Living room

Found throughout the home and serving a variety of purposes, tables come in all shapes and sizes and are built in a wide number of styles. Blending form and functionality, like all furniture, tables are useful while possessing a particular aesthetic character that lets them adapt to or enhance the interior design of a room. Made with a selection of base and top materials, tables' design features help to define their look. Depending on the size, material and overall quality, tables can cost $50 or several thousand dollars. Tables are sold individually and in sets, and all price points are represented, making them available to every budget.

Dining Tables

There are specific types of tables, each serving a particular purpose. Of the maintypes, dining tables are the largest, providing anywhere from 2 to 8 or more place settings plus room for serving dishes, floral centerpieces and more. Dining tables may be casual or formal. Casual pieces are typically found in nooks and kitchen eating areas, while formal pieces are situated in the dining room, perfect for special occasions or family meals. Folding dining tables are useful for outdoor meals or in homes where limited space is a factor.

Coffee Tables

Coffee tables are generally long and low to the ground. Found in the living or sitting room, coffee tables become the visual focal point in a room, surrounded by furniture to sit on. Coffee tables are not intended for meals, but they make a great resting place for beverages, reading material and seasonal decorations.

End Tables and Runners

End tables and runners are related, although runners are usually tall, long and narrow, while end tables are squat and come in a variety of shapes. End tables help tie a room together by standing at the sides of sofas and chairs, completing the interior layout. End tables are also found next to beds. Wherever they are, they provide a surface for reading lamps, coasters, books, plants or other decorations. Runners are commonly found in foyers and hallways. A great place to set keys, a wallet or a telephone, a runner generally provides a storage drawer.


Table materials can be divided into two areas: base and top. Base materials almost always consist of some type of wood or metal, although extremely high-end pieces may be all glass, granite or some other natural material. Top materials include wood, tempered glass, marble, travertine, ceramic and slate. Depending on the table's style, the top material may differ from the base.

Wood Tables

Woods include oak, cedar, pine, cherry, mahogany, walnut, birch, maple and others. Wood may be solid or a combination of a core and veneered outer layer. Solid wood furniture is generally more expensive. With veneers, thin sheets of real wood are glued to a composite core or a less expensive solid wood. When done right, veneered tables look just as nice as the real thing. Woods take a wide variety of finishes, including paints, stains, high-gloss lacquers, oils, varnishes and polyurethanes.

Metal Tables

The other primary base material is metal. Authentic and newly made antique tables often feature wrought iron, brass or bronze. Contemporary pieces utilize lighter metals such as brushed nickel, tubular and/or chromed steel and aluminum. With the exception of outdoor tables, those with metal bases typically feature a glass or wood top. Similarly, a metal-framed top may include a decorative inlay of ceramic, marble, slate or glass.

Table Sizes

Each table type has a range of sizes compatible with its purpose. Dining tables are generally about 30 inches off the ground to provide ample leg room for seated guests. Coffee tables are much lower, sometimes only a foot or so high, while end tables typically range from about 22 to 30 inches in total height. Runners are taller to provide a comfortably reached surface when someone is walking in through the front door or down a hallway. Width and length dimensions vary by design. Runners are long and lean, as are many coffee tables. Dining tables often feature insertable leafs to expand the overall size or shape of the piece. Drop-leaf tables do the same, only the leafs are not removable.


Table shapes include round, oval, square, rectangular, triangular and irregular. Dining and coffee tables are almost always circular, oval, square or rectangular in shape, while triangular end tables are somewhat common. Irregularly shaped tables are usually contemporary in design, as asymmetry and unconventional patterns are often prized in that area of furniture design. With drop-leaf dining pieces and those with extension leafs, the table shape can change. A round casual dining table becomes a square when all leafs are dropped or becomes an oval with the extension leafs in. The right shape for any given table is a matter of personal taste and coordination within a design theme.

Design Styles

Besides functionality, tables provide aesthetic value. For this reason, a table's style should match with the rest of the room. For example, an ultra-modern end table made of metal and glass looks out of place within a rustic motif. The primary design types include these:

  • Antique and/or traditional
  • Transitional
  • Contemporary

There are many others, each of which falls into one of the above categories. Mission, rustic and Shaker styles are very traditional, while Victorian and classical pieces are antique or have the look of antiques. Contemporary pieces are the polar opposites of traditional tables, while the transitional style attempts to blend elements of both traditional and contemporary designs to achieve the optimal balance of form and function. Other style subcategories include colonial, art nouveau, American empire and Georgian, among others.

Design Features

The design features of any given table are directly related to its style. The many types of antique stylings tend to exhibit some combination of bold curves, trumpet or cabriole legs, ball or claw feet, scalloped skirts and tops and other heavy ornamentation. Arts and crafts or mission-style furniture is much simpler, avoiding ornamentation in favor of straight lines, unadorned components and natural, even distressed finishes. Straight post or tapered legs, plain fixtures and a design that emphasizes function over form are other features of rustic or mission tables. Contemporary pieces favor empty spaces, sparseness and basic forms over past stylistic features. With contemporary tables, one is more likely to find highly unconventional designs, both in terms of the base and the top. As mentioned, transitional pieces blend traditional elements with a more contemporary feel, providing warmth but removing many of the excessive adornments of older styles.