Antique Dining Table Styles and Types

From Gate-legs to Trestles

There are many different types of antique dining tables. Some are large, solid pieces of furniture while others are more portable and light in weight. Learn more about a number of different types of dining tables made through the centuries including those with gate-leg and drop-leaf features.  

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    Butterfly Table

    Pine Drop-Leaf Gate-Leg Butterfly Table
    Pine Drop-Leaf Gate-Leg Butterfly Table. Castle Hill Antiques on RubyLane.com

    This is a specific type of gate-leg (see below), drop-leaf table, characterized by two prominent wing-shaped braces which swing out to support the drop leaves. It is usually smaller and lighter than a conventional gate-leg table. These would typically be used in a breakfast area or other small dining space, accommodating only two to four chairs, and would serve as an accent table when not in use. 

    Butterfly tables are also characterized by splayed legs, which add to the sense of movement created...MORE by the wings. The table top itself can be oval or square, sometimes with a drawer. Legs are usually turned, connected with a plain or ringed box-stretcher, and rest on ball or bun feet or castors.

    Thought to be American (probably from Connecticut) and developing around the turn of the 18th century, it is typical of William and Mary style furniture

    Example: Frequently made of maple, a plentiful wood in colonial New England, butterfly tables were often painted red, black or other colors.

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    Gate-leg Table

    Typical Gate-leg Table Assembly
    Typical Gate-leg Table Assembly.

    This is a type of drop-leaf table in which the sides are attached to legs that are hinged beneath the tabletop. The legs swing out, gate-like, allowing the leaves to be raised to expand the size of the table. Another style popular for dining in small areas, since it can be collapsed and displayed against a wall as an accent table when not in use. 

    The tabletop itself is usually round or oval, and plain, while the legs are often elaborately turned or spiral and connected by stretchers. A single...MORE drawer is common. Most examples are made of oak, walnut or maple (if from New England), though fancier mahogany versions do exist.

    Dating from the late 16th century, this Baroque style flourished throughout the 17th century and is highly characteristic of Jacobean and William and Mary furniture, representing the less formal, more intimate dining customs of the period. It was commonly used throughout the 1700s, gradually waning in favor of more graceful portable designs, such as the Pembroke table. The later 18th-century versions usually have thinner, simpler legs and rectangular tabletops.

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    Hutch Table

    Connecticut River Valley hutch table, ca. 1780-1800
    Connecticut River Valley Hutch Table, ca. 1780-1800. Halsey Munson Americana (www.halseymunson.com)

    Hutch tables, sometimes referenced as chair-tables, are an early form of tilt-top table, in which a square, box-shaped base has a hinged, disproportionately large top. This top can be swung back and locked upright, creating an armchair with a sizeable back (usually round, but could be square or other shapes, as shown here).

    Often the chair base has a drawer or compartment - hence the name "hutch." Though dating from the Middle Ages, this form was perfected in the Jacobean era, and...MORE remained popular in England and America through the early 19th century as a space-saving, multi-purpose piece of furniture.

    Most hutch tables are plain country pieces, so those found decorated with delicate carving are the most prized among early furniture fans.

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    Trestle Table

    Pennsylvania Pine Trestle Table
    Pennsylvania Pine Trestle Table. Prices4Antiques.com

    One of the first types of European table, dating from the Middle Ages, the trestle table consists of a rectangular board placed atop two or more trestles. These usually consisted of vertical posts placed in the middle of horizontal pieces, forming the shape of a T, or they could take the shape of a V-shaped pair of legs, like a sawhorse. Although they began as simple, portable pieces, trestle tables often became quite solid and ornate during the Renaissance.

    This style remained the dominant form...MORE of dining table until the late 17th century, and continued to be popular in institutional and country furniture thereafter. It and was revived by Arts and Crafts furniture-makers like Gustav Stickley around the turn of the 20th century. They are sometimes referenced as refectory tables or kitchen tables.

    Special thanks to former contributing writer Troy Segal for her assistance with this feature.