When my mother got married, she outfitted her home with a complete coordinated set of furniture-a matched master bedroom set, a cocktail table and end tables, a desk for my dad. But the pride and joy of her home was her dining room table. It was Colonial style, pine with a maple finish, and round, 70 inches across. It came with a leaf that would make it oval, and it was easy to seat twelve guests for Thanksgiving dinner.
We never lived in a large house, so how did this grand piece of furniture find a place within our modest home? Mom had some foresight, and when it was time to pick furniture, she chose a drop table that gave her exactly the seating she was looking for but with built-in features that made it ideal for a home that might have limited space.
What are drop leaf tables? They are tables with a fixed center section on the tabletop, and hinged sections on either side that can be dropped down when the table is not in use. When you raised the hinged sides of the tabletop, they are supported movable gate legs, arms, or brackets.
On most days, Mom's dining room table was pushed up against the wall; it projected less than two feet into the room. If we needed a little more space-for homework or a craft project-we would lift one side and slide the movable table legs to support the tabletop. Clear off the table when we were done, drop the side, and the dining room would have a clear passageway again.
It's not surprising that an Early American furniture suite would include drop leaf tables. The design dates back to sixteenth century England. The design remains in use today for dining tables, sofa tables, and end tables. A special design for drop leaf tables-a tripod table-is has three legs, and the round table top has three hinged sides. Drop the three hinged sides, and the round table top converts to a triangle, and it can squeeze into a tight corner. With a similar design, a secretary desk with an drop leaf top provides a full-size desktop when necessary, and then can be folded down to accommodate a tight passageway.
The drop-leaf design has not been lost on today's furniture designers. For people who live in apartment and condos and who like to entertain, the drop leaf table provides an excellent solution for a dining room table in a limited amount of space. You can find a variety of drop leaf tables-bar-height or standard size – that you can place at the end of a galley, and turn a small space into an eat-in kitchen. Some drop leaf tables even have storage space for folding chairs built into the base.
Most people who sew or do crafts do not have a space dedicated to those activities. Instead, they end up setting up on the kitchen or dining room table and putting away their work at the end of the day. Today's furniture designers have integrated the function of drop leaf tables into specialized pieces of furniture. You can buy a portable sewing and craft cart that incorporates a drop leaf tabletop and integrates storage underneath. If you can not find drop leaf tables that perfectly suit your space, your style, or your needs, search the Internet for plans for a custom-built table.
It's hard to keep a good idea down. Drop leaf tables have been around for centuries, and we keep coming up with new ideas for turning the design into something useful for our modern lives.