02 August 2011

Coffee Tables 101

 

 

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When I showed my newly remodeled living room a few weeks ago, I got a lot of comments.  Many were positive and liked the new decor, but many didn’t like the changes at all.  I got a lot of ideas from the comments – some I actually liked, such as use a zebra rug instead of the white cowhide.  The majority of the negative comments concerned my coffee table, which is actually a side table or small  desk.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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The negative comments came mainly from those who felt my coffee table was too high and that the room would benefit from and look better if I had a low coffee table or an ottoman where people could put their feet up on it.   Well, this is a living room, and I’m not sure people need to put their feet up in there.   The main reason I wanted a high tea table is that the ceiling is so high in this room – and I felt a low coffee table or ottoman would accentuate the height.    With the tea table, the distance between the ceiling and the floor is closed somewhat.    This is also why I hung the chandelier so low – I tried to draw the eye down instead of up.    The tea table height is closer to the chandelier than a low coffee table would be – again fooling the eye that the ceiling is not quite so high.    But still, in truth, I happen to like high coffee tables, regardless of the ceiling height.                                                                                                                                                                             

 

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In my family room, where a high ceiling is not an issue, I again opted for a higher than normal coffee table.   It’s actually an antique French dough table and it sits several inches above the sofa cushion.  Still it was a huge issue with Ben who likes to lie down and watch tv.  We  had to measure the height of the table and then he had to lie down to test it out before I could keep this table.  I had to prove to him that it was low enough for him to sleep and watch tv at the same time – yep. 

 

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I’d like to rearrange my family room and put this table in front of the tv and the two large slip covered chairs next to it.  This was, the two chairs and table would face the sofa.  I think the room would be better balanced this way, but Ben is worried I would pile it high with things, like it is now, and it would block that damn tv.   So for now, the table sits in the corner.  Before I got the dough table, I had wanted this oval wine tasting table to be my “coffee table” – but it really was too high.  I just prefer a high coffee table over a low one.

 

All this talk of coffee tables got me thinking about them.   A major problem with coffee tables is -  if you like antiques, you aren’t going to find a “real” coffee table.  There just aren’t any.

 

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No coffee table at the Petit Trianon – instead there is a high table, ready for tea.

 

A Short History of the Coffee Table:

Before the 18th century, tables that were used next to a high-backed settee were either end tables, center tables or tea tables.   Once high-backed settees were replaced with lower back sofas, console tables were placed behind the sofa and were used for drinks.  The high tea tables were used to place a tea service upon it, but these tables bear no resemblance to today’s low, long or round coffee tables.  The first known coffee table was produced in 1868 – though it was 27” high,  many inches taller than today’s coffee tables.   Lower coffee tables were first used in the Victorian Era through the influence of Japan.   Their dining tables became western coffee tables.   Besides the low Japanese tables, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the true coffee table came along. 

 

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Elsie de Wolfe, early 20th century.  As you can see, there are no coffee tables here. 

 

In the 20th century, both the Arts and Crafts Movement and Art Nouveau developed long low tables which are considered precursors to today’s coffee tables.     But some historians connect the beginning of the coffee table to fashion magazines published in 1915.  Before this time, furniture and tables were used primarily along the perimeter of the room.  When these fashion magazines showed a table, similar to today’s coffee table,  in the middle of the room, the look took off immediately.    People in Europe and the US began to place low tables in front of their sofas instead of behind or next to it.   Thus, today’s coffee table was born.  Once the coffee table became popular, it was made in the style of other furniture, like Georgian III or Louis XVI.  But, there is no period Georgian III or Louis XVI coffee tables.  Coffee tables are truly an invention of the 20th century.

 

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So, what do you do if you like antiques and want an antique table with its rich patina to use a coffee table?  Since there are no true antique coffee tables, what are good alternatives to the typical wood or glass low coffee table?

 

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Kay O’Toole uses an antique chinoiserie tea table instead of a coffee table.

 

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Here, an antique French side table is used instead of a modern coffee table.

 

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A high French antique end table is used here.    When you use a high table like this, you can add a short chair in front – as shown.  This owner also layered another shorter table under the higher one.  Love this look.

 

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Pam Pierce used a Swedish end table as a coffee table.

 

 

 

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Antique chests make are great alternatives to a new coffee table.  They add so much rustic texture to a room.

 

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An high end table is used – mixed in with Swedish antique chairs and benches.

 

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Another alternative is an antique bench or footstool.  

 

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This high table is the perfect choice for this small settee.

 

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Ethnic tables make wonderful coffee tables. 

 

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Mary McDonald used an antique round table instead of a low, rectangular coffee table.

 

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In this house, Mary McDonald used an assortment of ethnic tables and antique benches instead of a new coffee table.

 

 

 

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Here Kathryn Ireland used an antique chinoiserie table with a high profile.

 

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In Martyn Lawrence Bullard’s house, is it an antique or a reproduction?  Not sure – but the table sits high – right above the sofa cushions.

 

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A great alternative to a glass table is an upholstered ottoman – Alessandra Branca.

 

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At home, Branca uses an assortment of tables – an antique Japanese table and a tole tray.

 

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Here, Suzanne Rheinstein also used an assortment of antique tables in lieu of coffee tables.

 

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An Oriental table is used in Rheinstein’s NY apartment.

 

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Here Rheinstein uses an accent table.

 

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The oval racetrack ottoman designed by Rheinstein – Windsor Smith uses this ottoman aloteeeeeeeeee.

 

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A tufted ottoman – used by Windsor Smith – much more interesting than a glass coffee table.

 

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Windsor Smith – using Rheinstein’s racetrack ottoman.

 

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French wine tables make great coffee tables.

 

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Lynn Von Kersting uses ethnic side tables in her designs.

 

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This red chest is so much more interesting here instead of a traditional coffee table.

 

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It looks like Sheila Bridges used the ottoman from a chaise here.  Such a pretty room!

 

 

 

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Another chest used in this beach house.

 

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One of my favorite chests ever – Ginger Barber in a Houston high rise.  I wish I had this picture without all the writing on it!!!

 

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A large round table is used here, along with a stool from a chaise. 

 

 

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Two sofas share an antique French table here.   Pam Pierce.

 

 

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I love this ottoman covered by a loose tapestry.  So pretty.

 

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A small, tall bamboo table – Pam Pierce.

 

 

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I still love tole trays on stands. 

 

 

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Michael Smith used an Oriental table here.

 

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A Swedish  side table adds so much texture and patina.

 

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Here, an end table is used in front of a French settee.

 

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This owner used a chinoiserie desk!  Love this!

 

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This red chinoiserie table is actually a reproduction.  But it really looks like an antique here.

 

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This tea table doubles as a dining table.  The kitchen is located behind the sofa. 

 

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John Saladino used three pieces of antique marble to create this coffee table.

 

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Cut down the legs of an antique dining table to create a coffee table with patina and age.  Notice how high the table is – several inches above the sofa cushions.

 

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In this French house, the owners used a large chinoiserie chest.

 

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J. Randall Powers used a Melrose House table in this townhouse bedroom.

 

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And he used a Brunschwig and Fils table in the living room. 

 

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One or two garden stools are an alternative to a standard coffee table.

 

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Finally, all sorts of versions of the brick layer table is fast becoming THE coffee table to have today – instead of a glass table.   The idea is to marry a rustic top with a clean line, iron frame.  Here, Michael Smith shows how it is done.

 

So, what is your favorite coffee table?  Do you like a glass or wood coffee table?  Or do you like to use an antique chest or table instead?  Would you prefer a high table or a low table?  A chest or an ottoman?? 

 

 

 

129 comments:

  1. Another GREAT posting -- lots of information and wonderful examples!

    Two coffee tables here in my one-and-only living room ... an old painted trunk and an oval mahogany coffee table. But two tea tables act as end tables here too! My DH agrees that items on tables should NOT block the view to the TV! :)

    BTW -- I think you'll love the latest posting at the blog: "boxwood terrace"

    Cheers!

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  2. This is a positive encyclopedia of living room tables!

    Too many big clumsy people (and little, clumsier ones) around me for a lot of these, so I would go with an ottoman for preference, or maybe a hamper. I don't want to see the teapot go flying!

    Consoles and end tables are a Good Idea, and usually out of the way too.

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  3. Fabulous topic, well covered.

    My favorite coffee table is an old camphor chest. It is higher than the modern coffee tables.

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  4. I love my large square cut corner acrylic coffee table but recently redecorated my living room and it seems too low to me now. This post gives me some great ideas, including one like yours in your living room. I really like the taller tables because they give the room a presence that lower tables don't offer. I too have tall ceilings so I can go taller on my tables. Your post shows there is really no right or wrong, just personal taste.

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  5. Yes - they're so much more practical than the low coffee tables people trip on today which cause so many bruised shins. I always thought that todays 'coffee table' was really just the 'cocktail table' developed in the stylish 1920s.
    Keep your high tea table - very elegant and so much more practical, except for mr slipper socks maybe....

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  6. I was one of those ones who said something about your high coffee table but hey, if that’s your preference then who am I to say anything. The only person you have to please is you, I’d say Ben too but if he’s anything like my husband he’s asleep in ten minutes after turning the TV on. I love antiques and you’re right all the tables are too high so we put them off to the side. In our sitting room we’ve used some antique bamboo woven suitcases, one on top of the other, with a piece of glass and they look great! You showed many fabulous examples of high “coffee tables”, you’ve stated your case very well so you may keep your high coffee table…..lol.

    But the question still remains, will your living room get used now?

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  7. I might be in the minority here but I for one, love the high coffee table. Its so elegant and so European looking, when we were in France we went to several homes and many of them featured a high coffee table..I for one, love the look and would so use it in my own home! Like ice cream flavors, there is something for everyone and not a right or wrong. I love many many of the examples you showed, but I must say I wouldn't change a thing about your room (the black and white rug would look great but I also think its looks quite sensational now too)

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  8. I haven't encountered a coffee table that I haven't liked (kind of like ice cream with me.) Honestly, there are no favorites ... just ones that work better in some environments than others. One might say I am coffee table diverse, as I have a glass coffee table in my living room due to the small size of the living room … then the family room houses a large, rectangular ottoman upholstered in leopard fabric. The media room has a round fabric ottoman and the sitting room next to the master bedroom suite has a Japanese fish bowl with a round glass top serving as the ottoman. Oh, I do have a tea table with an antique settee and chairs as well. See, all types and kinds for me. Loved the post, loved the pictures and loved the history lesson on coffee tables. Thanks so much Joni.

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  9. Personally I like a low coffee table. I don't like the feeling that I have to strain to see the person seated across from me, kind of like a too high flower arrangement on a dining room table. I don't think a high coffe table looks like it invites you to sit on the sofa, instead it looks like it blocks you from it. Plus, I am ashamed to say I like to put my feet up.....:) It's all a matter of personal taste and if a high coffee table makes you happy, that's all that counts.

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  10. ...i love the higher tables...such lovely rooms...beginning with your new living room...

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  11. First of all, I think every one should feel at home in there homes and if they want to put there feet on the coffee table, I guess they should. BUT,In a formal living room? No,No! I have always liked high coffee tables. They are so handy to put things on, you do not have to reach down. It is far easier, to reach up. If you can not see over a high coffee table you must be 3 foot tall. A chair seat is around 29" and your head would be way over 3 feet about that. Most tall coffee tables are only 30 or 32 at the most, the height of a regular dining table. If you were seated at a dining table that had no centerpiece, could you see across? If the answer is yes, then you can see across a tall coffee table. If you serve on the coffee table, food or drinks, it is so much easier for your guest, as a short table they have to bend over to reach. The only thing a short table does is look a little better in a picture or photo, as a tall coffee table does block the view a little then. The short table is a 20 century invention, like a 4 foot tall lamp, and that was a mistake as well. Think about it, and think about not putting your feet up on the LIVING ROOM coffee table. Richard from My Old Historic House.

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  12. I do like the idea of using a tea table or side table instead of a coffee table, but I'm a put up your feet kind of girl. The coffee table remains (for now).
    Deborah

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  13. Great post, so comprehensive with some of my favourite rooms ever. Almost curing me of my aversion to coffee tables.

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  14. Great post Joni. I love seeing things through your eyes. I think you made your point~now you can keep your tall table. I also notice you are a pink lover like me, as you always say such nice things when rooms have pink upholstery.

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  15. Well, I have always loved your high tea tables. In fact, I think they look very elegant and are very useful. I too have a high ceiling in my greatroom and am now on the hunt for a great high tea table to replace my tuffed ottaman. Now that my children are older, they need to learn that you don't have to put up your feet on a table all the time. I think I will relocate my ottaman to our upstairs bonus room which serves as an extra tv area. I always found the downside to my ottaman to be that I needed a tray for people to put drinks on, and then some people still wanted to put their feet up with drinks on the tray...making for several near miss spills. Thank you for your wonderful post.

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  16. Joni I am so glad you responded to the comments with this marvelous post. I didn't "get" the comments about your choice of table. I have a brick layers table in the TV room and a tea table in the living room or "parlor".It was my grandmothers and has been in the same room since 1920 and still looks beautiful. I wonder about my brick layer table though. Will it scream like uber tuber in a few years. The high tables lend a formality and graciousness to a room that is timeless. I love your posts.Thank you.MD

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  17. I love these posts where you give us a smorgasbord of treats and reasons to consider them all.

    I love tea tables, and yours are beautiful, Joni.

    I am currently "freshening" some rooms and don't want a modern style - just a lighter, more open look so I am using a Lucite waterfall coffee table

    Lauren

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  18. Hi Joni, I love everything about your newly remodeled living room, inluding the white cow hide rug. I also do not have the traditional coffee table and much prefer the higher table by the sofa. I use an assortment of antiue tables. A higher sofa table with a French Bouilleotte lamp, a few special books and a lovely small flower bouquet, at eye level when sitting, is just about right for me.
    Thank you for taking the time to write such a beautiful post.

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  19. Great post! Like you, I love higher coffee tables. And what else can you do with those two story living rooms to establish some balance? Thanks again for such a lovely post.

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  20. Joni, thank you for another painfully beautiful post. I say painfully because before I looked at all of those gorgeous photos, I had been reasonably happy with my own home decor. Now as I look around the room ... boo hoo!

    I like just about any kind of table. We used to have a glass one until our neighbor aka "Flo Jo" fell into it during a New Year's party and that's when we decided to go with the padded ottoman type we have today in the LR. Tea tables look pretty, too but I guess after dealing with dogs, toddlers, old folks, "merry" guests and everything else in between, the key thing I am looking for is STURDY.

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  21. Well, as I sit here with my feet propped up on my low coffee table... I still prefer the look of the taller pieces. However, I think the height should be determined by a couple of factors--

    1. The height and style (cushy vs. firm) of the seating around it and 2. The function of the room. If it's a laid-back "man cave" tv room then a piece that you can put your feet on is appropriate (I live with 3 men/boys. I've given up trying to change the fact that boys just want to be comfortable.)

    If the room is more formal and more for show, then a tall antique piece is perfection!

    Thank you for always finding new ways to look at seemingly ordinary objects-you always get my design juices goin' : ) ~Suzanne

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  22. I absolutely agree with you, you need that height in your living room. I think it looks perfect. I also enjoyed looking at all the pictures you posted, those rooms were fabulous, everyone of them. High or low, soft or not, it doesn't matter, it is whatever fits the room and the furnishings around it.

    When my great grandmother wanted a "coffee table", she had to go out to the barn and make her own; she tore apart an old farmhouse table and made it into a "coffee table", and yes it sets slightly higher than my sofa, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

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  23. If Ben needs someone to take that tea table/desk off your hands...just call and I'd be there in a heartbeat!! You're room is beautiful!

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  24. I love a high table partially because then you can have a chandelier hang low over it. I just like the look of a high table. It's more formal. I have a garden table with a piece o glass on top. In the past I've used a pretty light blue toolbox. But the look was much more casual. I would be tempted to change if I found the right big round ottoman. I loved reading about the history of coffee tables. I hadn't really thought about them being a modern invention but of course they were! Still love the look of a high tea table in front of the sofa. I think your table is perfect in your front room.

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  25. I say ANY coffee table is better than no coffee table at all! Seems like there are no rules when it comes to coffee tables. I say use what best suits your style.

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  26. love this post- so helpful & inspiring! i need something high & narrow in my living room, and this gave me lots of ideas. i LOVE your high 'tea table,' for what it's worth. what matters the most is how it works for you, right? we have a cheapy target bench as a coffee table in our family room right now since our kids are 3 & 5. as soon as i can, i want to get rid of it in favor of something upholstered & warm! sippy cups be damned- those kids love to spill. : )

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  27. I have a Louis XV side table as my coffee table. But after seeing all these gorgeous pictures, I'd be just as happy with an upholstered antique bench, an ottoman or a bricklayer's table (but with a slate top). They're all so beautiful!

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  28. I have been enjoying your blog but I have a suggestion. It takes a while for your blog to load. I believe this may have something to with the size of your pictures. A good size that maintains the quality of the image is 650x435 pixels or 9.028x6.042 with quality so resolution at 50-75. People can click on the images and make them bigger and your pages load faster.
    Thanks for all the good decorating ideas.

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  29. I think your room looks great as is. Your post is amazing, so much information and wonderful photos. Actually, you're amazing to put so much time and energy into your posts.

    I have a low coffee table with a stone top since my family kept putting their feet up on my butler's tray table. I also have a lovely vintage tea table that I bought a few months ago, but the stone table is so heavy I think I'll be stuck with it forever. If I can ever get rid of the darn thing, I'm going to use the tea table instead. Right now, I'm using it as a side table.

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  30. Awesome post!! LOVED all of the pictures!! Currently, my favorites are the tall tea tables, so elegant!!

    xoxo, Maryam

    www.athomewithmaryam.com

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  31. I think a "coffee" table should make a statement. Most on the market are yuck. Old trunks and ottomans are great for family rooms and feet friendly. But for a living room or sitting area I think a taller table looks elegant. I love a tray table. I am tall, who wants to lean down to reach their cocktail? I think cocktail table trumps coffee table everytime!

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  32. I like, no love, the tall tea table. I was thinking that there's no such thing as an antique coffee table and then you said it yourself!
    Beautiful images.

    Nancy

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  33. Once again an informative and interesting post. I learn so much from your commentary and the photos you feature, i always look forward to seeing a new feature by COTE DE TEXAS. I'm so glad you talked about coffee tables, because I've been cruising Craigslist, and shops looking for one that was pretty and interesting, and you won't believe how many UGLY coffee tables are out there! Plus, i was wanting something more high like yours and was told that what i wanted was too tall. So... as you can see this was a timely post for me, and I'm tickled that you featured and talked about the history and options available for coffee tables!

    Cindy

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  34. Joni, I love the high tea table for a living room and yours is beautiful! I would not change a thing in the room. Gorgeous!!
    xo,
    Sherry

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  35. For my 25 yr old daughter's (who happens to live in Houston!) house, we decided to do something offbeat for a coffee table. She has only a greatroom with high ceilings, and a large sectional in front of the fireplace/TV. Like a lot of younger people, she prefers contemporary design and art. We found an antique, Amish, wooden ironing board that was about 22 inches wide, used for ironing linens. It has a wonderful patina, we adjusted the height to just above the sectional cushions and it's long enough that the scale works with the sofa. On the TV side of the ironing board/coffee table we put a couple of leather cube stools for extra seating, and the height is perfect for eating, while watching TV. Because of it's shape and X legs, it looks like a piece of folk art as well. Behind the sofa, an graphic, antique, woolen, log cabin quilt which ties the contemporary art and furniture to the primitive antique. Sounds crazy, but it works well in this context!

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  36. This is a great post. I think a lot about coffee tables and am always trying to find the perfect one. I have a wicker trunk in my family room from Williams Sonoma Home that is higher than the sofa. A leather studded table in the living room from OKL which is my newest attempt at coffee table perfection. In our country home, an enormous low (too low) table which came with the house dominates the room. I like using trunks as coffee tables and think upholstered ottomans are also great. In NYC, I visited Ralph Lauren's new store and he had a kilim rug thrown over the coffee table. It was fabulous the way it was draped.
    I really like your tea table in the living room. Yes, it's high, but it should be. For all the reasons you stated. My mother-in-law always had a tall tea table in front of the sofa with smaller side chairs in front. It made it nice for entertaining.
    I'm crazy about your family room BTW! ~Delores

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  37. Oh, and also: I love your large photos. That's why I have always loved your blog so much. I'm a visual person and love your big photos. Please don't make them smaller...~Delores
    PS: I always try to make my photos as big as can be for my blog even if it takes a little longer to load.

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  38. I LOVE Kathy Ireland's home. Any where I can find more pictures?

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  39. I ADORE {truly adore} the high coffee table in your living room. My mother has one just like it, we copied Charles Faudree, and I'm constantly on the hunt for a petite French desk for my living room! Job well done, your living room looks divine!

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  40. Love all your photos--but I am partial to the oriental styles as in the Michael Smith room OR the chests that Ginger Barber usually uses.

    But again, it all depends on the room and what YOU love. Your high table seems perfect for your room.

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  41. so take that high coffee table haters!!! loved your post. you go girl!!!

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  42. very informative. i actually like the higher table. i tend to buy/get old chests/trunks and ottomans. but in a formal area, you hit the mark.

    ashley

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  43. I loved your high coffee table! I'm glad you did this post as I feel like something as seemingly simple as a coffee table gives me so much anxiety. This post will be my go to for inspiration.

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  44. Hi! I tried to find a place to email you but I couldn't and lucky for me I saw this freaking gorgeous post!! Thank you so much for acknowledging my comment I absolutely love the friendships made here with fellow bloggers! You are true source of inspiration!
    xo
    Sharon

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  45. This is such a great post!
    So many inspiring photos here.
    Let's face it- going with the unexpected, whether high or low, new or antique is almost always going to be more interesting than the same old standard, boring, predictable "coffee table"

    PS. The photo of the blue & white beach house with the antique chest is my home & design :)

    xx
    Slim Paley

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  46. A tufted ottoman is much more interesting than a glass coffee table. I really like your arrangement so much. It is fully vintage looks.

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  47. Well, I think it depends on the room, and it's function, don't you? I agree that in all of the examples, including your living room and family room, the tables are absolutely stunning, and perfect befitting. But there are other rooms where I think that a tall table would be inappropriate, and throw the scale of the room completely off. Granted, as you said, there is no option for antique tables - so I loved it when you mentioned trunks. I would have loved it if you had found some stacked Louis Vuitton valse stacked atop one another, or old linen hardcase luggage, because I far prefer that option to the bricklayer. Either way - I defer to you when it comes to these things because you have WAY more talent than I, and I'm so happy you blogged about this, and showed so many pictures to prove your point. Afterall, it's because of your living room table that I now have a tall "coffee" table in my sunroom.
    xo,
    A

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  48. Love your blog and your coffee table! Also love the recent changes to your living room. BTW I have lived in 4 houses over the past 4 years with the exact same furniture in my formal living room and have found that the amount of use the room gets has much less to do with the furniture than it does with the location of the room. Our formal living room was NEVER used in our traditional center hall colonial, occasionally used in our two homes where the living room flowed into the dining room and, now in our current home where the foyer, main hall and kitchen/family room all flow into living room, our family uses the formal living room on a daily basis.

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  49. My favourite is a long, low, tufted ottoman.

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  50. I love that you opened this post with that sweet 'money' shot of your living room...high coffee table and all! There's so much I learned from this post, mainly I think is the fact that there just aren't any true antique coffee tables and that the idea of a low one is fairly new...eye opener! We're coffee tableless at the moment and it will be a while before we get one (long story) so this had given me much to consider for the future, I'm very intrigued.
    xo J~

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  51. This is quite an educational post, Joni. I knew a little of the history of coffee tables, but you hit the ball out of the park with this one. I feel like I always learn something when I read your posts. Thanks for the time that you put into researching your topics. And, please don't change the size of your photos.

    I didn't realize until viewing these photos how much I really prefer the higher tea tables. There was the use of one (maybe two) ethnic coffee tables in this post that appealed to me, but my strong preference is the higher tables. To me, it just looks better.

    I had a low glass top coffee table in my den for years. I finally got tired of the look, the height, and the annoying reflections in the glass. I replaced it with an antique wood table that is a few inches higher than the top of the sofa cushions. In the living room I used a high, "tea table" height bamboo table. I love the way both tables work in the rooms. I do, however, also love nesting tables, tole trays on stands (and trunks & suitcases if they don't take up too much visual space).

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  52. This is so timely for me. I just replaced the coffee table in our family room with a higher side table. The reality is that most nights we eat dinner in front of Jeopardy! And the higher table makes a lot more sense. Also, the dog hair on the coffee table (from people putting their feet up) drove me insane.

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  53. Feet? On a table? My mamma taught me better than that, lol! You want to put your feet up get an ottoman!
    I loved your coffee table. Reminds me of an English tea table. If those who commented don't like high tables, they will despise Faudree's rooms. Filled with them.
    Paula ~ Mise en scène

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  54. so much great info!

    i love them all... I like to go glass or lucite when I have tighter spaces so they don't take up as much space visually. The teah-height tables look really beautiful too although I haven't yet used one.

    I usually end up using the coffee table as that piece of needed material... so if we have enough upholstery in the room already, I'll make sure it's painted or wood or metal/ glass. Or too much wood already to so it goes metal or whatever.

    they can really make or break a room and I feel like so many times it's the perfect coffee table search that takes the longest.

    LOVE your LR redo and off to check out the post

    xoxo

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  55. I think a wine table would look great as a coffee table. I like the higher looking tables because they don't look cookie cutterish(if that is a word)! I have an antique oriental trunk in my den. It doubles as storage for my daughter's toys. In my formal living room, I don't currently have one. I'm still looking for the one that really talks to me. Thanks for the beautiful article!

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  56. Joni,

    I Really love trunks and Chinoiserie pieces used as coffee tables. It is just fun and interesting to have a mix of the unexpected!

    xoxo
    Karena
    Art by Karena

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  57. Another great lesson! Loved the encyclopedia of options. I have two "coffee tables" in my house. One is the toolbox from a prairie schooner. Being from Oklahoma, it carries a certain "rush" about it. The patina is amazing. The other table came from my MIL who cut down her round dining table to make a lower table. The pedestal base makes excellent "cubbies" for books. Thanks again for the wonderful eye candy.

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  58. Even before I scrolled down, I was with you on the tall table. Tall tables look French. Low coffee tables look American. What a gorgeous room! And I love the French look! We used to use an old stripped pine chest for our coffee table, but now have an antique painted toy chest , filled with...toys! Our grandson is free to open it and play to his heart's content. My girlfriend used to use an antique sleigh [minus the runners] in her beautiful Vermont Village Country Inn. It was featured in several magazines, including Country Living. And, I'm with Ben. My Orthopedist says, never sit when you can lie down.
    Another fantastic post, Joni,worthy of your own E-mag!

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  59. What a beautiful tutorial. I am with you on the tea table look. So elegant. I love your newly decorated living room and I love, love, love your family room. It is warm and inviting and jam packed with objets, just the way i like it. I covet your collection of small globes. This post is a keeper.

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  60. Absolutely beautiful post! I too love the look of a high coffee table...have had one for many years! I have also used an antique trunk for the coffe table in our game room which is, of course, higher than the sofa too! Beautiful living room redo...keep doing what you do so beautifully, I enjoy every post!

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  61. Coffee or tea?? High or low?? You love what you love. I love my glass coffee table with a large wooden tray with brass handles placed on top...clean up...a breeze. I usually serve coffee. :-D franki

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  62. 101? More like a master's thesis! Very informative and great pictures. I have a tallish, 20 1/2", black chinese elm chest for our family room coffee table. Everyone thought it was too tall at first. It is actually a better height for a glass of wine or mug of coffee. As to feet up on the chest or any table? Tables by their nature are not comfortable foot support which is precisely why ottomans and cocktail ottomans were invented. If that table is comfortable for feet, my guess is the user is wearing shoes.

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  63. Great post. I, for one, LOVE the antique tea table in your living room. I think it's interesting that during the fifteen years I worked at a high end furniture store, coffee tables grew taller and taller, and customers would always comment they were so tall. Apparently it takes a while for standards to change for the general public! But then furniture in general got really big - had to fill up all those huge volume spaces that the builders were cranking out. Another funny thing - the lingo in the furniture world was to call them 'cocktail tables' never 'coffee tables.' And when clients wanted a formal period feel (used to be very popular, especially here in the traditional south) we always used a tea table.

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  64. Your living room is breathtaking & I personally think the coffee table is perfect in there! I am always surprised when someone picks out something they think is "wrong" ... unless you asked for their opinion. Your talent with design is envied by many!!
    Leigh

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  65. Hi Joni!
    I think the changes you made to your living room make it look great. Like you are saying, there are many diffferent versions.... I love things that are different.I like industrial, traditional, high ones low ones and upholstered ones..Thanks for showing many examples! Here's the thing, the bottom line with th room is are YOU happy with it, after all you are the one looking at it everyday.Maryanne xo Did you get my email????

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  66. Great post but I still think a lower coffee table in your living room will bring the scale of the room down to a human scale.

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  67. Maureen d. ConnollyAugust 3, 2011 at 9:59 AM

    The height of your coffee table in relation to the ceiling height was spot on . . . I think the height also creates a more elegant yet practical solution. I'm moving into a new place with cathedral ceilings. Am going to also use a higher, not predictable, coffee table. Also, my Golden Retriever won't be able to clear anything off the table with the wag of his tail. Thanks - great solutions.
    Maureen d. Connolly
    Interior Designer

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  68. Your posts are not only beautiful, but they are so educational.
    Thank you for sharing, Joni.
    Teresa
    xoxo

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  69. You always have the most amazing posts. It's funny the higher table in the living room was clearly a plus in my mind. It was one of the pieces that really stood out to me as looking great. Having said that I do love the whole room. I always like input and advice, but at the end of the day you live with it and it is your room so I'm glad you kept it.
    Patti

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  70. Joni, you confirmed my love of higher coffee tables. I have a very old high table in our living room and I love it. The dealer told me 1700 French table. Not confirmed but love the height. When I cut a french style kitchen table down to be a coffee table in our sunroom, I raised the level to just above the seats of the chair and sofas and I love that height also. For our family room where we hang out and watch TV and have grandkids everywhere, the slipcovered ottoman is the winner. Thanks for a wonderful post with many wonderful spaces to see.

    deanie

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  71. Decided you use your living room for design and not conversation unless it were just a couple of people on the sofa. You surely can't see over the "coffee table" if more are gathered for conversation. The room is delightful and your hiding it.

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  72. My absolute favorite coffee table was an 1800's, square, rustic, kitchen table with the legs cut down making the table top about 6" above the sofa cushions. I bought this table for my tiny "slave quarters" apartment in New Orleans. The antique dealer had already cut down the legs and when I first got it home I was a little unnerved by the additional height and felt I might need to have the legs cut down more. But, after living with it a few days I realized the height was perfect. I don't have that table anymore, but now when I shop for coffee tables I keep my eye out for dining tables that could be cut down to the height just right for me and my room. As always, your blog was fantastic.

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  73. Grand post + grand pictures. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

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  74. I ALWAYS enjoy your posts - they're so informative and definitely great inspiration. I have a large coffee table in my formal living room and I totally agree w/you...I would NOT want people putting their feet up on my expensive table...that's why I have a "family/tv" room with an ottoman...

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  75. McGuire has started selling some pieces over the net, in a limited range of colors, at good prices. They have a bamboo tea table which ought to go well with antiques.

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  76. Beautiful post! I still find a lower coffee table or ottoman to be more relaxed and inviting. Your living room is more formal and for show though and you've done a beautiful job - like every room in your home! I love your post and your taste and I always find you inspiring!!!

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  77. As a designer, I always like to select a coffee table slightly higher than the sofa cushions as well! Great post! I truly love your living room! Meg

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  78. Joni! I loved this post. I have always found it difficult to find a table to use as a coffee table. I have opted for years not to have one, but in the past few years I use two garden stools, Big enough to put a drink on!! I personally love the higher tea tables. All of the images were inspiring and I can't say there was one that I did not like. Great post, thankyou for all of your wonderful research and gathering of great images, I so appreciate all the work you put into your post!! Kathysue
    PS thank you for your visit the other day, it was so nice to see you on my burlap post!!xo

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  79. What a lovely array of rooms. I enjoy reading your blog because it is informative and beautiful. I appreciate the great deal of time and energy you put into it and I always look forward to reading your next post. Thank you. Jacqueline

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  80. I think your room is beautiful as it is. I love the one grapes on the table. Where did you find them? thank you, Wenda Scott, maggieandme52@yahoo.com

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  81. I meant to say white grapes...dah
    wenda scott

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  82. I am grateful to have found an original Jansen Maison low coffee table. It has a glass top set into solid brass rectangular channel; its base is iron with solid brass goat feet and other accents at joints. It meets my lounge height perfectly. I think it is the most beautifully designed service table ever!

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  83. I think your living room is absolutely beautiful - I wouldn't change a thing! I too like a taller coffee table because they are so much more useful. Your taste is impecable! Keep up the good work!

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  84. You are too funny (in such a good way)!

    I've had many coffee tables over the years as my tastes and finances have evolved - the first was a couple of old redwood boards laid on cinder blocks legs, next was a cheap repro butler's tray table (early 80's) I've used a patina'd brass Moroccan tray on a wood stand.

    My coffee table now is two tiered glass on an black iron base. i like it because my house is a small old Victorian (only 1200 ft) and the table allows the small living room to feel more open. The bottom tier has stacks of books and the top holds a large round wicker tray filled with white pots of white orchids and more books.

    Who knew I had so much to say about coffee tables?! :) Finally I remember my mom, from who I learned about wonderful taste and style), had a coffee table with an oval marble top on the legs of an old Singer sewing machine...not sure where she got the idea, but she designed and had it fabricated. When i was three I crashed my chin into the edge of the table as I was jumping on the sofa...the table stayed. :)

    Thanks for a great post! As always.

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  85. Great post - so informative and so many beauties. One request, though: with so much knowledge, such specificity about a range of styles and periods, could you be more specific about the "ethnic" examples? Thanks as always.

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  86. Love the beautiful photos...I've been dropping by your blog for the past year to see what inspiring photos or ideas you have. The husband and I just moved from Galveston TX to Paris, France just so I could live near the history, gardens and architecture I love. He's also a chef.
    We've been here 3 months and I've seen so many gorgeous interiors! We have a 1910 hotel near Corpus we need to remodel one day--I would love to get your ideas on that one!

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  87. What a fantastic reference post on coffee tables, Joni! I love all of the photos, especially the high (tea) tables; we have glass tables and stacked Vuitton trunks as coffee tables; in France a leather tufted ottoman that wine can be spilled on, but darn if I can't find anything suitable for the last coffee table I need; every time I'm there I am looking for just the right piece to go with antiques, but it's nearly impossible in the country.

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  88. Your living room is a perfect reflection of who you are at this moment! You have the best of both worlds in having the low table in your family room & sexy legs high table in your living room. I love the crisp & clean look of the white cowhide rug personally. This post was simply a dazzling array of ideas - thank you for all the effort you invest in educating us time & time again. BTW - never have issues with the photos downloading - not once.

    My favorite coffee table - for the living room, our Maitland-Smith leather book table. For the family room, an antique stagecoach trunk.

    As for your photos, anything by Lynn Von Kersting always makes me swoon! xoxo

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  89. Love this post! I love the idea of a higer table since I drink tea in my little LR all the time - BUT my feet also need a place to plop. So for now, I'm sticking to a low blanket chest that can handle my heels!

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  90. WONDERFUL POST! Love all the rooms and tables! Prefer the taller tables but adore the chinoiserie chests or japan tables! Thank you Joni!! Spectacular! Your living room ROCKS!!

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  91. Hi Joni: I like your choice and have to say, I do like all the different tables, especially the Swedish and Kay O'Toole. I once had a leather Cross trunk as my coffee table when I lived in England and loved it; I also like the tea table, love the Chinese tables and wouldn't mind two small Parsons tables. I also love the look of acrylic, espcially in a small room. I love your room, but agree, a zebra or leopard rug would be fabulous! ;-)

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  92. You have addressed the most important issue that gets in the way of great design -- that darn husband and his relationship with the tv! You made me laugh out loud!!! Thanks for a welcome break of laughter and all the wonderful examples of coffee tables. I happen to really like your coffee table...yet think the zebra rug would be stunning!

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  93. GREAT topic!! I also have a blog and on my post today I had a picture of a living room with a tall tea table saying we prefer tall coffee tables over shorter ones! Your living room is gorgeous, and happen to love your tall "coffee" table. Also your blog has been incredibly inspiring to Meg and me, love your pictures and your content!!! Brooke

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  94. Love your story on coffee tables. I had to laugh when you were telling how to decorate around Ben. Maybe your next story idea will be about husbands and their Archie Bunker chairs.

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  95. wonderful discussion about scale and incorporating furniture to suit a purpose. I like so many of the examples. I wanted to say thank you for your post (a while back) recommending The Antique Swan in Austin. I just visited them last Friday - KK, Janis and Eric were so wonderful and shared so much information. I even made a few purchases and just love these beautiful antique pieces! so thank you Joni!! xo Diane

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  96. Great Post!!!! I think I was the only person who liked the high table in your living room post. I am delighted to this post! Besides informing us all on the history, evolution, and uses of coffee, tea, and end tables, you have absolutely vindicated yourself in your choice of table for your own living room. I also love the annecdote of having your husband lie down on the family room sofa and then measuring the table for visibility. I can relate to that, i have to do presentations for mine and borrow the furniture for a week, then we purchase it. He thinks he's my client :) I don't have a favorite table, they are so different and they all work so well in each room!

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  97. I just had to comment on your coffee table post, which is great. I think the high tea table is very elegant and most importantly, you like it. I have two sofas facing each other in my living room with a cherry butler's tray table between them that I've had for years. I know, hopelessly out of date..but it has been perfect for serving guests tea and cookies or hor d'oeuvres and is spacious enough to decorate with various stuff depending on the season and my whim. We also have an Indian tray table that is fairly high in front of a love seat. My husband's father brought it back from a trip to India in the 50s and it's a conversation piece. We do not put our feet on either of these. It's OK to do that on the sturdier turned-leg table in the family room in front of the TV. The guest room has a simple french style table that I found in a used furniture store. All of these are more fun than anything I've seen in furniture stores.

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  98. I love high "coffee' tables. Up until recently I have used an antique cedar steamer chest for a "coffee" table. Moved it and then used a square ottoman. Now I am using a cast away square low coffee table that belonged to my daughter. Haven't fully settled on it yet! Might paint it just haven't decided.

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  99. I use an antique chest in my family room. It is the perfect piece ready and willin to take any abuse... In my living room I have today's tea table, much larger and just a bit higher, it has the look of a leather top, but I am not sure it is real leather. I love both. I think a great coffee table is hard to find, I looked for years for both of mine.

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  100. Nice post Joni....I love the photo of the french end table with the smaller chair in front, and the smaller table tucked underneath. I've sent it to my bookmarked file for keeping. Here in Houston, I have a glass table, with a glass shelf that I have lots of books on....I love the glass look because it allows the oriental rug underneath to still shine through. The higher tea tables are elegant and really seem to dress up a room. Thanks for all the lovely photos.

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  101. Oh I just adore you! What a beautiful design "spanking" for all those who opposed your table. I for one, was delighted to see your tall table because I inherited a tall table when I got married and really struggled with chopping the legs or not. It has an ethnic flavor but was custom made for a tall daybed my husband bought oversees when he is was in the Navy. Anyway, thanks for confirming that I can leave it exactly the way it is and when anybody says anything I will give them the link to this post! Joanna in Houston

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  102. Wow... finally found a little space around here to leave a comment! Ha! :-)

    Fantastic post, Joni!

    I'm not a big fan of coffee tables. Maybe because I have small children and they always get hurt on hard surfaces, so I prefer something softer like an ottoman. I think you can add so much w/ different fabrics.

    Have a great day, Joni.

    xo

    Luciane at HomeBunch.com

    PS: If you have a minute, please drop by to enter my new GIVEAWAY that starts today.

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  103. Hello, this is my first time posting a comment. I am a regular visitor of your blog even though my style is minimalist and contemporary! However you post great pics of wonderful designers that I can really appreciate for their brilliance in mixing fabrics, furniture styles, textures, colours and above all, proportions.

    It struck me as I read your latest excellent post that many of the high coffee tables that seem to "work" do so because the proportions are right. The spindly round high tables may be high, but they are smaller than normal and do not give a sensation of clutter and bulk. Other high tables that you present are also harmonious because there is ample space around the table. To be blunt, your coffee table doe not work for me because it is not only high but it is also too large for the space. There seems to be too little legroom and breathing space between the table and the furniture around. It looks bulky and crowded and gives the uncomfortable sensation of really not being able to see another person sitting across the table. Which kinda defeats the purpose of a sitting room.

    I also read your comments on how the height of the space bothers you. However you have shown some pictures of rooms with very high ceilings which are gorgeous. It strikes me that these rooms are decorated right up to the ceiling to incorporate the height as a blessing. An example is the room by John Saladino. Your room still looks uncomfortable with the height because all your decoration is concentrated at the bottom, there is no effort to incorporate the upper half of the room. So everything looks slightly squashed and disproportionate.

    Not to be negative at all, I mean this as constructive criticism. I think that your new room looks fresh and welcoming. IMHO it's a question of tweaking the proportions.

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  104. Great post! I also love a glass or plexiglass waterfall table or a lacquered parsons table for an interesting contrast in a traditional room.
    Marion

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  105. Thank you for answering my silent question!
    I wondered several years ago how the coffee table came to be.

    I have never had a coffee table in my own home. We have had "end tables" beside the chair and/or sofas.

    My Mom never had a coffee table in our homes. But my Grandmother did. Her living room was more formal.

    I am very excited about the idea of a coffee table - of a table height! With cute chairs :- }

    Your blog is always an inspiration.
    Thank you.

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  106. I prefer antiques 98 out of a 100 so I love the taller tables..... but really who cares? As long as it's beautiful, interesting and works for you. *winks* I love the height of your living room table Joni. It works perfectly in the room. And I'm just eating up all this eye candy! (Seriously I'm pretty sure my bum is expanding from all the yumminess *winks*) Thank you for such a wonderful post! Vanna

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  107. In Sweden they used to use the high smaller coffee table, or perhaps tea table. I think it works perfect in your living room and adds an unusual feel. Depending on the room in the house I like to use a mixture of sizes, materials and heights. All depends what you're going for.

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  108. I LOVE your new living room. High tables are more sophisticated, stylish, and have a lot more presence then a trendy brickmaker table. Even though Michael Smith has it right- and it looks so pretty next to a curvy sofa, I really prefer the look of a tea table! And especially the way you have done your living room. Thanks so much Joni for sharing so much:)
    Hillary

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  109. You've done your homework to give us so many possibilities for coffee tables. The problem I have with criticism of some design decisions is that we may not understand the owner's taste and how a room or piece of furniture is to be used. If you like the look of the taller table and it works for you, go for it. If it blocks the TV, my husband will be more sympathetic than I will be.

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  110. So, how do you send in kitchen pictures? I have looked all over the blog and can't find any contact info.

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  111. Thanks for the amazing post, I always learn something from your blog. Thanks for all the beautiful pictures and great ideas! Love your home!

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  112. I prefer a high coffee table. I thought your room re-design was lovely as it is and would not change the "coffee table".

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  113. I still think the coffee table in your living room is perfect! The chandelier over it is very pretty. You tall ceiling is so majestic, I love it!
    You showed some great images, as you usually do.
    I prefer an ottoman, that's what I have in my living room and I'm very content with it.
    Hugs, Cindy

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  114. I have always noticed and admired your high cocktail tables. I think it was a great choice. Now I am noticing more high tables in magazines. There is one featured in the newest Veranda.

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  115. I absolutely like the friendships made here with fellow bloggers. Your blog is really true source of inspiration! and rally enjoyed lot.

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  116. In Sweden they used to use the high smaller coffee table, or perhaps tea table. I think it works perfect in your living room. Depending on the room in the house I like to use a mixture of sizes, materials and heights.

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  117. Glass Cubicles Thanks for share such a great information. Your work is really appreciable I enjoying your useful knowledgeable information on regular basis. . I’m looking forward to your new posts.

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  118. Hi Joni... I was so happy to see this post today! Don't know how I missed it, as I'm a subscriber, but it's timely that I read it today.

    I am contemplating buying a tufted ottoman from Ballard Designs to use as a cocktail table with my settee. The only thing holding me back from making the purchase is the height of the ottoman. It is 21 1/2 inches tall, and my settee is only about 19 inches.

    I'm wondering if your theory on taller coffee tables would be the same for ottomans being used as tables? I've got to make a decision by Tuesday when the sale ends. No pressure... but if you have any thoughts on this, I'm all ears :)

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  119. There are some gorgeous pieces on your website! I prefer the natural look of wood with just a simple varnish or some other clear coat protection for my wood table. Thanks for sharing this.

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  120. appreciate your post! I have been searching for cocktail height or dining height tables in place of the coffee table or ottoman. I think it's beautiful and practical - perfect for tea/coffee.

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  121. This is an excellent set of pictures!

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  122. Beautiful post and pictures as always. I have one humble suggestion to make.There is a lot mention of Belgian linen, French and Swedish chairs, but then there is this "ETHNIC" decor. Where is this ethnic decor from ? Is it Moroccan , East Indian? Clearly many of Kathyrn Ireland's and John Robshaw's fabric is Indian.It would be encourage your die-hard readers to experience and recognize style that is not just European, but equally elegant and classy.

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  123. I see the charm of a high coffee table, but with a tight condominium space like mine, a short table really opens up athe room. I also feel a short table allows conversation to flow betrer. Mine doubles up as a space for entertaining as well as the TV area, and the tall one would really get in the way of TV viewing.

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  124. Higher coffee tables may help to offset the appearance of a higher ceiling. Maybe people are just not used to the idea. Thanks for sharing.

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  125. I love the higher coffee tables and chests. One thing I did not see is custom concrete table. The furnishings I make are customizable in every way. Style, color, height, finish, etc. If someone were to want to prop their legs up it would not be a problem. Whether you want aged or contemporary designs I can accomplish it with my concrete and wood furnishings. Great blog.

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  126. Joni:
    As a fairly new blog-world follower, I am very selective about how I fill my in-box - it is easy to get overwhelmed. Your blogs, however are always such a treat and I am in awe regarding the amount of time and thought you put in your posts. Having been in the construction business for 30 years, I think I have seen it all but always learn something from your postings.

    This particular post prompted a couple of questions. FIrst, who sources the Curry light fixtures in Houston and where do you like to shop for lighting of than Circa, Brown, and Restoration Hardware? Secondly, I checked your archives for a posting on coffee tables and found a beautiful one from 2011. Do you have any updates for lovely and functional coffee tables other than Restoration Hardware and the iron and wood pieces that I see so often in the "Houston look" homes? I once saw a shagreen table but have lost the source.

    Once again, thanks for your amazing work.
    Melinda

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  127. I liked the tufted ottoman the best. I wonder if you could do it with a custom glass top inset? If it was big enough, I mean.

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  128. Lovely post! Most of the people frown when I say I want a high coffee table. All the shops, at this in this part of the world where I am, carry only super low coffee tables. With all your pictures, I am absolutely convinced to continue my search for a high coffee table! Thank you!

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