A Buyer's Guide to antique pembroke tables and sofa tables
Pembroke and sofa tables were highly fashionable pieces of furniture in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In fact in Jane Austen's unfinished 1803-4 novel "The Watson's" a pembroke table is described as functioning as a tea-table: 'peoples arranged with all the honours of visiting round the fire, and Miss Watson seated at the best Pembroke table, with the best tea-things before her'.
Antique pembroke and sofa tables can be used as occassional tables for tea-drinking, eating, writing or card playing and when they are no longer needed can be easily tucked away in a corner of a living room. It is easy to distinguish between the two types as antique pembroke tables have two flaps on their side whereas antique sofa tables are usually longer in length and have end flaps. In both tables these flaps are normally supported on hinged wooden brackets called lopers that swivel out to support the extending top.
Pembroke tables began to surface in the 1760s and by 1778 they appear in the New English Dictionary. According to Thomas Sheraton the name supposedly derives from the Countess of Pembroke 'who first gave orders for one of them, and who probably gave the first idea of such a table to the workmen'. Antique pembroke tables are generally rectangular in shape such as this lovely Georgian pillar and claw mahogany pembroke table . The top is crossbanded in satinwood and strung in ebony and box, with a frieze drawer, raised on a spiral stem on swept reeded legs.
Antique pembroke tables are very clean cut and elegant in their design, they normally have one drawer and a dummy drawer to the rear. It is incredibly rare to find a pair of pembroke tables, at Reindeer we have this handsome pair of Regency mahogany pembroke tables. With highly figured tops retaining good patina and side flaps, above a frieze drawer, raised on turned legs that terminate in brass casters. These would be a lovely addition to any bedroom or living room interior as bedside tables or end tables for a sofa.
As we have seen most antique pembroke tables are normally rectangular in shape, however if you can manage to find an oval-shaped pembroke table it will be much more valuable. This is a particularly fine example of a Sheraton satinwood pembroke table with elegant square tapered legs and a well-figured top double banded in tulipwood.
Antique sofa tables evolved from pembroke tables and they soon superseded them. Sofa tables were specifically designed to be placed directly in front of a sofa in order to serve tea or for writing. Early sofa tables will have a high stretcher uniting the end support legs but as the Nineteenth Century progressed this stretcher dropped down to ankle height. Antique sofa tables tend to be rectangular in form, with rounded corners and are often fitted with drawers on either side of the frieze. Shallow from front to back, they are longer and generally more expensive than pembroke tables.
Later examples are raised on a centre pillar with splayed legs as can be seen in this fine Regency period rosewood sofa table which is raised on a gilded ball stem terminating in four elegantly swept legs with lion paw casters. This antique sofa table forms part of a suite of Regency furniture with a pair of antique card tables.
Antique pembroke and sofa tables have always been very fashionable thanks to their distinctive shape, design and versatility. They would add a touch of elegance to any living room or drawing room.