The beauty of tables

The latest trends in table design point to a profound and decisive evolution in terms of style, one based around ceaseless innovation around materials, with shaping inspired by rationalist geometry and – above all – our new, modern lifestyles. Yet despite the changes, function is still king

Minotti, Dan table, design Christophe Delcourt

Packed with fresh new styles and sophisticated detailing, the latest collections of tables feature a strong focus on materials and modern designs heavily influenced by the world of architecture. There is a uniqueness and elegance to the current trends, while rigorous, geometric shaping still finds a place in the textures and veining of marble and wood – in those imperfections that give a material an identity, a spirit.

Matera, designed by Paola Navone for Baxter, showcases all of the might and presence of marble, incorporating shades of black and white which vary from product to product, making each piece exclusive and unique. The story is much the same for the Elledue’s table in the Ulysse range, which underlines the veining and colouration of marble by pairing it with a striking metal support, creating a sophisticated contrast between the two materials. Gallotti&Radice, meanwhile, has opted for a tweed-effect inlay for the wood table top of Maat, designed by Pietro Russo, who combines this with a hand-brushed aluminium frame.

The combination of different materials is one of the overriding themes running through the companies’ latest products – with universal success. Natevo’s Balloon, for example, designed by Volodymyr Karalyus, pairs a burnished brass base with a round table top in stunning Arabesco marble, while the Othello series by Poltrona Frau, designed by Roberto Lazzeroni, combines solid ash legs, complete with diamond workmanship, and a table top in either Fior di Pesco marble or smoked crystal.
Christophe Delcourt’s Dan for Minotti also explores the use of contrasts, namely between the aluminium support structure, finished in a matte liquorice colour on the outside and shiny copper or light bronze on the inside, and the Calacatta marble table top set into wood.

It’s clear that the structures of these tables play just as important a role as their tops, aesthetically speaking. Yet in some cases it is the structure that becomes focal point, channelling the momentum of table design in a new direction. Alessandro La Spada’s design for Kerwan, produced by Visionnaire, is one example of this: the base is a symphony of steel and stone, with concave and convex curves creating a stunning optical effect. Mario Bellini pays tribute to Puglia’s centuries-old flora in Torsion for Natuzzi, with a base featuring six interlinking “petals” made from solid olive wood, with the parts opening out to provide the support for the ultra-clear glass table top. Poliform, on the other hand, takes wood and moulds it as if it were sleek sheets of metal in Kensington, designed by Jean-Marie Massaud, creating a stunning wave effect.

The minimalist, rational architecture of the 1950s and ‘60s has proved to be the overarching source of inspiration for designers, translating into ordered – but never boring – creations. Josef, designed by Samuel Accoceberry for Mood, revives the quintessentially European tradition of the refectory table, but puts a modern slant on it thanks to its original multi-sided component parts, which vary between the triangular and the square. The same apparent simplicity can be found in Moroso’s Pipe, designed by Sebastian Herkner, where the design is centred around piping – some straight, some rounded – which intersect with one another.
The love affair between Gio Ponti and Molteni&C continues, meanwhile, with an updated version of the D.859.1 table, whose single-span bridge structure is topped by a large top which tapers off at the edges. The original table was designed by Ponti in 1958, along with an array of other pieces of furniture – not to mention the entire Auditorium attached to the Time & Life building in New York.
As in all architecture, not detail is left to chance – and some pieces have intentionally left joins and connecting points visible, where these would usually be hidden. Take Quadrifoglio, designed by Carlo Ballabio for Porada, for instance, which makes sure to showcase the brass supporting rod between the transparent crystal table top and the ash legs. And then there’s Patricia Urquiola’s Canal for Riva 1920, whose defining feature is without doubt the iron compartment which runs centrally between the two strips of solid wood.

Despite its asymmetry, there is still a sense of balance about the table top of Disegual, designed by Umberto Asnago for Giorgetti. It features an irregular design centred around straight and curved lines and various angles, which create slots for the different sections of the table top. This theme reappears in the legs of Michael Anastassiades’ Ordinal for Cassina, which sit diagonally against the table top.

Last but not least, there is a clear blurring of the line between the public and the private spheres, with the two sectors seemingly borrowing from one another. The contract sector feels warmer, more domesticated, while our homes are evolving to accommodate more and more guests. Miniforms’s Colony Table, designed by Skrivo, is suitable for both the dining room and study, with its base in cane, structure in ash and table top in canaletto walnut, ash, vintage oak or ceramic.
Finally, Kartell’s I Table, by Piero Lissoni, pushes the boundaries of contemporary living to create a smart, multi-purpose table which provides a place for study, socialising and simply placing other objects – but can also be transformed into a small cooking station when needed.