09 January 2008

Skirted Tables


My dining room with its silk skirted table

A few weeks ago, a popular design blogger wrote that she really hated skirted tables. What caused her to write about this hatred? The answer: the skirted table shown in the picture below:

Bedroom by Miles Redd with the offensive skirted table

I'll admit, it's not the best skirted table around. There's a lot wrong with it: the fabric's color for one thing, the shapeless drape, for another. The blog about this offensive skirted table started a very lively debate. Everyone, every single person, who left a comment agreed - this skirted table was just awful. The discussion centered around whether there was a hated of all skirted tables outright, or rather just this particular version alone. Oh, the revulsion! - People worried about what was hiding under the skirt? Why use that awful pea green fabric? The room is too jumbled - what's wrong with the designer Miles Redd?!!?? One person ashamedly admitted to owning a skirted table just to hide his jumbled stereo wires.

There was just one brave person who disagreed with everyone about skirted tables and left a comment defending them. That person? Of course, it was me. You see, I adore skirted tables. I've had one in some shape or another in every place I've lived for the past thirty years. I place them in clients' houses. I've even removed perfectly good dining room tables and replaced them with skirted ones (and yes! most husbands fight me tooth and nail over that one!). So, today, I write this in defense of the skirted table.

You see, a skirted table done CORRECTLY, can be a beautiful asset to a room: dreamy, romantic, and useful. They make wonderful vanity tables in bathrooms. They also make great nightstands in bedrooms and side tables in living rooms. They ARE wonderful to hide stereo wires under and are especially useful to hide the often impossible to disguise subwoofer. I especially like a rectangular skirted table, with a tailored cover and a thick glass top, flanking both sides of a large king bed. Another place I like to put one is in the entry hall as a center table where it provides a place to put books and accessories. Ditto for the library. But, my personal favorite destination for a skirted table is the dining room. A square room is a perfect spot for a round table. The softly draped fabric adds instant warmth to the dining room and can be a wonderful alternative to too much wood in the room. When a dining room is lacking in architectural interest, a skirted table can add something decorative to a plain box. And I prefer that skirted tables in living rooms used as side tables be oversized, not the typical 30" round. I like to use 36 and 48 inch tables - the effect is much more dramatic.

A skirted table is not a "cheap" alternative to a wood table. Far from it. Now, it CAN be cheaper if you order it from someplace like Ballard Designs, but I don't do that. I custom make all my skirts. The preferred fabric is a heavy weight linen or silk. The heavier the fabric, the more luxurious the drape, just like with any wonderful curtain. I always line and interline my skirts, with one lining being a blackout one. This adds to the weight, which adds to the richness. Plus, you don't want the sun shining through the skirt like it's missing a petticoat. I puddle my skirts about 3 inches. That way, you can pull the skirt up with your hands and let it fall to the floor in graceful folds. I don't use glass on the dining room table. To protect the fabric when I'm having a dinner party, I put a waterproof liner on top of the skirt and then cover it with a white tablecloth. That way, I don't have to worry about wine spills ruining an expensive Bennison or Kime fabric. Also, I don't like to use particle board tables under the dining table. They're too flimsy and don't have a feeling of permanence. Instead, I prefer to buy heavy duty conference tables.

Despite me being the only commenter who stood up for the skirted table, I'm not alone in my love of them. All the great designers use them to perfection: Saladino, Stefanidis, Easton, Moss, and Buatta to name a few. Personally, that's good enough company for me!

The incomparable John Stefanidis. Here he drapes a center library table, piled high with books. The table is an octagon with tassles hanging in each corner.


The master, John Saladino, with a skirted dining room table. He's layered three different fabrics here in this famous New York apartment.


In Mario Buatta's most famous Kips Bay Showhouse room: a skirted vanity table in orange, constrasts with all the blue and white.

Another Kips Bay Showhouse bedroom: this time Charlotte Moss, in what appears to be an ode to Buatta, contrasts her blue and white bedroom with a chartreuse skirted table, shown at the far right.


A recent cover of House Beautiful featured this Markham Roberts' dining room table with two layers of fabric.


The famous Keith Irvine combines a lacquered library with a dining room.


Popular Houston designer Pam Pierce has her skirts sewn differently, and the result is beautiful.


Markham Roberts, again. This time he uses different toppers to distinguish the two dining room tables.


The debonair Juan Molyneux uses a skirted table in a traditonal way.


Bunny Williams skirts a dining room table in a flowery print - gorgeous celadon painted paneling.


John Stefanidis, again, with a skirted nightstand.

Francophile Diane Burn often uses skirts - here in a previous home, she drapes a scarf over the skirt.


Again, Diane Burns, in her current home. I counted three skirted tables in all.


Suzanis make great table covers.

My antique wine tasting table is covered with a vintage suzani - probably for winter only. I miss seeing the graceful lines of the table.

A center table in the foyer. The six sides are highlighted by the contrasting trim.


I love this French dining room with a mattlesse topper and slipcovered chairs. Love the chandelier too.

A checked fabric lends a casual look to this dining room.

A gorgeous silk fabric dresses up a vanity table.

In Belgium, a simple tablecloth adds quiet elegance to a dining room.


Here, a rectangular table is skirted in a tailored manner and used as a buffet.

Ann Coyle uses creamy linen for her skirt.

Here, cool linen is tied over a bed table to further soften the atmosphere.

A skirted table is used in a combination living room, dining room.



Here, three layers of fabric top a round table.


Dallas designer Cathy Kinkaid uses a fringed skirt in an entry hall.

Kenneth Lane, the jeweler, drapes silk over a table in his large, eclectic living room.

Jeffrey Bilhuber uses checks everywhere in his NYC apartment.


A round, damask fabric covered table softens up a square dining room.

A beautiful fabric is used as a topper over a side table in this living room.

Mismatched chairs add a whimsical touch to a linen covered oval.


Checked topped nightstand used in a classic toile bedroom.



Here a small fringed skirted table is used as an additional place to eat.



Sculpture tops this center table covered with silk taffeta.

In a French styled home, linen covers a breakfast table.


Outside the same home, a skirt covers a rectangular table.



Jose Solis uses two fabrics on this dining table. Contemporary chairs add an unexpected touch.


The ultra hot Belgian Axel Vervoordt often uses skirted tables in his designs.




Again, Axel Vervoordt.


In another blue and white bedroom, another beautiful skirted vanity.


In a French home, a rectangular table is covered in linen.


In Belgium, beautiful antique furniture, chandelier and skirted table.


In Belgium again, here the table is skirted in the same fabric as the chairs giving the room a somewhat contemporary feel.


And last, a skirted table graces a foyer.