If you’ve walked into the great hall of a stately Georgian-style estate, chances are you’ve set your bag down on a center table. Center tables, as the name implies, are small tables placed in the center of a room. Typically you will see them in larger foyers supporting a vase, sculpture, or another accent piece. But, obviously, we have much more to say about center tables since we are devoting an entire Interior Design Glossary entry to them! Learn why we love this underutilized accent piece as my team of Austin interior designers and I review the definition, history, and benefits of center tables.
What are Center Tables?
In their most basic forms, center tables are small round tables supported by four legs or a pedestal base. They are 28 to 30 inches tall, around the same height as a dining room table, but have much smaller diameters, ranging anywhere from 14 to 28 inches. While they can vary in size, center tables need to have small enough proportions to allow easy movement around them in the space. For example, a center table may be so small that it can only hold a vase, or it can be large enough to accommodate an impromptu card game. Ranging in styles from traditional to contemporary, center tables are available in a wide range of materials and finishes, including wood, metal, or even marble. Center tables share a similar purpose with console tables, except center tables are placed in the center of a room rather than along a wall. Center tables are commonly seen in entryways and grand halls supporting vases, flowers, and occasionally mail pieces. However, they can bring function, interest, and even separation to larger, more open-concept rooms as well.
A Brief History of Center Tables
Center tables most likely date back to Ancient Egypt around 2500 B.C. Made out of wood, alabaster, or stone, these small platforms were used to keep precious objects off the floor—establishing a sense of importance. When it comes down to it, center tables may have been used as one of the earliest focal points in interior design!
The popularity and functionality of tables only grew throughout the decades. By the late 17th century, French aristocrats began placing two-legged console tables in their entryways. These tables had to be mounted to the wall for support. Eventually, console tables began featuring four legs instead of two, allowing homeowners to place them anywhere. Wealthy owners of large estates with massive foyers began placing entry tables in the center of the room, grounding the space with a welcoming focal point. From there, the center table as we know it today was born.
Center tables went on to become a staple piece in large foyers, especially in Georgian interior design. Georgian homes feature a large central hall that connects the two ground-floor wings and the second floor. The space allows guests to land and collect themselves before moving through the home. To fill the large room, which often had many doorways, homeowners accented the center of the hall with a center table that could hold a decorative feature and any items in passing. Today, center tables can be seen in any style home with a large and spacious entryway, from Regency country homes to contemporary penthouses.
Where Can You Put a Center Table?
Of course, entryways are a prime location for center table placement. However, these versatile pieces can find a home in almost any room. Here are my team of Austin interior designers’ and my favorite options for center table placement.
I am often asked, “What is the secret to creating welcoming entryways?” For me, it is all about creating an easy transition into the home. Part of making that transition is providing a place to land. Entryway center tables are perfect for placing items in passing, providing a resting spot for keys, packages, and mail.
Great Room or Open-Concept Living Area
While I’m an advocate for closed-concept floor plans, open plan layouts dominate the residential design landscape. The challenge with an open-concept living area is filling the space and creating division. Center tables can help divide the room, establishing distinct zones while not inhibiting the flow of traffic.
Game Room or Lounge
Center tables can be welcome additions to a game room or lounge. Add stools for an impromptu card came or strategically place your center table near the wet bar to receive drinks and aid in the flow of traffic for those larger soirees.
Wherever You Have a Gap
Whether it’s an underutilized alcove, the end of a hallway, or just dead space in your great room, center tables can fill in the gaps of your interior. With a center table, a purposeless alcove can suddenly become a feature for your prized sculpture display.
Benefits of Center Tables
A center table can be a beautiful addition to an interior design plan. My team of Austin interior designers and I agree that these are the top four benefits of center tables.
Serve as a Landing Space
Whether you are tossing the mail or setting down your martini, center tables serve as the perfect landing space as you collect yourself and get on your way.
Divide a Room
In large open-concept rooms, center tables can function as a stylish and unique room divider. They divide the space while keeping it open and providing purpose and interest.
Whether it’s a chinoiserie vase, a contemporary sculpture, or your prized monstera, center tables provide the perfect display space.
Make a Statement
Finally, center tables are made to make a statement. If you want to add elegance, style, and drama to a room, a center table can do the job.
Should You Get a Center Table for Your Home?
If you have a Georgian or Colonial-style home with a great hall, then a center table is a must! However, center tables are perfect for any home with a large entryway, an open-concept space that needs to be divided, or an interesting alcove—no matter the style.
Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.