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Coffee Tables and Contemporary Design

Aug 4, 2008
The coffee table is one of the most important pieces of furniture in the modern home, and it certainly held an important function in the traditional home as well. True to its name, the coffee table was meant to serve coffee, snacks and perhaps tea to guests at the house. It was a somewhat formal event, despite being performed as a welcoming act, simply because traditional families that considered themselves comprised of real 'ladies' and 'gentlemen' were expected to perform this service. To make the guests as comfortable as possible, the coffee table was designed as a low service counter so that drinks could be served to people sitting on the sofas and other sitting room furniture.

As far as traditional families were concerned, it was the role of the women to ensure that all cooking, cleaning and other household duties were taken care of; logically it followed that women were in charge of the coffee service and therefore had the most intimate relationship with the coffee table. Women understood how coffee table design affected their service and subsequently how they were judged on their hospitality. They selected the best designs for the job and because of consumer demand, they are largely responsible for the modern coffee table design that is found in virtually every home across the world.
Contemporary designers have been responsible for changing the traditional coffee table into a more aesthetically pleasing piece of furniture by using new materials, many of which would not have suited the Victorian home.

Using glass, for example, would not only have been a costly endeavour for Victorians, but also a fragile and ineffectual coffee table would have been crafted. The tables had to be sturdy and able to withstand a hearty service fare as well as well as any accidental pressure from its users. The modern coffee table seems only to reflect its former function by its low stature; aside from this feature coffee tables of the modern home are more focused on a laid back approach to living.

Coffee tables are no longer the mainstay of the female host, since formal coffee services for guests are far from mandatory. They are now the property of virtually every member of the household because each member spends time in the sitting room and has need of table space for drinks, snacks, reading material, movies and other paraphernalia. The coffee table has probably become the most overused piece of furniture in the modern home because of its proximity to every family member and the ease of function for any miscellaneous items.

Contemporary coffee tables pay a quiet homage to their former function; however have evolved to incorporate innovative design and aesthetic quality to the home.
About the Author
Stella Stevens is an expert in the contemporary furniture and modern and contemporary coffee tables industry.
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