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The History of Dining Room Tables

The History of Dining Room Tables

Today, a dining room table seems like an absolute necessity in any home, but you might be surprised to learn that tables haven't always been as popular as they are today. We all know a table is a piece of furniture with a flat top and one or more legs; it's usually used to work on, eat from, and place items upon. Some common types of tables are the dining room table, the coffee table, and the bedside table. To discover the grand and ancient history of the dining room table, read below.

Tables were made and used by the Ancient Egyptians very early, around 2500 BC. They were constructed with wood and alabaster, often little more than stone platforms used to keep objects off the floor, though a few examples of wooden tables have been found in ancient tombs. Food and drinks were usually kept on large plates that were then placed on a pedestal to be eaten; the Egyptians made use of many small tables and elevated playing boards. The Chinese also created very early tables in order to master the arts of writing and painting, as did people in Mesopotamia.

The Greeks and Romans made more frequent use of tables, notably for eating, and Greek tables were pushed under a bed after use. The Greeks invented a piece of furniture very similar to the gueridon, which is a small table supported by one or more columns with a circular top. Tables were made of a variety of materials including marble, wood, and metal, sometimes with richly ornate legs. Later, large rectangular tables were made of separate platforms and pillars.

Furniture during the Middle Ages is not as well-known as that of earlier or later periods, and most sources show the types of tables used only by the nobility. In the Eastern Roman Empire, tables were made of metal or wood materials, similar to that of the Greeks and Romans, usually with four feet and frequently linked by x-shaped stretchers. Tables for eating were often large and round or semicircular. In Western Europe, the invasions and internecine wars caused most of the knowledge inherited from the classical era to be lost, and as a result, most tables became simple trestle tables, though small round tables made from joinery reappeared during the 15th century. In the Gothic era, the chest became widespread and was often used as a table.

Refectory tables first appeared as early as the 17th century as an advancement of the trestle table. These tables were usually quite long and wide, capable of supporting a sizable banquet in the great hall or other reception room of a castle.

In the Middle Ages, upper class Britons and other European nobility in castles or large manor houses dined in a room designated as the great hall. The great hall was a large, multi-function room capable of seating the bulk of the house's population: the family would sit at the head of the table on a raised dais with the rest of the room's inhabitants arranged in an order of diminishing rank away from them. Tables in the great hall were typically long trestle tables with benches for sitting. The sheer number of people in the great hall would probably make for a busy, bustling atmosphere. Some scholars have claimed that great halls were probably smelly and smoky, but in reality, these rooms had large chimneys and high ceilings, which would have allowed for an airy atmosphere.

The owners of large houses began to develop a taste for more intimate gatherings in smaller "parlers" or "privee parlers" off the main hall. This shift is thought to be as much because of political and social changes as it was to allow for a greater sense of physical comfort. Over time, nobility began taking their meals in the parlour, and the parlour became a functional dining room as we know it today. These parlours were often accessible via grand staircases that led from the dais in the great hall into the private parlour. Eventually, meals in the great hall were saved for special occasions.

Towards the beginning of the 18th century, a pattern emerged where the ladies of the house would withdraw from the dining room after dinner into the drawing room. The men would remain in the dining room to have drinks, which resulted in dining rooms taking on a more masculine tenor.

Today, a typical North American dining room will contain a table with chairs arranged along the table's sides and ends. If space permits, the room may also feature sideboards and china cabinets. Tables in modern dining rooms will often have a removable leaf to allow for a larger number of people during special occasions without taking up space when it isn't being used.

In modern American and Canadian homes, the dining room is adjacent to the living room, increasingly used only for formal dining with guests or on special occasions. For informal daily meals, most medium size houses and larger houses will have a space adjacent to the kitchen where tables and chairs can be placed. Larger spaces are often called a dinette while smaller spaces are referred to as breakfast nooks. Many homes also have a breakfast bar or an area on the island where chairs can be set for informal dining.

For many families in Britain, the dining room is only used on Sundays and other meals are eaten in the kitchen. In Australia, the use of a dining room is still prevalent, but not an essential part of modern home design. For most, it is a room to be used for special occasions or celebrations. Smaller homes, similarly to the United States and Canada, use a breakfast bar or table placed within the confines of a kitchen or living space for meals. No matter your dining room needs, Laurel Crown has beautiful antique pieces to bring your interior design dreams to life. Let us help you build your perfect dining room today.

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