Your Guide to Buying an Art Deco Coffee Table

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Your Guide to Buying an Art Deco Coffee Table

The Art Deco period lasted from the 1920s until the 1930s. It was an artistic movement that influenced many areas of home décor design, and coffee tables were no exception. Coffee tables are particularly sought after since almost every living room needs one. A prospective buyer may find it hard to understand the many choices that greet them upon first browsing the Art Deco selection. This guide aims to assist them in searching for a coffee table by addressing several factors, such as what features to look for and what materials were commonly used in Art Deco design. The guide will help buyers to choose the right Art Deco coffee table for their home.

History of the Art Deco Coffee Table

Tables date back thousands of years to the stone designs of Ancient Egypt and China. The concept for the modern coffee table, however, is far more recent. First conceived during the Victorian Era, coffee tables were made from the mid-19th century onward, and were intended to be placed in living rooms, in front of chairs and sofas where guests would gather for refreshments, such as a Tassimo coffee. The idea of using furniture specifically for tea or coffee service does, in fact, predate the coffee table. Small tea tables were common in the 18th century, but due to their tall construction, impermanent placement and smaller surface area, there was a desire for shorter, bigger and sturdier tables – hence the new design. It was several decades later, in the early 20th century, that elaborate Victorian coffee tables gave way to the simpler designs of the Art Deco movement.

Discover Art Deco Coffee Tables

The Art Deco era began in Paris in 1925 at the International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. Lasting around two decades, the movement ended with the Second World War, but the term ‘Art Deco’ was not actually coined until the 1960s. As a result of the thriving machine age in the mid-war period, many Art Deco coffee tables are sleek and made from ‘exotic’ materials, representative of both power and technology. The Victorian era focused on ornate and decorative elements, but Art Deco attempted to reduce complexity, using strong geometric shapes and clean, symmetrical lines. Considered by many buyers to have retained their beauty since the 1920s, Art Deco coffee tables continue to be found in living rooms worldwide.

Materials Used in Art Deco Coffee Tables

The coffee tables of the Art Deco era were made from a wide variety of distinctive materials:

  • Chrome: A chromium alloy with a bright and shiny mirror-like finish, often used for the legs of a coffee table.
  • Nickel: A hard and ductile, lustrous metal often plated onto other metal elements, such as the legs.
  • Wood: Various hardwood species including mahogany, ebony and rosewood were used for the construction of coffee table legs and tops.
  • Bronze: A metal alloy generally consisting of copper and tin that is less susceptible to excessive corrosion. This would sometimes have been plated in nickel or chrome and used for table bases.
  • Wrought Iron: A tough and easily welded iron alloy that was used for table bases and legs.
  • Marble: A soft rock that is not prone to shattering was used for coffee table tops.
  • Bakelite: A hard synthetic plastic invented in, and unique to, the early 20th century.
  • Glass: Often used for the tops of tables and can be clear, frosted or stained.
  • Enamel: A smooth tabletop coating made from fused glass powder.

Types of Art Deco Coffee Tables

Types of coffee tables are usually defined by designer or materials used:

  • Round, Square or Polygonal: Art Deco coffee tables tend to have symmetrical shapes such as circles, rectangles or hexagons.
  • Lifted or Low: Though generally low to the ground and easily reached while sitting, Art Deco coffee tables will vary in height from around 15 to 50 centimetres.
  • Shelved or Not Shelved: Coffee tables often have a shelf beneath the tabletop for magazines or books.
  • Factors to Consider When Buying an Art Deco Coffee Table

Before deciding on a particular Art Deco coffee table, a buyer may wish to consider a few further factors.

  • Antique Value: Many professionals consider pre-1930s items to be antique. A buyer may want to check the exact age when assessing the value.
  • Glass Refitting: The value of an Art Deco table is primarily in its base; however, a buyer should check the state of glass tabletops which can be removed and replaced if damaged.
  • Reproductions: A buyer should be aware of products labelled ‘Art Deco style’. These are not original Art Deco pieces.

Typical Features of Art Deco Coffee Tables

1. Mirroring

Many of the glass tabletops in Art Deco designs were mirrored. They were sometimes tinted or made of peach glass which offered a subtle reflection.

2. Sets

Art Deco coffee tables were sometimes designed as part of a set of matching furniture pieces. Few sets are available for sale compared to single coffee tables.

3. Curved Legs

Many Art Deco coffee tables have simple, graceful curves below the tabletop. They may also have curved legs or structural supports for the heavy bases.

4. Shelves

Some Art Deco coffee tables have attractive shelves, or even drawers, built in beneath the tabletop. These can be used for books, magazines, or storage of small items.

5. Geometric Patterns

Art Deco tabletop designs often have solid, geometric patterns. These symmetrical designs may be inlaid in wood or marble and sometimes etched into glass.

6. Materials

Art Deco coffee table designs were made predominantly from wood and sometimes a selection of contrasting materials was used, such as wrought iron legs with a coloured marble top.

Art Deco Coffee Table Designers

  • Jules Leleu
  • Mathieu Matégot
  • Bel Gedes
  • Pierre Chareau
  • Michel de Clerk
  • Donald Desky
  • Djo Bourgeois
  • Eileen Gray
  • Paul Follot
  • Paul Frankl
  • Pavel Janak

Finding Art Deco Coffee Tables on eBay

Once you determine the type of Art Deco coffee table you want to purchase, visit the Antiques portal on eBay, click on Art Deco and start searching item listings. The Categories list on the left-hand side of the eBay page helps to narrow the search.

Searching forArt Deco Coffee Tableson eBay

Search eBay listing titles for specific words when shopping for Art Deco coffee tables. For example, to find a mahogany Art Deco coffee table, type ‘mahogany Art Deco coffee table’ into the search box, and then click the Advanced button to customise the results. Also visit eBay’s Search Tips page for more advice on searching for Art Deco coffee tables with keywords. If you can’t find the exact coffee table you want, try shopping eBay Stores.


Considering that the coffee table is a popular and useful piece of furniture, it is no surprise that the unique and beautiful designs of the Art Deco era are still sought today. Before deciding on a purchase, however, a prospective buyer may wish to consider the above-mentioned guidelines in order to ensure that they get the coffee table they desire. Armed with this information, an Art Deco coffee table can be purchased safely and securely on eBay.

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