According to the New York Times, the design of the Parsons table is attributed to the French decorator Jean-Michel Frank, who assigned his students at Parsons in Paris to design a table so versatile that it would be perfectly suited to any material at all, be it marble or humble unfinished wood. The resulting table's principle characteristic is that its legs are always the same thickness as its top.
But that's about where the rules end. Parsons-style tables are indeed available in so many incarnations—painted bright colors, adorned with nail heads, sheathed in leather—that there's bound to be one to suit any design challenge. Here are some favorites we found, in case you're considering one for your own dining room:
• 1 The fleshy neutral color is oddly perfect with those bright yellow chairs in this dining set, from I Suwannee.
• 2 Nathan Thomas, the winner of season 2 of Top Design, used the simple Parsons table here, allowing for more dramatic choices in chairs, artwork, and lighting. From Elle Decor.
• 3 In this busy, beautiful dining area from Desire to Inspire, the orange Parsons table adds a modern edge.
• 4 A pure white Parsons table is the perfect choice for a sunny breakfast room. From the home of Leah Hennen, on Design*Sponge.
• 5 A long, rectangular Parsons table, like this one from Blueprint magazine (via Decor8), is elegant with molded plastic Eames-style chairs.
• 6 For a room with red accents, the classic dark wood finish is beautiful. From Making it Lovely.
• 7 A bright, bold blue table is the perfect irreverent gesture in this super-traditional room designed by Thomas Jayne Studio (from Desire to Inspire). It works in part because the design of the Parsons table is so simple and classic.
• 8 A dark wood version provides a nice contrast to acrylic chairs and an elaborate chandelier. From Decorpad.
• 9 We always love square tables, and this take on the Parsons, with its elegant, edgy nailhead trim, is to die for! From I Suwannee.
• 10 A Parsons table, because of its durability and straightforward design, is a great choice if your dining table doubles as a desk, like this one from CasaSugar.
If you're looking for a Parsons table of your own, our Scavenger posts are always a good bet... you can also check out West Elm and Room and Board, which both carry the design in a variety of sizes and finishes. A company called Gothic Cabinet Craft also offers an unfinished version, which you can decorate to your heart's desire.