Tips and Guides

Design School: Basic Furniture Terms - Tables

Get familiar with the different types of tables -- each serving a specific purpose at home

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There are tables for the living room, tables for the dining area, and there are interesting table finds in our bedroom, too. But what differentiates one from another? Familiarize yourself with the different kinds of tables in the market today.

Tray table

*Photo by The New Oak Tree from flickr.

Also called a butler’s tray table, a tray table is designed for serving food and drinks. It has a detachable tray top that fits into a stand, usually an x-frame. Ideal for small spaces, it can conveniently function as a side table.

Coffee table

A center table or a cocktail table, coffee tables are low tables situated in front of a sofa or the center of any seating area for the purpose of serving. It is usually the same height or slightly lower than the seat height of the sofa.

See more products from Heima, here.

Console table

Intended to be placed against a wall or sometimes even attached to the wall with brackets, console tables are long narrow tables usually seen in foyers or entryways flanked with accent chairs on each side, along corridors or hallways. Perfect for stashing everyday items such as keys, mails or bills, console tables are often placed with statement pieces such as mirrors, paintings, or a beautiful flower arrangement to make a welcoming tableau in your home. 

Learn a couple of design ideas for your home's entrance here.

Nesting tables

Also known as nested tables or nest of tables, nesting tables re space-saving and versatile. These are two to four tables that fit under each another because they gradually decrease in size. Depending on the size and height, they may be used as side tables or as coffee tables.

See more products from Heima, here.

Sofa table

*Photo by xlibber from flickr.

Placed behind the sofa when it is situated in the center of the room, a sofa table may function as an accent piece, as an extra storage or working area or as a divider without being too overpowering especially in contemporary living spaces that usually has an open floor plan.

Side table

Also called end tables (night table or night stand when situated in the bedroom), side tables flank either side of the sofa or the bed to provide easy access for reaching the lamp switch, telephone, reading materials or a glass of water. Moreover, they also provide extra storage when added with drawers.

View more photos of this home here.

Dressing table

Often referred to as vanity table, a dressing table is commonly seen in walk-in closets and bedrooms. It is a desk with drawers and mirrors used for applying makeup and putting on accessories. It may be situated near the window to let the natural light in or may be equipped with special lights to mimic natural light. The mirror may be on top of the desk, installed on the wall or built-in together with the desk.

View more photos of this home here.

Side board

Also called a credenza or a buffet table, this inconspicuous piece is traditionally used in the dining area, thus, the name buffet table, which means to serve the food, buffet style. This long and low table provides extra space for storing table linens, china and silverware and also for serving food during family gatherings. 

View more photos of this home here.

Secretaire or Secretary desk

*Photo by Andrew Bain from flickr.

A secretary desk is a tall desk divided into two parts with the upper part having shelves to display books and other accessories to be concealed with either glass doors or intricately paneled solid wood doors. The lower part has a slanted hinged door that can serve as a writing surface when pulled down halfway. Beneath the writing surface are extra drawers for storage. Think of it as a compact home office that can house all office supplies and equipment which can easily be hidden when not in use.


Slant-top desk

*Photo by David Nestor from flickr.

Slant-top desks are the smaller, more compact version of the secretaire. An attractive and useful piece in the bedroom, living room, library or the guestroom, it features a slanted top that can be pulled down and has 2 concealed supports that pull out from its frame. Inside are even smaller drawers and cubbyholes for holding small items such as letters, pens, pushpins and the like. Beneath is a chest of drawers or shelves for storing larger items.

Missed the first part of our Basic Furniture Terms feature? Read about the different kinds of chairs here.


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