farmhouse table · French Country Decorating · French Country Furniture

History of a Farm Table

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Farm tables are at the heart of homes today. The beloved dining table is regularly featured in design blogs, social media posts and magazines. These rustic tables have become a ubiquitous feature American kitchens and dining rooms. But, did you ever wonder about the origins of this classic dining table?

Origins of a Farm Table
The original farm tables met the needs of early settlers—a place to sit and eat—without refinement or embellishment found in European furniture. These early farmhouse tables were basic in design and styling. They had planked tops and block legs with functional styling to meet basic demands. Farmhouse tables were built out of necessity, using rough timbers and native woods found on settler’s properties.

Early farm tables were made of hand-planed wood boards that were rough cut using primitive tools. Wood blocks were chopped into square legs, and long slabs were hand planed to become tabletops. Early farm tables were usually long and narrow due the limited joinery and tools. Long bench style seating accompanied early farm tables and was designed in a similar style as a farm table.

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Early farm tables were long, narrow with hand-cut legs and tops
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Primitive bench seating accompanied farm tables


Wood & Materials
Today, lumber is cured or kiln dried to prevent cracking and twisting. But, early farm tables had lumber that was air-dried by the fire in settler’s homes. Antique farmhouse tables often have wooden bowties in the top to repair cracks, and prevent them from lengthening and splitting over time. For this reason, antique farmhouse tables without cracks or splits are quite rare and considered very desirable—fetching high values in the antique marketplace.

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Example of a “wood bowtie” used in early farm tables to prevent splitting.

Original farm tables were most commonly made of Eastern White Pine because it was plentiful, and easy to work with using hand tools. The large pines were chosen because of their clear grains with few defects. The wood was soft and easy to work with, versus hardwood which required better tools. Pine was considered a great structural material, and was commonly found in farmhouses and barns of the past. Today, pine is still used in building of structures and still revered in furniture making as a material that is strong, enduring and gains beautiful character over time.

Many Uses of Farm Tables
Farm tables quickly became the place to gather and dine—but, also were utilized as work tables for baking, canning, studying and even used as wash stands for bathing.  These sturdy, durable tables were a mainstay in kitchen areas. There are so many uses for a farm table that they have become one of the most functional work surfaces in a home.

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Farm tables historically have been used as baking, cooking and canning worktables in the kitchen—and still are today. (Image: OurVintageHomeLove)

Evolution of the Farm Table
As early settlements turned into vital towns—more affluence and sophistication came—and the farm table evolved too. Rough cut boards were replaced by kiln dried lumber. Hardwood farm tables became more viable because of greater access to tools. Paints and varnishes were being imported from European merchants, making tables highly desired by an emerging affluent clientele. Access to foot-powered lathes allowed for emergence of turned legs, tops were often embellished with hardwood inlays and vibrant paints and stains. The once commoner’s farm table to turned into something of sophistication and style.

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Farm Tables embrace European sophistication with the accessibility of better tools. (Image: KateMadison.com)

Farm tables have enjoyed resurgence in popularity recently. Their warm rustic charm—no matter how old—will fit in with just about any decor from traditional, to cottage, to French country homes to modernist. Very few furniture pieces have been able to transcend time and style as the farm table.

Rising Popularity of Reclaimed, Barnwood Farm Tables
Of recent years, the building boom has spawned the recycling, upcycling of wood from antique barns, hunting cabins and structures. These old structures often have some of the most beautiful time-worn boards that can be repurposed into beautiful tabletops and furniture pieces.

The old boards are perfectly imperfect. Tops have nail-holes, cracks and divots which add charm and character to a new table. People have embraced the idea of reclaimed wood, and like that a new table can have the authentic character of times passed.

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This 8ft. farm table with reclaimed, 100 year-old barnwood top  adds authenticity to a dining room. (Image: KateMadison.com)

While there are many manufacturers selling farm tables—few have the craftsmanship, time-tested quality with generations of experience like Kate Madison farm tables. Our experience and craftsmanship surpasses other table makers. We use new, reclaimed, and hardwood in the construction of our tables—like those of the beloved farm tables of the past. We build each farm table to your desired length and width out of solid wood. You choose the color and finish to make it your own.

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