The original intended use of the center table was to facilitate business transacted between the landowner and his tenants on the estate. It stood in the entry hall on a stone floor and along the walls were the hall chairs, in which the tenants could wait for their turn to conduct business with the estate manager. The hall chairs themselves were actually an outgrowth of wooden stools, with an added decorative back but without upholstery. The chairs and stone floor were practical as the tenants would enter the manor house with muddy boots and in working clothes to pay their rents.
Therefore the rent table stood in the center of the hall, of drum form with a pedestal base and spayed feet to avoid damage from boots which would occur with legs on the outer edge of tables.The table was then referred to as a “rent table.” The top would be either round or octagonal and made of sturdy oak or walnut.The perimeter of the table would have seven drawers, one for each day of the week and perhaps one to hold cash.
The Evolution of the Center Table
As the estate evolved from austere to grand, the center table evolved as well. The estate business moved to the manager’s office and the center table became an object of beauty rather than one of practicality. Now the entry hall was designed to impress rather than to conduct business.
With this new-found wealth the center table, one of the few pieces in the room, became the focal point indicating the status of the manor house and it’s occupants. The top furniture designers of the day, Chippendale for example, were creating important tables using exotic woods from the colonies and displaying luxurious items and historic specimens purchased during the “Grand Tour” of the wealthy.
The Center Table Today
Today we still enjoy the elegant form of the center table. We use them not only in the foyer but also in living rooms, libraries and other important areas in the home. The center table we have pictured here is made by Maitland Smith, a fine contemporary manufacturer of furnishings. The woods are a mix of solid mahogany and lovely inlaid veneers, including walnut, fruit and satin woods.