by Louis Postel
Coffee tables just slightly elevated from the floor endure a bad rap for being hazardous to your health. Strategically deployed to trip you up, or whack you on the shin, they’re blamed for contributing to yet one more surface for collecting clutter. But Low tables may also contribute to world peace, at least in that bit of the world circumscribed by salon, sky deck, and stateroom.
That’s because low coffee tables encourage relationships between people, mooring them together by as though by invisible stern lines into an eye-to-eye proximity. Rather than finding oneself barricaded behind a chest-high slab of a table, like a witness before a Congressional hearing, you and yours are left pleasantly wide-open across a low surface. It’s both friendlier and more engaged, whether spearing and sharing martini olives or delicately laying down sunglasses side by side.
Consequently, the notion of low, occasional tables as an essential, as opposed to a knickknack, has been gaining traction in the design world. No longer ugly stackables, the low tables you see here possess all the classic virtues: utility, sturdiness, and beauty. “And you can put your feet up on them when you’re by yourself,” adds Clement Van Buren, a lanky sailor and architect based in New England.
Hello, Dali! If you guessed this leggy table and chair came from Dali’s 1935 painting Femme à tête de roses you’d be right. During the 30’s Dali collaborated with the celebrated decorator and furniture maker Jean-Michel Frank on a number of pieces including The Dali Leda Low Table-Sculpture in brass ($20,158.00), above, as well as a Black Label Limited Edition ($23,882.00), produced by BD Barcelona in 2009 marking the twentieth anniversary of the artist’s death. Pamono
Saddle up! When she first applied to work at Le Corbusier’s studio architect/designer Charlotte Perriand (1903-1999) was famously rejected with a terse, misogynistic note: We don’t do embroidery here. Finally accepted, Perriand collaborated on many design projects with the Master, including this 1953 Gueridon table in hand-stiched leather. 19” high, from $ 2,985.00 Cassina
Work your Burks. From an inauspicious beginning in a cramped studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, designer Stephen Burks (b. 1969) went on to solo shows at The Studio Museum of Harlem and the Museum of Art and Design, which in turn led to partnerships with Dedon, Roche-Bobois, B&B Italia, and Missoni. Burks’ Ahnda outside table celebrates the open weave culture of the Philippines. 12” high, $ 2,140.00 from Dedon
Un-tangle. Suggestive of lovers surreptitiously playing footsie, the twisting legs of these Tangle Tables actually serve a purpose: to make them easily stackable. Designed by Oki Sato Nendo, the glass tops are made from recycled computer and TV screens. Available in anthracite, grey moss, white and terracotta. Set of 3, 11 ¼” high: $3,690.00 Cappellini
Play Ishi. Also designed by the puckish Nendo, this Ishi low table conveys a subtle invitation to rearrange and interact. While six of its rounded Lebanese cedar bases support the glass top, the remaining five are just hanging loose, ready for positioning in whatever order suits. Price on request, 9.8” high. Depadova
Play amongst water ninfeas. Matteo Ragni designed this Ninfea, or “water lily” table with the sleek, soft contours of mega yachts: saddle leather upholstery, padded top over a storage area, Canaletto walnut, ebony or oak edging, and scratch-proof black lacquer-finished base. A low 9” high. Price on request. Poltrona Frau