Modernist Coffee Tables From the 1950s

Written by cynthia t. toney Google
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Modernist Coffee Tables From the 1950s
A 1950s modernist coffee table can attractively blend in today's home. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

If you crave smooth lines and functional beauty for your next coffee table, you have modernist style. In the 1950s, form truly met function as natural and man-made materials came together in striking coffee table designs. With genuine mid-century modern coffee tables still available, there is no need to settle for less. When considering the choices, look for design features that will comfortably blend with the rest of your room.

The Step Table

One of the most common styles of living room tables in the 1950s was the step table, which exhibited two rectangular tiers or levels. In a coffee table of that design, the step sometimes appeared on one end or sometimes both. Legs were narrow, tapered and slanted outward from the bottom tier. Step tables were manufactured using a wide range of materials from hardwoods to laminates.

Danish Modern

Both round and rectangular coffee tables were made in Danish Modern style. The most common woods used were teak and walnut. Danish Modern coffee tables had smooth tops and straight, tapered legs. The rectangular design had rounded corners. There was no apron, or downward piece of wood extending from the top of the table, although a high shelf was a common feature. One unusual design in this style featured a rotating top.

Boomerang and Kidney Bean Tables

Curvy kidney-bean shapes and the more angular boomerang shape were popular configurations for coffee table tops in the 1950s. Plastics and laminates allowed them to be made in the most popular colours of the decade, such as turquoise or red. Legs were often metal. A glass top was sometimes combined with a colour top below it. Some tables in these shapes were constructed of fine hardwoods with tapered wood legs.

Bookcase or Magazine Coffee Table

Many designs of rectangular coffee tables were built that could hold books, magazines and other materials. Their tops had the appearance of a short bookcase or bookshelves, with or without partitions. Many had sliding doors on one or both of the long sides of the table. In this category, many hardwood tables with a metal framework or wood legs have endured through the years; less sturdy materials were not as able to withstand the daily function of this design.

Tables With Slats or Unusual Tops

Coffee tables with narrow slats in walnut or teak forming the top of the table also served as benches. Such tables were crafted in a number of lengths. One notable design expanded from both ends. Legs were straight and rectangular in shape. Some table designers experimented with creating tops in materials not previously utilised in fine furniture. Masonite is one of those materials that could be used to create a graphic statement when inlaid on a wood coffee table top in bold contrasting sections of black and white.

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