Trestle tables have long been revered for their practical qualities. With legs that fold up and, traditionally, tops that can be removed and stored away, they have proved useful in conference hotels, wedding venues and such like.
But increasingly they are holding their own in homes as permanent and versatile pieces of furniture.
An alternative to conventional dining room tables, they offer value for money, too. And when it comes to comfort, they punch above their weight by not having fixed legs, which can be restrictive for those seated closest to the corners.
A modern take: The Farringdon reclaimed wood table set, £1,079. Trestle tables are narrower than traditional dining room tables
They are also narrower than traditional dining room tables, meaning you don’t have to stretch so far to reach the salt and pepper, and making conversation that much easier and more intimate.
‘Trestle tables are timeless, solid and suit almost any interior style,’ say Jenna Choate-James and Mariana Ugarte, the design duo behind Interior Fox. ‘They add rustic charm to a country home, while working equally as well to add character in a modern or industrial-style house.’
In 2021, with more people than ever working from home, it could just be that trestle tables are being discovered as ideal options for home offices.
In the Middle Ages, they comprised little more than loose boards over trestle legs, but by the 16th century they had become more sturdy.
Now, they consist of two or three supports linked by a longitudinal cross-member over which a tabletop is placed.
Sharing lunch around a trestle table. When it comes to comfort, they punch above their weight by not having fixed legs, which can be restrictive for those seated closest to the corners
‘The architect Pugin – who worked on the Palace of Westminster – was responsible for a big revival of trestle tables by giving them extra supporting struts,’ says John Cornall, of John Cornall Antiques, near Warwick.
‘And in America, they are often known as ‘harvest tables’ because they would have been taken into the fields at harvest time.’
Mr Cornall is a trestle table enthusiast, selling a range costing from £850.
There are scenes in The Godfather movies showing whole villages having dinner outside, seated on long trestle tables. Conviviality is their hallmark.
‘The large and long surface areas of trestle tables mean not only are they perfect for big gatherings, they are also practical enough for working from home and home schooling,’ says Deirdre McGettrick, founder and CEO of ufurnish.com.
Their lightweight design lends a sense of openness to a room, which is ideal for smaller spaces, and a fold-up one can easily be moved or stored.
‘Some of the more contemporary options provide storage space via flat shelving or drawers,’ says Nadia McCowan Hill, Wayfair’s style advisor.
‘And trestle legs in cheerful hues add a splash of colour to a workspace.’
Paul Deckland, buying director at The Cotswold Company, adds: ‘They are brilliant for busy family homes due to their effortless, sturdy and timeless design and longer length.’
The Cotswold Company has a range of trestle tables, including its Ellwood Charcoal design with painted legs and washed oak tops (priced from £499).
And Tikamoon is selling a trestle-legged table, which seats 12, made from recycled teak (£999). Its height can be adjusted and you can also remove the top.
‘Many people will remember trestle tables from their village halls,’ says Sharon Buchsbaum from Antiques Affair, based in Sheffield. ‘You could fold them up, but they were heavy. They’ve come a long way since then.’
More importantly, they’ve come a long way since their medieval heyday.
Bringing a combination of Tudor decadence, Puginist refinement and American harvests into the home is no bad thing.
What your home really needs is… a palm print
Wayfair has an elegant set of three prints in black frames featuring palm trees and a pineapple (£73.99, wayfair.co.uk)
Palm trees are a symbol of exoticism and escape to distant shores, which is why they were one of the favourite wallpaper motifs in wealthy 18th-century homes.
These associations are even stronger today, when we all want a little escape from the monotony of being stuck indoors. A palm print in the home is a reminder that lazy days on a beach will come again.
You could choose the hot-house glamour of the Palmeral wallpaper from House of Hackney (starting at £125 per roll, houseof hackney.com).
But if other members of your household are unsure about such a profusion of vegetation, try three prints hung in a gallery wall arrangement.
Wayfair has an elegant set of three prints in black frames featuring palm trees and a pineapple (£73.99, wayfair.co.uk). While the designs at Iamfy are more Los Angeles than English manor house (unframed, from £13, iamfy.co).
At Dunelm (dunelm.com) a framed palm print costs just £8, a tiny price to keep your holiday dream alive.