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What Are The Most Popular Table Designs Of All Time?

As long as humans have been eating meals, playing games, and partying, we’ve been doing it at tables. We’ve come a long way since flat rocks and tree stumps, and innovative craftspeople have been making tables more useful and beautiful as the years have passed. Here’s a whirlwind tour of the most popular table styles throughout history, and you can find their spirit living on in the dining rooms, living rooms, and kitchens of homes everywhere!


The Mensa Lunata

Mensa lunata is Latin for “moon table,” and this piece of ancient Roman furniture was a large semicircle, forcing diners to sit in a crescent moon shape. As Rome took over the Mediterranean world, they brought it with them to make partying more to their taste. While we don’t see them around anymore, the mensa lunata is one of the tables that made ornate designs and multiple legs popular.


The Refectory Table

Sort of a prototype of the harvest table (more on that below), refectory tables were made for feeding many medieval monks in dining rooms known as refectories. It became more popular in secular settings, too, and soon royalty was feasting at refectory tables in their castles, though they were much more elaborate than the ones found in monasteries. The table spread to dining rooms across Europe, and they were made using walnut or oak wood. If you’ve ever seen a movie where a king consumes a massive turkey leg at a party – or any of the dining hall scenes in the Harry Potter movies – you’ve seen the refectory table in action.


The Loo Table

What we’d call card tables today began as a table built to play the game lanterloo, later shortened to just “loo.” The game was invented in the 1500s, but the tables built for it remained very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries as candle stands and side tables. 

(For those wondering, loo is a cousin of the more contemporary game euchre). 


The Pembroke Table

Pembroke tables were popular throughout the 19th century because of their folding drop leaves. These were very versatile characters, and many tables dating back to the 1800s included drawers and stretchers connecting the legs. Pembroke tables could easily be stored or moved around for wherever teatime, dinner, and writing were taking place.


The Harvest Table

Harvest tables are, by definition, at least 6 feet long, narrow, and sometimes include drop leaves at their sides. The style is said to date back to early American settlers and is associated with massive feasts, hence the name “harvest table.” The table could accommodate all the food brought in from the fields around Thanksgiving (and all the people who brought this food in!). 

As styles and tastes change, so will the tables that come out of the WoodOnSteel workshop. We haven’t had a request for a mensa lunata (yet…), but we owe a great deal to it and other past styles of furniture.


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