Why does Old Plank have more authentic vintage coffee tables than antique coffee tables? Simply this: the modern coffee table gained popularity in England during the Victorian era, when its short stature was developed most likely to not obstruct the flow of conversation and exchange of thoughts among intellectuals and the upper class.
But, the idea of the coffee table as we know it today came from coffee houses and Eastern inspiration. Coffee houses gained traction in England during the 17th Century, quickly becoming a gathering place for merchants, scholars, politicians and businessmen. These places were nicknamed “Penny Universities” for the one-cent entry fee of a single cup of tea or coffee, and the implication that because of the intellectual and enlightening nature of a coffee house, one could learn just as much there as at a university . Indeed, coffee houses were often the location for many patriots to share ideas before and during the American Revolution.
What the patrons set their beverages on ranged from parlor tables, dinner tables and tea tables—the advent of a table lower to the floor would evolve from the growing social aspect of tea and coffee, with Western designers taking a cue from the tea gardens of the Ottoman Empire, as well as Japanese tradition of taking tea at tables with lowered legs .
During the early 20th Century coffee tables quickly became a staple in the Western home, and soon it became a steward for almost any activity that happens around it—including holding books, decorative accessories, board games, TV remotes, microwave dinners, and eventually personal computers, mobile phones and tablets.
Yes, the coffee table is now an essential part of any home, and though it’s fair game to leave everything except the kitchen sink on it, we often return to the table’s initial purpose—sharing conversation with family and friends over a cup of coffee and the table that supports it.
We at Old Plank recognize how different these conversations can be, and we believe the coffee table should exude just as much life and personality. Our selection of antique and vintage coffee tables come from around the world, including France, Morocco, Spain, Italy and the United States, with countless styles and materials. And, a generous amount of our coffee tables are custom built in our own Chicago workshop—pieces can also be specially designed and made-to-order.
Give us a call—we’d love to help you have the perfect conversation centerpiece.
 Whatafy.com, The Coffee Table: An Object with a Surprising History.