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The pub furniture of today reflects many centuries of history. The British pub has origins that go back to Roman times, when people would drop into tabernae for rest, food and drink – usually in the form of wine. These evolved into ale-houses, reflecting the appetites of native Britons, and the pub was born (though it didn’t acquire that title until the 19th century, when “public house” was shortened to “pub”).

Over the centuries the pub has acquired the characteristics that have come to define this uniquely British institution: it is homely, comfortable and welcoming. Twinkling racks of glasses and bottles, glowing fireplaces, colourful beer taps and soft lighting contribute to the atmosphere: this is a place to escape the tribulations of the world outside.

When it comes to furniture, most pubs today echo and channel history in some way; it’s rare to find a pub that is furnished and decorated in an entirely contemporary style. The widespread use of old-world furnishings and fixtures, such as wood panelling and ornate mirrors, adds to the impression that the pub is a world-within-a-world. So what are the historical influences on today’s pub furniture?

 

1: Medieval

The reality for most medieval drinkers was hard and uncomfortable: rough benches, crude tables, or perhaps just barrel tops. Individual chairs were a luxury reserved only for the very wealthy. If a pub were to try to replicate this kind of environment, it would soon go out of business. But the simplicity of medieval furniture is still present in the solid benches and simple wooden tables widely used in pubs. Early pub tables were either boards placed across two barrels, or trestle tables that could be cleared away – a design that is still widely used today.

 

2: Tudor

The Tudor era saw the rise of more decorative furniture, and individual chairs became more widely used, often with ornate carvings; these elements can be seen in some pub furniture today. There was a flurry of pub-building across the UK in the 1920s and 30s, and many of these new pubs echoed the Tudor era with mock-Tudor exteriors and leaded lights. One piece of Tudor-era furniture has influenced today’s pub furniture perhaps more than any other: the settle. This wooden bench is normally placed up against a wall; sometimes it has a high wooden back. In Tudor times, the area beneath the seats might have been used as cupboard space. Trent Furniture’s Killarney settle (pictured below) echoes the classic settle and has the advantage of being moveable.

Pub furniture example in the Tudor style as shown by Trent Furniture's Killarney settle

3: Rustic furniture

Many pubs aim to recreate the atmosphere and ambience of the countryside, with prints of hunting scenes, stuffed animals or specimens of fish in glass cases. Hunting horns and copper pans might be hung from the ceiling or walls. Simple wooden tables and perhaps buttoned leather chairs or deep sofas will add to this rustic scene. It’s seductive, but often entirely fake: most real country pubs will have few of these accoutrements, instead being simple places with an eclectic mix of old and new furniture, plain low ceilings whitewashed walls. Trent Furniture’s Farmhouse table would sit very comfortably here, as would the Windsor chair (see below).

 

4: The Windsor chair

Often found in rural or country-style pubs, these chairs are another classic English design, with origins going back more than 300 years. In the early 18th century, itinerant furniture makers would set up camp near towns and make the chairs from local wood. Developments in wood-bending facilitated design features such as the curved back. Today the Windsor chair is a familiar sight in English pubs: it’s solid and comfortable, especially with the addition of a cushion or two.

 

5: The bistro chair

This design classic dates back to France in the 19th century and the rising popularity of bistro dining among the lower classes. Chairs and tables were often placed outside, leading to demand for chairs that were sturdy but portable. A German-Austrian furniture maker, Michael Thonet, was working on new ways of making bentwood furniture, and created what became the bistro chair, with its curved back and slightly splayed legs. Mass production techniques made these chairs cheap and easy to assemble. Millions are still produced today, and they are widely used in cafés, restaurants and pubs around the world.

Pub furniture and decor in a Victorian pub

6: Victorian

Walk into any pub today, and the chances are that it will be heavily influenced by the Victorian era; many of today’s pubs were built in the 19th century and share similar characteristics: high, moulded ceilings and frosted glass. The furniture often matches this look: cast-iron chairs and tables, heavy wooden stools and dark polished wooden (or marble) table tops have their origins in the 18th and 19th centuries and are still made today. Cast iron furniture was first made in the early 18th century but it became hugely popular in the 19th century thanks to new developments in casting. Towns such as Coalbrookdale became centres of the iron casting industry, and the decorative, scrolled embellishments and lionpaw feet are typical of the era. Trent Furniture’s cast iron Girlshead table is a classic of its kind, based on original Victorian designs, and would look entirely at home in a Dickensian pub.

 

7: Art deco

Pubs that hope to create a cleaner, more modern look might look to the art deco designs of the 1920s and 30s for inspiration: curved steel, leather, chrome, glass and curved wood are typical deco materials. Poseur tables and bar stools in particular can carry strong echoes of the art deco era, with silver or black metallic legs and lacquered table tops, and leather or faux-leather seats. Some pubs built in the 1930s such as The Duke in London’s Bloomsbury (pictured below) have preserved their original interiors almost intact.

8: Midcentury

The period from the 1930s to the 1950s is increasingly seen as a golden age of furniture design, when British-based companies such as Ercol and Scandinavian designers such as Arne Jacobsen used elegant shapes and often natural materials such as blond wood to create furniture that was seen as accessible and democratic. It has perhaps influenced restaurant and café furniture more than pub furniture, but midcentury design can be seen in some bar stools and chairs.

 

9: The picnic table

And finally, this ubiquitous design – which can be found in almost every pub garden in the country – has fascinating origins. It started life as a portable, collapsible table designed in the early 19th century in the US. Americans were becoming increasingly mobile and they wanted to camp and picnic in the newly popular national parks: this table was ideal, being stable when erected but also portable. Unfortunately, as they moved around, the newly mobile park-lovers caused damage to trees and shrubs, and fire was also a risk. So it was proposed that heavier, anchored picnic tables would be provided at picnicking and camping sites along designated trails, encouraging campers and picnickers to stay within certain areas. And so, in America in the 1930s, the picnic table as we now know it was born – a design classic that most people wouldn’t give a second thought to when sitting at it.

 

If you would like to give your pub a traditional look your customers will love, check out our latest range of quality pub furniture.

 

For that all-important first impression, attractive table tops are a vital asset. No matter how good the food is at your restaurant, pub or café, customers can easily be put off by old, worn down tables that don’t reflect the overall aesthetic of the establishment. After a long summer that no doubt saw you bustling with customers, now is the perfect time to refresh these tables to ensure business stays booming well into the autumn and winter.

However, this doesn’t mean that you need to buy all-new expensive tables; at Trent Furniture, our range of table tops offer a cost-effective solution to easily update your existing dining furniture. Designed specifically for contract use, our table tops meet all the necessary requirements for use within business premises, while our wide selection of styles, colours, and sizes means we can cater to all kinds of specific needs.

What to consider before buying your new table tops

As with most elements of your business, when choosing your new table tops it is important to not only think about how they will look but also how they will be used.

What size table tops do you need? Think about how many tables you want to fit into the intended space, and how many people you want to be able to seat. Depending on the size of your business, you may wish to have either a larger quantity of smaller tables or a small quantity of larger tables.

Who will be using your tables? Think about how your tables can be best suited to their intended users. For example, if your business caters largely to children and families, you may want to choose a table top more resistant to wear and tear, such as one with reinforced or rounded edges.

Our range of table tops

There's a wealth of choice available in our range of table tops. In this section, we look at the benefits of each table top on offer.

Solid wood table tops

Our solid wood table tops are made of durable, solid hardwood, with 28mm thickness and a large range of square, rectangular, and circular sizes. We have light oak, dark oak, and walnut finishes available, each with a clear acid-catalysed lacquer coating. These table tops are perfect for both modern and classic styles, providing a neutral base for any décor.

Veneer table tops

Our veneer table tops consist of 18mm thick particleboard with real oak veneer and hardwood edges, providing additional protection and blending seamlessly into the table’s surface. These tops are also veneered on the underside to avoid warping. With a range of sizes available, we supply veneer tops in dark oak, light oak, and walnut finishes, with a clear polyurethane lacquer coating.

The design of veneer table tops means they are a lightweight option, making them ideal for spaces where you may often be rearranging your furniture to adapt to different needs.

Laminate table tops

Our laminate table tops are made of a 27mm thick particleboard core, with a high-pressure laminate finish and black ABS plastic edging. These table tops are incredibly hard-wearing and reversible, making them long-lasting and great value for money, starting at just £26.90. Our laminate table tops are available in mahogany, walnut, light oak, and black, and are particularly suited for use in more contemporary spaces.

Melamine table tops

With a 21mm thick MDF centre covered with a melamine surface, melamine table tops are our most affordable option, starting at only £18.90 each. While cheaper than the other table tops, these are still extremely durable and attractive, available in both light and dark oak.

If you are planning on replacing your chairs as well as your tables, our light oak melamine table tops are an exact colour match to some of our wooden dining chairs, including the Remo and the Roma.

Solid oak table tops

Our solid oak table tops offer a more premium quality product than others in our collection, with a thickness of 38mm making these table tops incredibly durable and strong. These eco-friendly tops are available with either an unstained, raw finish or a light oak, dark oak, or walnut stain.

While these are the most expensive of our table tops, Trent Furniture are proud to offer the lowest UK price for solid oak tops.

American diner table tops

Our American diner table tops consist of a hard-wearing laminate surface with ribbed metal edging, available in both black and red, and a range of either square, circular, or rectangular sizes. These table tops match perfectly with our full American diner range, including booths, benches, and barstools, allowing you to create a fully authentic-looking American diner style restaurant.

 

With almost 60 years of experience, here at Trent Furniture we are committed to providing the best quality products possible, meaning our table tops are all made to the highest standard. Take a look at our full range of table tops here, and place your order today. To find out more about how we can help you update your table tops, give us a call on 01162 864911 or email sales@pubfurnitureuk.co.uk.

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