The coffee table is a staple of modern furniture designer but its a relativel

The coffee table is a staple of modern furniture designer but it’s a relatively recent invention. Although the drinking of tea and coffee became popular in Britain from the mid seventeenth century, the idea of creating a piece of furniture to put cups on didn’t gain currency until the middle of the nineteenth century.

The question is, of course, how do you define a coffee table? Certainly, around the 1850s English cabinetmakers began to market tables, which were intended to be matched with comfortable chairs and sofas and to provide somewhere to rest tea and coffee cups.
Today every collection of designer furniture features at least one coffee table. These are usually low, wide tables not just for cups and saucers but now also for books (a whole industry of “coffee table books” has grown up over the last few years) as well as plants and scented candles amongst other things.

The essential profile of the coffee table in today’s contemporary furniture scene – its short legs and lack of height in comparison to its width and length – comes directly from the tables imported from the Ottoman Empire, where coffee was regularly consumed and Japan, the world’s principal tea drinking society.

But, part from its particular proportions, possibly more than any other item of designer furniture, there are simply no rules when it comes to coffee tables. They are available in wood, glass, Perspex, metal and plastic amongst other materials. Designs can range from the simple and organic in natural wood to Perspex and plastic versions with looks that are groovy or even space age.

Metal and glass make for angular coffee tables whereas plastic and fibreglass allow designers to create fluid shapes. So, after 150 years – what’s next for more services!

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