Why do they call it a coffee table?

The Grand Rapids Historical Commission claims that in the early 1900s, F. Stuart Foote, president of The Imperial Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan gave it the name. His wife was having a party and needed a place for drinks. Being a good sport, he went to work. “He trimmed the legs of a dining table and named it the ‘coffee table’.”

Coffee table sans coffee

If true, Stuart was surely not the first one to shorten the legs on a table.

The Chinese and Japanese, for thousands of years, served wine and tea at tables where guests sat on the floor. Indeed, in China and Japan, a house or a room was set aside for tea with nothing else but a mat. That and a low lying table on which to put the teapot. Likewise, for hundreds of years across the Middle East, sultans, like Suleiman the Magnificent, brewed and served Kashmiri tea in polished Samovars set on low slung tables.

Believe It or Not

Believe it or not, tea was not first. The Ottomans also had coffee beans they got from Arabia. The Ottomans roasted the beans over a fire, then finely ground them and gently boiled them in water. They called the drink “kahve”.

In 1938, Joseph Aronson, author of The Encyclopedia of Furniture, defined a coffee table as a, “Low wide table now used before a sofa or couch.” Maybe he was the first.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. About this time, the president of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, A Conger Goodyear, asked the famed sculptor Isamu Noguchi to design a table for coffee for his Long Island weekender. The base was solid walnut, the top was glass. Again, being honest, it was called Modernist and the Naguchi table, and didn’t go into production until 1947.

Coffee comes to England

Let’s back up.

Great Britain was introduced to coffee in 1637. That is when an unnamed Ottoman Turk brought the drink to Oxford’s colleges. It quickly became popular among students and teachers who established the “Oxford Coffee Club”. It wasn’t too long til it made it to London and the coffee shop.

Tea followed coffee and found its way into England’s coffee shops as a novelty. And because the East India Company was importing it, it became all the rage.

Why not a tea table?

Tea was served in the Queen’s Palace, she was after all, the Empress of India. It was served in high society where tall tables were rolled into a room and set next to a chair. But the ceremony began with the British working man. Beginning in the mid 1700s as an afternoon meal served between 3 and 4 o’clock, taken standing or sitting on tall stools, thus ‘high‘.

Meanwhile in England’s coffee shops, the ones where William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, for the price of a penny, gathered to talk, stools became chairs. So too, in the posh Gentlemens’ clubs of London, they sat on Chesterfield sofas, and that is where I’d put my money on the naming of the table as the “coffee table.”

Visit Traditions Home in Wichita and Overland Park to find the perfect coffee table for you.

Antecedents

We’ve covered a lot, which only leaves the question of what did they call the coffee table before it became the coffee table?

It seems that after dinner when men and women had dined, it was time for the men to talk business, to drink port or brandy, and smoke. Women politely withdrew, and they did to the parlor or living room for coffee and cake.

And coffee was served on a table called the “Withdraw table.” I think.

urban renewal

urban renewal,  the redevelopment of dilapidated or no longer functional urban areas and their buildings

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. Most of those who do so are city dwellers living in suburban neighborhoods – homes with a driveway, two car garages, three bedrooms, two baths. But the recent trend is towards downtown loft living. A flat, the English say, in the city on one floor, accessed by stairs or an elevator, where you meet your neighbors in the hall way or at the entrance door.

One of the big advantages of loft living is reduced energy costs. Large buildings are more efficient to heat and cool, the same way a couple shares a blanket at a fall football game. A second advantage is the use of built-in smart devices throughout the complex. Alexa is ever-present, maybe too-so, video security keeps an eye on your safety, sensor-lighting lights your path. Newly marrieds, un-marrieds, and retired couples simply don’t need the space that “a place in the burbs” gives. Gone are the headaches of mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, cleaning the gutters, patching the driveway, and fixing everything that goes wrong. Thus, less space, property taxes are lower.

Besides all this, loft living brings us together, dining at the neighborhood cafe, shopping at the corner deli, walking in the park, plus all those friendly smiles in the hallway.

It is a simpler life for sure, and we at Traditions Home and Traditions Furniture are here to help. Though our name says Traditions we are so much more. Since 1984 in Overland Park and Wichita.

Open again December 29th

a thing of beauty

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.
John Keats, 1818

That goes for the stylishly and strangely contemporary Tuxedo sofa that has been around since the start of the 19th century.

Beginnings

The Tuxedo sofa traces its beginning to the tony village of Tuxedo Park in Ramapo mountains just north of New York City. New York, the same place that created the formal suit. Credit for the suit is given to wealthy tobacco manufacturer Pierre J. Lorillard IV, who swapped a summer estate at Newport called “The Breakers” for a luxury estate of 13,000 acres around Tuxedo Lake. Lorillard would combine with William Waldorf Astor and other wealthy friends into building a get-away 40 miles from New York City and hired architect Bruce Price to design the clubhouse. Notable residents of the fashionable Tuxedo Park included banker J.P. Morgan, railroader John Insley Blair, and writer Mark Twain. Later residents who graced the grounds included Emily Post, the grand dame of good manners, and colorful interior designer Dorothy Draper.

Simple and clean

Who deserves credit for designing a sofa where the arms are the same height as the back is lost to pages of history. The style is modern, the lines geometrically simple and clean. There is some similarity in the Big City architecture of Bruce Price whose buildings combined classical Greek forms with modern construction techniques. But there is no evidence that Price was a designer of furniture.

The style reminds us of the more opulent Chesterfield sofa, but the Chesterfield is grander in scale. The Tuxedo is more in line with the distinctively American designs of Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright, or with Scottish designer Charles Rene Mackintosh and his wife Margaret Macdonald. But all these designers prominently featured the wood frame.

Modern Times

No, I think that we will have to accept he idea that the Tuxedo sofa sprung fully formed like Athena from Zeus.

A scaled back sofa, straight and slim, one that suited “modern” times. Following the lead of the flappers of the 20s, a new generation of liberated women who wore short skirts, sported short hair, listened to jazz, and redefined what was considered acceptable behavior.

Strangely Contemporary

The Tuxedo sofa continues today as a fashion statement. It may be eclectically casual as this sofa by Rowe Furniture. Like the suit, sported at Hollywood by the likes of George Clooney and Bradley Cooper.

Or to the manor born, like debonair Daniel Craig, as this Tuxedo sofa designed by Stickley Furniture. Either way, the Tuxedo, sofa or suit, is a great conversation piece, and at home a great way to celebrate the joy of family and friends.

A joy forever

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” is the opening line from John Keats poem Endymion which goes like this:

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
..

And there I will rest.

Sofa Trends

What’s new in sofas, what looks good? Is it long or short? Is it rounded and curved? Or straight and tight? Is it blue or green, is it white? A button down, tuxedo, tufted, Fred Astaire fashionable and elegant, are we “Putting on the Ritz”? Please, make it velvety and soft?

What will you do for your favorite lounging spot?

Traditions Home is your best resource in Kansas for sofas in all shapes and sizes, with stripes or spots, long or short. Locations in Wichita and Overland Park, since 1984.

Not all works of Art belong on the wall

The 17.000 year old paintings that cover the interior walls and ceilings of the Lascaux Cave, in the department of Dordogne in southwestern France, demonstrate that mankind has always been a collector of fine works of art. But not all artwork need go on the wall. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Chinese, Viking gold and silver jewelry with intricate inlaid precious stones demonstrates that sometimes we liked to handle and wear works of art.

Today, a work of art can be a Stressless chair. Ergonomically designed, flowing lines of steel and leather, a thing of beauty to behold, a pleasure to sit in.

Right now, save hundreds on Stressless with our Holiday Savings in Wichita and Overland Park. Our hours are convenient, Tues-Sat, 10:30-5pm, and by appointment.

Modern 101

Creating the Look: Modern 101

  • Horizontal and vertical lines
  • Neutrals and soft colors
  • Contrast (black and white or shades of gray)
  • Add texture for a sensory experience
  • Feng shui for balance and flow
  • Minimalism in all things

Modern Style

Modern style is often defined by strong horizontal and vertical lines within an angular room layout. It is a feng shui approach. This refers to the ancient Chinese practice of using energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. Let the room flow and the furniture accommodate the room’s purpose and use.

Sectionals, sofas, and square-shaped chairs are perfect choices for modern spaces. Like pieces on a chess board, the furniture can be moved about like bishops or rooks to create a dynamic appearance. A pair of sofas makes for a natural conversational setting. Introduce moveable small chairs to accommodate small conversation areas. Ottomans and benches work well for this purpose.

Modern begins with minimalism

Start with white walls. Navajo White is a favorite of designers. Fabric choices should include palette of neutrals or grays. Accents of black or deep, dark colors creates definition like shadows on the ground. Express your artistic bent with colorful contemporary artwork. 

 

Home is a Happy Place

Home is a port in a sea of storms, a refuge on a high hill from worries and cares, a sanctuary from stress, a happy place where we gather with those we love.

I like to smile, to surround myself with people who laugh and love life. As for the rest, let’s “keep them at bay”.

“To keep something at bay”

The origin of words and phrases has always interested me.

“To keep something at bay” is one of those phrases that pops into conversation from time to time. At first, I thought it had something to do with water and ships; you know, the English are attacking the French at Calais, and the English warships are keeping the French fleet holed up in the harbor.

But no, it appears, the phrase has something to do with dogs. The word “bay” derives from the French, meaning the “deep-toned howl of a dog.”

From the condition of chasing and being cornered came the phrase “to keep at bay”. Specifically, dogs baying at an attacking bear, keeping him or her from causing harm to the dogs’ owner or the dogs themselves. Barking hounds were said to be “at bay” when they were kept from attacking an intruder onto the home grounds.

Dogs are still good at keeping door to door salesmen at bay. Now if we could only find a way to deal with robocalls.

Falling in Love Again

Design Tips for the Senses

Warm colors, like red, orange, and yellow, are associated with summer and fall. These colors stimulate the senses; use these when activity or conversation is desired, like dining rooms.

Cool colors, like green, blue, and purple, are tranquil colors; place these colors in spaces designated for relaxation, like lake houses and retreats and in family rooms and bedrooms.

    Blend and layer multiple shades of the same color to create a soothing, monochromatic look. Variations of the same color make a small space or room look larger. Add pattern and texture to create interest.

Falling in Love Again at Traditions Home

It is autumn and we, at Traditions Home, are falling in love again with the beautiful fall fabrics from Rowe Furniture. Here are just a few ideas to get you in the mood for fall at Traditions Home.

See Rowe at Traditions Home