If one piece of furniture symbolises cosy, classy domesticity, it’s the kitchen table. We might wince at the aspirational shorthand “kitchen supper”, as demonstrated by telly chefs from Jamie to Nigella, and practised in households from David Cameron’s in Downing Street to, er, Brian and Jennifer’s in The Archers, but it has an irresistible savour of wholesome, homely spreads, shared with a jolly company of friends and family.
The table that is the centrepiece for such gatherings has become a middleclass interiors totem, rivalled only by the Farrow & Ball paint chart and the woodburning stove. And, inspired by our desires, designers have been creating some real gems, from elegant trestles to contemporary farmhouse tables. The classic material for the form is, was and ever more shall be timber.
Paul de Zwart, founder of Another Country and a wizard with wood, explains why he has placed the kitchen table at the heart of his third collection of “contemporary craft” furniture. “It’s where we eat and drink, relax, spend time with family, play games and work. A beautiful kitchen table is a necessity.” This winter he will launch two sublime trestle-style examples in beech and oak, with pops of colour on the legs and edges (available from December; anothercountry.com).
Standouts among the current crop of wooden tables are the pippy oak and steel trestle by Galvin Brothers and Sofas & Stuff’s Chamomile, an oak six-seater with a “waney edge” around the tabletop, like the natural edge of oak boards used for cladding. The firm’s managing director, Andrew Cussins, says: “We’d like our tables to last a hundred years, and for people to be able to dance on them. I want to make things that are going to become family favourites for generations.”
There’s no need to fork our four figures for a handsome design, though. If you aren’t wedded to wood — and can restrain yourself from table dancing — there are stellar examples for less than £500 at Calligaris and Habitat. The autumn interiors collection from Sainsbury’s, which features many new own-brand products, designed by an in-house team, includes the excellent COW, or Contemporary Oak and White, table, with a white MDF tabletop and oak-stained solid birch legs (£199, reduced from £398;sainsburys.co.uk).
While most of the top tables are in natural timber or white, kitchen seating tends to be more colourful. It’s a classic decorator’s device to underline the informality of the kitchen with mismatched chairs, and some of the newer lines, including Normann Copenhagen’s My Chair and Habitat’s Talia, have taken up this idea, with several colour options.
The hottest seats of the moment, available in a range of hues, are the modern windsor range by Sitting Firm, a Coventry-based company that uses traditional steam-bending and turning techniques, and British wood. “We started 24 years ago, with a range of windsor chairs copied from antiques and museums,” says Dave Green, Sitting Firm’s founder. “Then we did our first modern windsor three years ago, when Chris Eckersley suggested that we make some contemporary designs, inspired by the traditional chairs. They just took off.” Six seats from his collection that went into John Lewis in August are already being reordered.
These functional, fresh designs, with just a hint of their country roots, set the perfect tone for a relaxing kitchen supper of, say, Gloucester old spot toad in the hole. Sounds pretty agreeable, doesn’t it? But if all the natural wood and farmer’s market produce winds up making you feel too demographically defined, there’s a simple solution — order a fluorescent Chinese and reach for the remote. There’s nothing like a TV dinner, after all.
Design your own wallpaper and win £1,000
Would-be print designers could see their wallpaper designs in Homebase stores nationwide. The DIY superstore, known for its selection of classic and contemporary papers, is inviting entrants to submit patterns inspired by one of its three key autumn/winter trends: Anthology, which features themes of travel, nature and history; Revival, a softened take on the industrial look, setting muted colours alongside architectural imagery and typography; or Scented Garden, a pretty, romantic, vintage look.
Homebase experts, in collaboration with wallpaper designers from the British manufacturer Graham & Brown, will develop the winning entry to be printed and sold in Homebase stores.
The winner will meet designers at Graham & Brown’s Lancashire studio, and take home 10 rolls of their own wallpaper and £1,000.