For the Love of an (Old) Kitchen Table

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kitchen table illustration

When I see boring kitchen tables, it makes me sad. A kitchen table, as opposed to a fine dining table, is the place where families come together, stories get told, and memories are made. It needs heart and personality.

When I grew up, we had a classic kitchen table I’d love to own today. Out of all the furniture and everything else that was ever in my amazing antiques-and-art-stuffed farmhouse-style home built by my parents, the thing I miss most as a woman in my 40s is that kitchen table. Gosh, do I miss it.

Versatile kitchen table

From hectic school-day breakfasts of elbowing and bickering to get out the door on time to rolling out holiday pie crusts, doing my homework while Mom made dinner, fitting jigsaw puzzles together, playing Monopoly, or just enjoying a roast dinner on Sunday with my family, that kitchen table was the heart of our home.

kitchen table rustic

“Old Swan House” (image: Henry Lawford)

It was your classic white-wood-bottom with wide turned legs, a utility drawer perfect for cutlery, and a butcher-block-style wooden top. We didn’t have chairs, we had benches. It’d have been as at home in an 1840s kitchen as it was in ours, because some styles are timeless.

If you’re looking for a kitchen table, here are some memorable ways to go.

The gate-leg & drop-side table

I think the gate-leg table doesn’t get the love it deserves. In today’s space-conscious homes, it’s a fantastic option for singles or couples who entertain sometimes but who normally just need a spot for one or two people.

Some gate-legs are huge, some are small. This one, for instance, can be a lovely hall display table, or seat 3 to 8 diners. Drop-sides are pretty much the same, but don’t have the supporting leg to swing out when raising either side.

The farmer’s table

Similar in style to what I grew up with, a farmer’s table is often long, made with reclaimed wood, and rustic. They are as simple and down-to-earth as they are a dramatic focal point. Unfortunately, if you’re not a woodworker, they can be extremely expensive to buy.

old kitchen table

If you luck into some reclaimed wood, the simple stylings of a farmhouse table can be very easily made by carpentry beginners. That’s what Ana White says, with her beautiful table-and-bench project she says took her a week and $300.

The “dinette set”

When you hear the phrase “dinette set,” it should conjure for you all those glorious things of the 1950s: Formica, chrome, naugahyde, and those funky little stars and glitter accents no one uses anymore. It’s like walking into the design heyday of the 1950s.

Still commonly found in the vivid original colors like sunshine yellow, robin’s egg blue, candy-apple red, the formica table and chair set is hard to find at a bargain these days, and proves to be a solid investment for the future — especially if you find the rare table with extra leaves in good shape! When you’ve got a bright, poppy little dinette set in your kitchen, it tells anyone who enters that life’s sunny-side up for you.

formica kitchen table dinette set

Aquaboomerang Formica with chrome table and cascade naugahyde classic chairs (image: Christine Jackowski)

The Corner Nook

As a child of the ‘70s, many of my friends grew up with eating nooks featuring banquette seating in their kitchens. (Just look at the movie ET for a dated example.) Times have changed and folks like open plans, or bar counters where you can sip a drink and watch the cooking going down.

The eating nook is underappreciated, if you ask me. With lifting seats on banquettes, they can easily be turned into storage. That’s gold! If you’ve got a gaggle of kids coming over for a little party or games night, it’s easy to squish ‘em in for a tightly-packed table full of fun. It also gets you more seating in general. This wonderful rustic table pairs beautifully with quaint built-in seating.

Contemporary Kitchen by Winnetka Architects & Building Designers Robbins Architecture

The eating nook is very multi-purpose for today’s homes, where space can be at a premium. Seating that offers storage really can’t be overlooked for spaces that need multi-function pieces. Some folks have done amazing modern updates on the nook, like here.

The best part of corner nooks is that they can be built into odd-shaped corners where a storebought set might not give you the same oomph. Many people do a great job of building in the banquette seating with storage, then adding a table they love (with the option of chairs), like this one.

Eat Your Heart Out

In today’s world of rushing a meal in front of the TV and small-space living, a lot of folks are foregoing proper kitchen tables, like most of my neighbors today. If you’ve got the space and the desire to get a proper table, why not make the time and effort to find one you’ll love? From the warm memories of dining with people you love through to past-times like solving jigsaw puzzles and working on crafts, the kitchen table really is the heart of many homes — and you deserve one that looks like it.

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