The Timeless Table Design On Trend for 80 Years

The Timeless Table Design On Trend for 80 Years

Tess Wilson
Mar 22, 2017

Parsons tables, whether in the form of dining room tables, kitchen tables, consoles, coffee tables, or even desks, have been a design staple for about 80 years, yet they still look fresh, modern, and at-home in nearly any decor. Their no-nonsense shape and clean lines allow them to balance out any amount of whimsy and ground whatever onslaught of ornamentation. Read on for more about this true design classic.

What exactly is a Parsons table? Here's a little snippet from Quick History: The Parsons Table, a previous article exploring the history of this furniture piece:

The Parsons table is one where the square legs have the same width as the tabletop, regardless of its other dimensions. Its history is characterized by contradiction: created to be a simple canvas for exceptional materials, its design is simultaneously credited to the famous designer Jean-Michel Frank and to anonymous design students. But is the real story even more muddled?

According to oral tradition, the Parsons table was created in a furniture design class at the Paris campus of the Parsons School of Art and Design (hence the name). It was the 1930s, the era associated with both spare Modernism and luxurious Art Deco, known at the time as "Moderne". The teacher of the design class was the French designer Jean-Michel Frank, whose own work perfectly straddled the Modern/Moderne divide, pairing simple geometrical forms with sumptuous, evocative materials like shagreen, straw marquetry and parchment.

Check out the elegant Parsons tables in action in these rooms (and keep scrolling for some shopping sources to score your own!):

This Room & Board Parsons Table with Honed Mesabi Granite Top brings gravitas to a home office and plays nicely with all of the white elements in the room.

The sturdy, straightforward nature of this concrete-topped Parsons table is the perfect anchor for eight totally mismatched wooden chairs.

The clean, open lines of Parsons desks allow three of them to be this close together without feeling heavy, crowded or chaotic.

The stately effect of the wood Parsons table and upholstered dining chairs—damaged chairs from Craigslist that the resident reupholstered with nailhead details—is lightened by the airy rattan chairs from IKEA.

According to the resident of this home from MyDomaine, "My friend, interior stylist Ruth Campbell, introduced me to a local woodworker who only crafts furniture from sustainable harvested timber. He made me a Parsons-style console table from Kayah Mahogany, and it turned out beautifully." Parsons tables work in almost any material, no matter how humble or luxurious.

As designer Emily Henderson describes of the above dining room featured on her blog, "Everything is pretty simple in here – that Parsons table [from Target] and classic windsor-style chairs are a great match that feels both a little unexpected and yet not risky."

Let's Go Shopping!

We've rounded up a bunch of our favorite Parsons tables and desks:

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