The Console Table

By the 17th century tables were becoming more and more functional, being specifically designed for a particular use.  Of course, sometimes decoration took precedence over functionality.  Such is the case with the console table.

As a matter of fact, the first console table was commissioned by Louis XIV.  The tables were gilded and their sole function was decorative.  The Mirror Gallery in Louis XIV’s Chateau de Versailles had was has been described as “unseemly gaps” along the walls.  To fill the spaces, the console table was created.

In many cases, the console table looks like half a table, with a rounded or shaped front and a flat edge back that allows for easy placement against a wall.  Often, as in the instance of Louis XIV, the tables were tripods.  However, as tastes and times moved on more and more four legged tables were designed.  Modern tables are often balanced on a pedestal base.

The design of the table is such that the width is the often two, three, four or more feet wide, while the depth is usually around eighteen inches, more or less.

Behind the table itself, it is not uncommon to see a hanging mirror or a substantial painting.  Decorative pieces are often placed along to table, situated so as to turn a blank wall into a focal point, just as Louis XIV intended.

Of particular note, the console table is the piece of furniture that can bring eclectic tastes into play.  While many select furniture of a single style the console table allows for an introduction of another style, adding even more interest to the setting.


How to Select the Right Console Table for Your Space

The console table is the one piece of furniture that is usually purchased singularly.  It is not a part of a set or a room suite.  In most cases, it is purchased to fill a void, to fill in a space that the room suite left vacant.

  • Decide on the style.  While it is quite acceptable to create an eclectic  room decor — in fact, it is more and more popular to do so — the console table should not clash with the existing style of furniture used in the home.  For example, if the home is filled with Sheraton or Hepplewhite furniture as the base style, selecting a modern glass console table would probably not be the first (or last) choice.  However, if the home is done in a Queen Anne decor, selecting a Chippendale console table would be quite acceptable.
  • Decide on the placement of the table.  Originally, console tables were used to fill vacant wall space.  In recent years, console tables have also been used as sofa tables or entry tables.  Knowing the placement of the table will help determine the shape — either half moon or rectangular, curved corners or sharp corners.  The placement will also determine the size of table required.
  • Decide on the size of the table.  If the table is placed between two door openings, it is important to know how much space is available.  Six to twelve inches should be the minimum space allowed between the door opening and the table.  Remember, as we walk through a door seldom do we walk straight ahead and make perpendicular turns.  It is important to purchase the correct size to keep for bumping into the table as one passes.  If the table is placed behind a sofa it should not be taller than the back of the sofa or longer than the sofa.  Try to allow for movement around the table.  And, remember, consoles tables are complementary pieces when used behind the sofa.
  • Decide on the shape of the console table.  In some cases long, narrow tables can be rectangular in shape without protruding into the walk area.  For example along an expanse of a wall a more angular table may be the best choice.  Between two door openings (or based on the other furnishings) it may be best to select a curved front or half moon table. 
  • Decide on the finish.  In a casual home an oak stained table may be the first choice.  In a shabby chic or cottage style home, the finish could be brightly painted or distressed.  In a more formal area, selecting a more ornate table with gold leaf would be appropriate.  In some cases the narrow table may be a focal point to fill a large blank wall, but it should not be so different from the general style of the home interior that it distracts.
  • Other considerations could be drawers and/or shelves.  Again, depending on the placement of the console table in the home, one may wish to purchase one with drawers (or cabinet doors) or with open shelves.  In a casual style decor, a table with one row of drawers and perhaps a lower shelf would be a good selection near a front or back entry.  In a narrow hallway, the table would probably be best selected not for storage use but purely for display, eliminating the need for drawers or shelves.  Behind a sofa, depending on the decor, one may prefer a simple table without drawers of shelves.  Remember, it is always appropriate to add a basket or a small statue beneath the table.

What are the Average Dimensions of a Console Table?

The size of a console table is as much about proportion as actual numbers.  For example, generally speaking, if asking a person to describe a console style table, he may say that the table is narrow, long, and about average height.  That is somewhat vague, but is probably a fairly good description.

On average, a console table is between 28″ and 30″ tall.  That is not to say that one cannot be less than 28″ and still be considered a console table or more than 30″ high. 

The depth of the console table is between 14″ and 18″ on average.  Again, the dimensions are not written in stone, but a general measurement.  Half moon shaped console tables may be slightly deeper at the widest most point.

The length of the table top varies greatly.  It may be called a console table and be only 30″ long, while a longer table may be up to 48″ or 50″.  A good average for a rectangular table is around 40″.  Again, these are specific requirements, but measurements based on average tables.

With so much variance in the measurements, it is imperative to know the space allotted for placement of the table and the table dimensions before purchase.

Decor to Complement the Console Table

As mentioned earlier, mirrors were hung above the console tables in Versailles.  Many families today choose to hang a mirror as the finishing touch to the focal point.  This common practice continues because quite often the console is used in narrow areas, such as hallways.  The mirror above the table adds visual space to the room, often giving the small area a larger appearance.  However, when selecting the mirror, the frame should not appear heavier than the table itself and should reflect the style of the table.  Additionally, the mirror should not be as wide as the table is long.

For exceptionally long narrow tables, an asymmetrical wall decor may be a way to fill the space without creating too heavy an appearance.  For example, a mirror to one side with two smaller pictures, one under the other to the other side. 

Of course, when using the console table as a sofa table, the decor will be placed onto the surface of the table.  One must remember that the decor must have eye appeal from behind the sofa as well as from the front of the sofa.  Often, using decor beneath the table will be useful to fill the space.


Read more about…

Modern Console Tables

Modern console tables are no longer gilded or necessarily ornate. The more contemporary styles of console tables can be found in wood, metal, metal and glass, and plastics featuring unique designs. [Read more...]

Victorian Console Tables

This Victorian Console Table with the distinctive stripes is representative of a formal style...[Read More or purchase...]

Glass Tables

The idea of a glass console table was sure to be a favorite, as the tables evolved from the days of Louis XIV. When the concept of the small half table came into being, hallways were larger and far wider than many rooms in modern homes. [Read more...]

Console Tables in Oak

The oak console table is one that is commonly found in many of the more casual areas of the home. Oak is a wood that offers a heavier and more substantial appearance and[Read more and shop...]

Black Console Tables

The black console table is one of the unique pieces of furniture that can create a focal point where one is needed. In some cases the color sets the tone for the decor as much as the design. [Read more or shop...]