Commonly associated with European aristocratic mansions and royal palaces of the late 17th century, a traditional console table is a table whose top surface, or tabletop, is supported through the use of corbels or brackets. With their origins thought to come from French and Italian schools of furniture design, unlike regular four-legged tables, console tables were originally manufactured with two legs and were attached to a wall. However, today console tables are typically designed to stand on their own, without needing to be fixed to the wall.
Console tables are usually intended to be set against a flat surface such as a wall or under a window. They’re most common in hallways and foyers, but they can also sit behind sofas and sometimes even feature in bathrooms. While console tables tend to be more dramatic and decorative rather than strictly practical items of furniture, more modern examples can be both decorative and highly functional.
Keep reading to discover more about the history of this example of classic aristocratic furniture, what console tables can be used for and the best methods for styling and decorating them.
Why is it called a console table?
It’s widely believed that the term console table comes from an abbreviation of the French word ‘consolide’, which in turn comes from the Latin word ‘consolidare’, meaning ‘to strengthen’.
This name likely entered common vernacular as a result of the unique design of the console table itself. Although modern tables of this type do not always follow the same design, original console tables featured a tabletop slab supported, or strengthened, by wall brackets and two scroll-shaped legs.
What is a console table used for?
When first conceived, console tables were typically made in pairs, designed with matching tabletop mirrors, and were placed almost exclusively in the hallways and foyers of grand mansions and palaces. These original items usually served more of a decorative purpose than a functional one, however gradually over time, more and more practical designs have emerged. These developments in design have seen console tables - once used only in the opulent hallways of aristocratic homes - become a far more accessible and popular furnishing option for homes of all kinds.
Nowadays, console tables aren’t restricted to hallways. These items are extremely versatile and have a wide range of different uses. With a little bit of extra thought and planning, console tables can be placed almost anywhere in the home. From your hallway to your bedroom, kitchen to your dining room, a well-placed console table can be an interesting feature in any space.
For example, if square footage is at a premium in your home, but you’re after a place to work when you’re away from the office, a console table can be used to create a compact home office. Simply choose an area near a power source and install a console with enough space to hold your office essentials. Finish the look by adding a chair with a slim design that won’t take up too much space and will easily tuck under the console when not in use. Or why not use a console in your bedroom as a space-saving dressing table? This can be ideal for keeping your favourite items of make-up and jewellery without the need for a full-sized dressing table.
Console tables of all sizes can also be a great addition to either your dining room or kitchen. If you enjoy hosting, a strategically placed console bеtwееn the kіtсhеn and dіnіng areas can be the perfect place to leave drinks, dеѕѕеrtѕ, cheese boards or even spare cutlery and table linens between serving different courses. Alternatively, channel your inner Tom Cruise and use a console to create your very own cocktail bar at home. These compact items of furniture can be superb when it comes to showcasing your favourite spirits, mixers and glassware, and they provide a fun and practical centrepiece when entertaining.
How to decorate a console table
Once you’ve decided where you want to place your console table, as well as what practical function (if any) you’d like it to serve, next you need to style and decorate the feature.
You could start by adding a statement-making piece of art or a mirror to the space above the table. This is not only a tip of the hat to the original aristocratic use of console tables, it will visually anchor your console on the wall.
When it comes to the table itself, think about introducing elements that add height. A tall, slender lamp can be perfect for this, as can an elegant vase or candlestick. It’s also a good idea to include some softer, more shapely pieces that break up all the vertical and horizontal lines. For example, you could add a decorative wooden bowl or a rounded pot plant. It’s best to display items in a mixture of sizes and shapes to create a balanced, harmonious look.
Wherever you place your console table and however you choose to style it, by using this type of furniture, you’ll be carrying on a tradition dating back hundreds of years.