carry the tray. Some were fitted with brass corner brackets.