Wednesday, March 4, 2015


The table shown below is a coffee table. Duh.

It's also a work of art, also sold to a private collector, and also once belonged to James Mayer de Rothschild. No, not the kid who just had the Bar Mitzvah (I took one of the flower arrangements...Gorgeous!) This masterpiece belonged to the French-German banker who founded the French branch of the Rothschild family. It's also conservatively valued at well over $175,000 USD... so you and I couldn't afford it anyhow. I'm just glad I got the flower arrangement (which would actually look very smart on this table):

The top of this table is circa 19th century and was created by the renowned 19th c. masters, the Falcini Brothers. The base was designed and created by C. Mariani Custom Workshop.

But the BIG QUESTION still remains "How high should a coffee table be, Buzz?"- ah yes, that eternal and imponderable question that has plagued mankind for millennia.

Which is understandable because the question "How High the Coffee Table?" is almost as baffling as "How High the Moon?" But that question was already asked back in 1951 by Les Paul and Mary Ford in the first recording ever to feature an electric guitar (I swear!) and became a huge hit for them. Listen for yourself (it's really fantastic!):

BTW, the correct answer is that the moon is 238,900 miles high -- that's just a tad high for a coffee table.

Now that I think about it, if  Les and Mary were smart they would have recorded "How High the Coffee Table?" That baby would have gone PLATINUM. Plus it's so much easier to calculate than the moon thing. And besides, who cares about the moon's height anyhow? Well, Buzz Aldrin but I think he's dead. I should have said deceased. Sounds less dead and more sensitive. Whatever.

Sold but extraordinary because the top stone mosaic is 15th c. Roman

Anyhow, what I want to know (just to prove my point about moon height) is this: Has coffee EVER been served on the moon? Of course not! Why? Isn't it obvious? Because there isn't a single coffee table on the lunar surface!  Duh. And to make matters even weirder, the knuckleheads at NASA are so clueless they only allow TANG to be served on the moon. No wonder no one goes there anymore.

Um, where was I? Oh yeah, coffee tables: A coffee table should be around 18 inches high. But it depends...

The exact coffee table height you need can be affected by the seating surrounding the table as well as the purpose you see the table fulfilling. For example, if you're a board gamer, you'll want the table higher than 18" so people don't have to hunch over to play.

We also create a lot of custom coffee tables at C. Mariani with heights that range from a low of 14" to a high of 26". Test the right height for your needs by sitting on your sofa or club chair and reach for an imaginary Tang cocktail and see where your hand feels comfortable. But 18" is the average.

A Rare English Blue John Stone Coffee Table I sold a few years ago

Factoid you should know: coffee tables weren't invented until the 1920's! Why not? I have no idea and I'm not your mommie! Ugh-I think I have Mommie issues. But the point is that anyone offering you an "antique coffee table" is shady as hell and you should run for the nearest exit. The closest you can get to an antique coffee table is an antique top (like a scagliola, pietra dure, mosaic or marquetry panel) inset into a later base (or an antique table that's had its legs "tipped," meaning the legs were cut down at some point to take the height down and render it pretty worthless as an antique.)

Here are some antique coffee table tops with later bases created by C. Mariani (in our descriptions of tables like these, we specifically call out that they have "later" bases--that's the proper way to do it):

No. 3332

No. 1063

No. 2457

SO PICK UP THE PHONE AND ACT NOW! Call 415 541 7868 - that's 415 541 7868!!! The first 3 lucky callers will get absolutely nothing! :)


Unknown said...

Just curious, is there some common reason why the tops of the coffee tables have survived but the bases haven't? Who would intentionally go around sawing off table legs on antiques?

Unknown said...

Oh, nevermind. I somehow scrolled past the paragraph that explains the answer. Got it.

Robin said...

Thanks Buzz, I shared this on my FB page!

Nina Chiappa said...

Hi Buzz,
I enjoyed reading your coffee table height article. I didn’t know you had such a great sense of humor!

Unknown said...

Hi Nina, thanks for the kind words. Yeah, I'm a regular laugh riot. :) Looking forward to your next visit to the gallery! Buzz

David Duncan Livingston said...


Riana said...

Hi Buzz,
Loved this article - probably one of my favorites! Informative and funny as usual. Enjoyed the inclusion of the song...will have to add it to my spotify! :) Riana

Anonymous said...

I LOVE TANG. Do you know where I can get it? Thanks. Rob from Ohio.

Unknown said...

Thanks David. Yup, 22" certainly works as well. At our workshop we make custom coffee tables as low as 14" right up to a height of 26" -so the range is wide and depends on whether you're a "little person" (like myself and don't call me a midget! I hate that), Seth Curry of the Golden State Warriors (Go Warriors! I went to the game last Sunday and they are amazing!) and whether you have tiny tots or not. 18" is just the height that works for most of the clients who commission us to make a custom table--this height works for the tots as well as for vertically challenged adults like me (I'm 5'5" tall today, but was 5'7" in high school, so I'm shrinking annually--kind of like the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy hit her with the water bucket)--the only difference is I'm not wicked or a witch, and why am I even writing this nonsense? :) Ha! Buzz

Suzanna Allen said...

Buzz this is a great post! Very few people realize that the coffee table is a fairly new invention. Probably taking the place of the tea table of the past.
It was good of you to point out the information about the height. I think almost any height works depending on the surrounding seating and the use of the table...rarely for coffee. Suzanna Allen

Suzanna Allen said...

Buzz this is a great post. Very few people realize that the coffee table is a fairly new invention.
Probably taking the place of the tea table of the past.
It was good of you to point out the information about the height. I think almost any height works depending on the surrounding seating and the use of the table...rarely for coffee.
Suzanna Allen

Lisa Imhoff said...

Hi Buzz,
This was a really interesting article on coffee tables.Thanks!

Paul Vincent Wiseman said...

Loved this post. One thought for your readers to consider-if you want something that is truly and completely antique to serve as your coffee table... Like I did...My coffee table is a 500 year old Chinese Ming period scholars desk... Just the right height at about 20"!!!......:)

Unknown said...

Paul you scamp! Of course you found the needle in the antique haystack! And having sat around your perfectly perfect 500 year old coffee table on many a fun-filled evening, I'm pea green with envy! The last time I visited your home I tried to stuff the table under my jacket and, uh, relocate it to my house. But alas, it made me look bloated. By the way, for those who want to see this extraordinary and rare 'coffee table,' get Paul's marvelous book, "Inner Spaces" on Amazon. The table can be seen on the cover and it's truly a treasure to behold. Thanks Paul! B.

Brenda Mickel said...

thank you for your interesting blog. Loved the musical bit included.