Monday, September 13, 2010

Great Wood Tables -- A William & Mary Table

Closeup of stretcher
William & Mary Side Table c. 1700
I thought it might be fun to spend time looking at some of my favorite tables and discuss what I love about them.  Some of these are tables that I own and some are tables that I certainly wish I owned.  The table that I want to look at today is a wonderful late seventeenth – early eighteenth century walnut table.  It exhibits all of the hallmarks associated with William and Mary such as trumpet turned legs, bun feet and a highly stylized “X” stretcher that has evolved into a double-u with a finial at the intersection.  And to think: I bought this wonderful example of a late seventeenth century table in the South of France!  But furniture travels – and so do ideas.  So this may be an actual English piece or a French interpretation.  I disregarded the vendor’s spiel because it didn’t matter to me whether it was new or old or French or English: I just think it’s the most charming table I’ve ever seen.  It is refined without becoming delicate.  The strong geometry of the top is relieved by the turned work below and –seriously – you have to love that stretcher.  I think I would have bought the stretcher alone and hung it on the wall if that was all the man had offered me.  The table has obviously been loved.  This is the original finish, and the patina has enormous depth.  Good furniture should be waxed once a year.  When I am having the furniture waxed I always do this one myself.  It is just a pleasure to touch it.  So – what do I love about the table?  I love: the size, the proportions, the care that has been taken of the piece by the previous owners, the original finish, the legs – but mostly I’m in love with the stretcher.

But guess what?  This style has become popular again – in many quarters and at prices for every budget.  For example, Walmart is offering a copy of my table at just under $300.  It could suit, I suppose but there is something squatty, square and clumsy about this table.  Then Frontgate is offering their copy of my table at $1,400.  The proportions are better than the Walmart version but the stretcher is flat cut and that somewhat takes the joy out of it for me.  These numbers are interesting by the way.  I paid about twice the current Frontgate price for my table in 1990.  I was recently offered twice that but my table is not for sale so it’s a moot point.   This is also a good example of the wisdom of investing in quality antiques.  I’m pretty sure the Walmart table will have no value in twenty years; the Frontgate table will probably be worth what the Walmart table is selling for now.  Meanwhile, if you can find one for sale, the antique table will be worth at least what it is now and quite possibly a bit more.

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