When it comes to foundation pieces, few things are as timeless and useful as the console. Its long, lean lines and minimal depth help make the most of space-constrained rooms. To add a touch of intrigue, consider using a Chinese altar table as a console in an entry, to anchor a floating sofa and more.
These tables date back hundreds of years; the Chinese refer to them as a gong an, or temple table, and traditionally use them as a place of worship to honor ancestors and gods with daily offerings. Their elegant lines and inherent meaning give them a soulful appeal, while the variety of available heights and sizes makes them versatile. Here’s how to incorporate one into your design.
Original Chinese altar tables were created by skilled craftsmen using hand-carving methods rarely seen today. Some have wing-like swooping edges and are born from a single piece of wood, without visible seams or joints. Tables that do not have raised ends are referred to as Ming-style tables.
Tip: A seamless winged top is a good but not foolproof way to tell if a table is original.
Altar tables vary greatly in size and appearance.Some have such a minimalist design that they may be mistaken for ordinary writing desks, while others feature ornate carvings that clearly speak to their Asian heritage.
Some altar tables have straight legs, some are adorned with horse hooves, and others are joined at the bottom with small beams. They may be made with solid vertical panels or beaded and floating panels that were originally intended to contract and expand with moisture and temperature changes in the environment.
Contemporary altar tables can have a similar shape and style to older pieces but are usually glued or nailed together rather than fitted together with pegs. They are less ornate and often have a manufactured look to their “distressed” finish. They are less expensive than their antique and vintage counterparts and may be preferred due to their more modern profile.
Cost: Antique and vintage altar tables can range from $400 to as high as $12,000 so, depending on the price of the piece you are considering, you may want to have an appraiser review your table before purchase.
As with all vintage and antique furniture, there are many counterfeit pieces on the market. To ensure that you are buying a table with age and provenance, research dealers online, looking for positive reviews and a strong reputation.
7 Great Ways to Use Altar Tables
1. As side tables. Steeped in history and expertly crafted, antique altar tables are a special piece of decor on which to display photos, flowers, art or important memorabilia. Smaller altar tables placed on either side of a sofa are an elegant and unexpected stand-in for side tables.
Antique or contemporary altar tables add a touch of the unexpected when used as a console, sofa table, vanity or buffet.
Read more about Chinese Altar Tables Set a Soulful Tone at Home
Chinese Altar Tables Set a Soulful Tone at Home