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A Close Look at arts-and-crafts Furniture
Emerging in reaction to industrialization and mass production, the Arts and Crafts movement celebrated handcrafted design as a part of daily life. The history of Arts and Crafts furniture has roots in 1860s England with an emphasis on natural motifs and simple flourishes like mosaics and carvings. This work is characterized by plain construction that showcases the hand of the artisan.
The earliest American Arts and Crafts furniture dates back to the start of the 20th century. Designers working in this style in the United States initially looked to ideas put forth by The Craftsman, a magazine published by Wisconsin native Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker and founder of the Craftsman style. Stickley’s furniture was practical and largely free of ornament. His Craftsman style drew on French Art Nouveau as well as the work he encountered on his travels in England. There, the leading designers of the Arts and Crafts movement included William Morris, who revived historical techniques such as embroidery and printed fabrics in his furnishings, and Charles Voysey, whose minimal approach was in contrast to the ornamentation favored in the Victorian era.
American Arts and Crafts work would come to involve a range of influences unified by an elevation of traditional craftsmanship. The furniture was often built from sturdy woods like oak and mahogany while featuring details such as inlaid metal, tooled leather and ceramic tiles. The style in the United States was led by Stickley, whose clean-lined chairs and benches showcased the grain of the wood, and furniture maker Charles Rohlfs, who was informed by international influences like East Asian and French Art Nouveau design.
Hubs in America included several utopian communities such as Rose Valley in Pennsylvania and the Byrdcliffe Arts and Crafts Colony in New York, where craftspeople made furniture that prioritized function over any decoration. Their work would influence designers and architects including Frank Lloyd Wright, who built some of the most elegant and iconic structures in the United States and likewise embraced a thoughtful use of materials in his furniture.
Finding the Right coffee-tables-cocktail-tables for You
As a practical focal point in your living area, antique and vintage coffee tables and cocktail tables are an invaluable addition to any interior.
Low tables that were initially used as tea tables or coffee tables have been around since at least the mid- to late-1800s. Early coffee tables surfaced in Victorian-era England, likely influenced by the use of tea tables in Japanese tea gardens. In the United States, furniture makers worked to introduce low, long tables into their offerings as the popularity of coffee and “coffee breaks” took hold during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
It didn’t take long for coffee tables and cocktail tables to become a design staple and for consumers to recognize their role in entertaining no matter what beverages were being served. Originally, these tables were as simple as they are practical — as high as your sofa and made primarily of wood. In recent years, however, metal, glass and plastics have become popular in coffee tables and cocktail tables, and design hasn’t been restricted to the conventional low profile, either.
Visionary craftspeople such as Paul Evans introduced bold, geometric designs that challenge the traditional idea of what a coffee table can be. The elongated rectangles and wide boxy forms of Evans’s desirable Cityscape coffee table, for example, will meet your needs but undoubtedly prove imposing in your living space.
If you’re shopping for an older coffee table to bring into your home — be it an antique Georgian-style coffee table made of mahogany or walnut with decorative inlays or a classic square mid-century modern piece comprised of rosewood designed by the likes of Ettore Sottsass — there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Both the table itself and what you put on it should align with the overall design of the room, not just by what you think looks fashionable in isolation. According to interior designer Tamara Eaton, the material of your vintage coffee table is something you need to consider. “With a glass coffee table, you also have to think about the surface underneath, like the rug or floor,” she says. “With wood and stone tables, you think about what’s on top.”
Find the perfect centerpiece for any room, no matter what your personal furniture style on 1stDibs. Browse a vast selection of antique, new and vintage coffee table and cocktail tables today.