The style of a table becomes evident when you examine the legs. If a table is an antique the legs can determine the period when it was made. More contemporary furniture also has a style all its own. Choosing a table for your home can be a difficult choice, but looking at the legs can set the decor choices for the rest of the furnishings.
American and English Antiques
Cabriole-legged furniture first appeared in Colonial America in the early 18th century. The legs are curved out at the top, or knee, and curved inward at the bottom, or ankle. This curved leg originated in Italy and is said to give a more intimate quality to a piece. Cabriole legs can have a pad foot, which is called a Queen Anne style. They can have a claw and ball foot, which is a Chippendale style.
Lyre-shaped legs were popular during the Empire Period (1815-1840). In this leg style two legs come together to form the shape of a lyre, a harp-like instrument.
Marlborough legs are heavy and block-like in appearance. They sometimes have a fluted detail and a block foot. Marlborough legs were popular in England and America in the mid-18th century.
Spiral legs resemble twisted rope. They are characterised by a winding flutes or grooves down the leg. This style originated in Portugal and India. It was a popular leg style during the Restoration Period (1660-1688).
Tapered legs are wider at the top and gradually taper to the bottom. These legs were often used on furniture designed by George Hepplewhite in the mid to late 18th century.
Arts and Crafts
Craftsman furniture, also known as Stickley style mission furniture, became popular in the early 20th century. The legs are simple and sturdy with graceful proportions and straight lines. Arts and Crafts furniture was typically made of oak.
In this style of furniture that originates in the French countryside, the look is rustic. Legs may be chunky with square tops and turned legs. They may be in dark woods or the wood may be stripped and painted off-white or light green. A distressed look to the wood is common. Wrought iron legs are another option in the Country French style.