Distinctive Antique Dining Table Styles and Features

Published April 20, 2021
Antique Dining Table

Antique dining table styles can vary dramatically, and it's helpful to be able to identify a table's style when you see it in a store or listing. Learn what makes each type of antique and vintage dining table unique and how to identify antique tables at a glance.

Five Common Antique Dining Table Styles

Dining tables have been around for thousands of years, but there are a few styles that are common on the antiques market. These antique table styles have distinctive features and qualities that make them easy to identify.

Antique Dining Table Styles

Antique Pedestal Tables

If you see an antique wood dining table with one or more large supports underneath, it's probably a pedestal table. According to Rau Antiques, pedestal tables really took off in popularity during the Victorian era. Usually constructed of oak and other hardwoods, these tables are the centerpiece in many dining rooms. Slider mechanisms allow pedestal tables to expand with leaves, but the number of pedestal supports can limit exactly how large they can get. Antique pedestal table styles and shapes can vary, but they are commonly round. You'll also see other shapes, including squares, rectangles, and octagons.

Antique and Vintage Trestle Tables

A trestle table is another easily-identifiable antique dining table style. Perhaps one of the oldest styles of tables, this design has a table top supported by a trestle or horizontal stretcher. The trestle can have different designs, but its placement is always in the center of the table, allowing it to remain out of the way as people eat at the table. Some of the oldest trestle tables allowed for disassembly, but most are permanent. You'll see trestle tables from all eras, and this is the style of many farmhouse dining tables. They vary in length and width, but they are nearly always rectangular in shape.

Antique Leg Tables

One of the most common types of antique wood dining tables is the standard leg table. This style features a table top, often square or rectangular in shape, supported by four legs. The legs are placed at the corners and sometimes feature ornate carvings or turnings. These tables can range in size from very compact to large enough to seat a big gathering. Many feature leaves that you can add to expand the size of the table.

Drop-Leaf Tables

Antique drop-leaf tables feature leaves that can be lowered to make the table surface smaller. They can have a pedestal base, four legs, or any other style of support. They can also have removable leaves in addition to the drop leaves. These tables have been around for hundreds of years, but they were a common style during the 1800s when dining room space was at a premium in many homes. The table top can be any shape, including oval, round, rectangular, or square. Valuable antique drop-leaf tables have hinges and other components in good working order.

Gate-Leg Tables

Technically a style of drop-leaf table, antique gate-leg tables allow two leaves to be lowered. When you want to put the leaves up, you fold out a leg that is attached to the rest of the table like a gate. These are easy to identify because of their distinctive support for the leaves. They come in different shapes and sizes, including rectangular, square, oval, and round.

Antique Dining Table Features You May Encounter

Antique dining tables can have a variety of features in addition to their basic type. Special features can affect the value of antique furniture, so it's helpful to know a bit about what you might see as you peruse the offerings at your local antique store or shop for antiques online.

  • Turned or carved legs - Many tables feature decorative carvings or turnings on the legs. You can use these features to identify antique table legs from different eras, based on how elaborate the decoration is.
  • Claw feet - Some tables have feet that art carved to look like animal paws or claws. Antique claw foot tables were especially popular during the Art Nouveau era.
  • Marble tops - Although most antique dining room sets and tables are wood, there are some that feature other materials. Marble-top tables can be especially beautiful.
  • Period elements - There are many famous antique furniture styles from different periods, such as the Art Nouveau era. If a table has elements of these design movements, it can be especially valuable.
  • Hardware - Tables with hinges, latches, and other antique furniture hardware can be very special. These original hardware elements can add value and beauty.

Antique Tables Can Be Just as Beautiful Today

Knowing how to identify antique furniture, including dining tables, is an important skill to have when you're shopping for antiques. There's a lot to learn about the furniture of past eras, and many of these pieces are just as beautiful in the homes of today as they were in the time they were made.

Distinctive Antique Dining Table Styles and Features