Life in Old South Central Alabama

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South of Birmingham, Alabama, United States
I am an antique trader in central Alabama....I love old houses... My log home was built in 1817 by my ancestors Benjamin and Hannah Harless Wilson .............. Outside the house are herb gardens and lots of pass-along plants................ No one in Alabama is in a hurry about anything......... Visitors think that the garden needs weeding and the furniture needs polishing....I am a direct descendant of Joseph Towne, whose two sisters Rebecca Towne Nurse and Mary Towne Easty were hanged in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 as witches. I am also a direct descendant of Pocahontas and husband John Rolfe.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Eastlake furniture in Alabama and the coffee table that never was

The furniture style known as Eastlake was created and manufactured roughly from 1870 to 1885,  fifteen years of complicated designs and geometric skill-saw work.  Rounds and squares on the same piece. Usually mahogany but not oak.  Oak obsession will come later. 
Eastlake tables such as this beauty held parlor lamps, a live fern ( marble tops are good for live plants) , an over sized vase filled with two dozen ostrich feathers,  or maybe a bronze artwork.  The pretty marble might be covered in frilled table scarves. Maybe two, maybe three.  The furniture peeked out from beneath.  

So what's the problem?   The problem is, Eastlake won't sell very well as Eastlake. As an antique trader, I avoid it entirely.  I won't buy it ;  no one here buys it unless it is dirt cheap.   So ,what can be done to make an Eastlake table marketable?  ( Besides painting it white or turquoise and then distressing it )
The answer:  saw the legs off and turn it into a coffee table. 

THERE WERE NO VICTORIAN COFFEE TABLES.   That concept ( idea) didn't develop until the 1920s.   Any piece of  furniture in any form, any wood, any style,  any color being sold as a coffee table with claims of being around before World War I is a fake, a phony, a fraud, a creation of fantasy. 

Eastlake ( or any other lake)  coffee tables are nothing more than a pitiful piece of furniture with its legs sawed off. 
It's not just Eastlake, by the way. Here is an Empire Revival table in oak, ca. 1910, with its two pedestal bases sawed off.  Do you see a coffee table?  I see a library table with 12" of leg missing. 

Tragic.  A Rococo turtle-top table posing as a coffee table. Probably a repro.  It can't be an 1860 original condition. If not a repro "coffee table", then it also has lost about 12" of legs.  

A fantasy piece.  A coffee table from the 1940's /50's made in Victorian style. 

Another 1950's creation.  These were sold all over the country with the couches and chairs with carved roses on them ( not cheap when they were on the market in the 1940's-1970's ).   They were sold as new victorian ( no one was being fooled ) but few realized that the concept of a coffee table was unknown in the 1850's.  

Almost can't believe it.  An "Empire Coffee Table".....cut down from 1830 original game table.  Shameful.

Found another tragedy.  A Renaissance Revival 1860 parlor table cut down to coffee table size, retaining its original marble top. 
Found another on line today.  Renaissance Revival cut down.  About 1860.  Would have been worth $500+ before the slaughter. 

Now here is a beautiful example of what can be done to an Eastlake table without destroying it.  Add some paint;  don't cut the legs off,  and it will enhance any modern home. This is the way to do it, in my opinion. 

Repurpose...redesign...well known and accepted ideas today...but , in the case of the poor Eastlake parlor tables...the "fix" cannot be  un-fixed when the pedestal is sawed off and thrown away. 


  1. OK I am confessing. I don't own any, but I love Eastlake.He made some beautiful furniture. If I didn't love my southern pieces and pure country pieces, that is what I would have.Are you surprised. "Mother" is looking at me rather

  2. OH I had the library table once mine had the legs sawed off to make it a coffee tale I used it for years then it went in a yard sale for $12.00 !!!!!!!!!!

    I loved all the marble top tables and wanted them all back in my victorian collecting days