While chairs are most often the stars of mid-century modernism, there’s always a strong supporting cast of tables helping to set the stage. Competent, versatile and incredibly useful, MCM tables are rarely, if ever in the spotlight, but they make the whole ensemble work.
This was certainly Rob’s experience at Trent. Master architect Ron Thom’s team orchestrated the furniture into intimate conversational groupings and private corners. The stars were certainly there—Jacobsen, Eames, Mathsson, Mogensen, Aalto, Muller & Stewart, plus a range of lounge chairs and settees, couches and sling chairs designed specifically for the different colleges by the Thom team.
Various tables anchored and defined these groupings. Thom’s team really had a thing for small cool tables. They filled the junior and senior common rooms, college libraries, pubs, meeting rooms and cafés with ridiculously good chairs and an array of coffee, side, tea, cigarette and ‘meeting’ tables. There were dozens and dozens of original table designs made just once for this university—different shapes, heights, sizes and materials, some simple and geometric, others almost fiendishly complicated. This range of designs was evidence of the role tables could play in making the chairs work in different settings. Like the chairs, these tables complemented the unique character of each college.
Pushed to choose, our favorite—and here we’re probably revealing our own minimalist leanings—is the little round cigarette table that used to sit in one of the college libraries Yes, it was the sixties—you smoked while contemplating Plato, Proust or the prospects of the next pub night. Here in the library, along with its slightly bigger and taller cousin, the coffee table, the cigarette table shaped groupings of leather Safari and Mathsson Eva chairs. All of it light, comfortable furniture, easily moved to suit the occasion.
We think our updated version captures the spirit of the original. No smoking necessary. It’s at once symmetrical and assymetrical. And that tension is what makes it so funky. It looks deceptively simple, but the 3 legs are offset from the table’s centre. So it was no mean feat to make the joinery simple enough to produce and easy to assemble. Worth it, though. Little tables work.