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Dream Tables
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

A dream dining room table adds a touch of romance to every meal. Purchased individually, without a set of dining chairs, the table can be a work of art. Likewise, searching for a dream table to accommodate Thanksgiving and holiday entertaining, can almost evolve into an artistic experience.

"English pine is so Thanksgiving," says Linda Smith, co-owner of British Trading Co., where the annual last minute rush to buy tables usually depletes their available stock, the bulk being re-structured old wood tables brought over from England. These tables are built by European manufacturers who collect old wood from torn-down factories, mills, etc., and then re-construct the wood into dining tables. British Trading Co. also sells new tables with a distressed look, antique tables, and metal base tables with wood or glass tops.

Stone tops, metal tops, glass tops, and wood-fossil combinations (Fossil is a generic term for minerals, fossils, shells, stones, and marble.) are a few of the many innovative materials employed by manufacturers today, according to Forrest Covin of Covins at Preston Royal.

"I think the biggest change, has been in materials," says Covin. In the past, wood and various wood species were the primary materials. Then the trend went to finishes and finish combinations. Sheen finishes moved from a high gloss to a satin, old world patina and a surface that looks warm, friendly, perhaps even used. Today, the world economy allows access to international products like iron from Spain or Mexico, stone from Italy, and tops made in the Philippines attached to bases built in Mexico.

Century Furniture, for example, creates a Rhone Valley 90" by 46" table from three different design materials, a combination, pin-knotty cherry veneer oval top and Biscay finish, carved trestle base plus metal stretchers decoratively connecting the base to the top. Another company, Jeffco, manufactures a table with a double pedestal of carved shells in palazzo/silver finish and a 98" by 46" glass top. Marge Carson combines bases of polished iron and antique brass accents with glass tops to make rectangular and round tables.

"Round tables are popular now," says Gail Barnett, ASID with Covins. They're also growing wider and coming with adjustable perimeters. For instance, E. J. Victor makes a solid mahogany table designed with ebony and holly inlays measuring 60" wide. It has six leaves to expand the perimeter up to 84 inches for seating ten to twelve people. Oblong and rectangular tables are also becoming larger, accommodating eight to ten chairs rather than six or seven, before adding accessory leaves.

Sizing the proper table dimensions depends on the size of the room and whether the room is a dining room, part of a living room, or a loft situation, according Barnett. And the larger proportions in newer homes have substantially scaled up furniture, according to Covin, although small tables are still available for smaller and, more often, the older homes. However, even owners of older homes are expanding their dining facilities by converting a formal front living room into a spacious dining room and making a sitting or music room out of the old dining room.

Relaxation is the trend in dining, today. Larger dining chairs invite diners to sit comfortably and enjoy more leisurely, lengthy dining. Satin and distressed finishes take away any requirement for table cloths. And unmatched chairs--host and hostess chairs that don't match the side chairs--further breaks formality.

"Our look is a mountain, western rustic lodge look," says Jason Lenox of Antek's Furnishings. With their manufacturing facility, "The Ranch," located in El Paso, Antek's log cabin look specialty stays close to its Texas roots. They carry many styles of ovals, rounds, and drop-leaves that slide out and pop up for expansion. One rectangular table with double pedestal trestles and an apron of carved flowers sells for $1329 in the 6 foot length and $1399 for the 7 foot table.

Stationary dining tables began when a table dormant replaced a movable board on top of trestles sometime in the middle ages. Since then, the rectangular dining table has remained the touchstone of dining supplemented by additional shapes over the years.

"So many of the style elements in today's homes furnishings are an embellishment or adaptation of parts," said Covin. "The parts can be anything from an old iron gate, a window shutter to almost anything." Yet, innovative combinations of these parts add up to the design of a fabulous dream table.

Dining tables can be purchased off the show room floor, ready for the holidays, or they are special ordered in time for the next year's holiday season. Delivery time depends on the manufacturer. Once in awhile, the building process takes a very long time.

"It's basically Christmas when we get these (dining tables), to be honest with you," said Kristen Praeuner, buyer for Covins, who stresses that one particular company manufactures such a limited number of tables, the customer probably faces at least a one year waiting period if not a two year cancellation limit.

So, dream on about these dream tables: (1) a dark tortoise finish on an iron and brass base with a rectangular eglomise top, (2) an antique silver metal leaf three dolphin regency base with a circular petrified wood top, (3) an iron and verdigris patina brass round base with a glass top. (4) How about a steel finish wrought iron table base with brass accents, all resembling a set of four bows tied by their strings to one arrow pointing up at an eglomise malachite top designed with a center star, remotely suggesting a shooting target.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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