A Brief History of Nesting Tables



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Of course, every furniture design comes from somewhere, but it’s rarer to have such definable origins as that possessed by nesting tables (among other things, of course).

When you own nesting tables, you own a piece of traceable design history; a history very specific, despite legions of copycats. And, what else could one expect? When a design that good comes along it’s only natural for others to try and improve upon it – or just straight-up steal it.

Before Bauhaus

As we’ve discussed in previous posts, “Bauhaus” refers to an art school that achieved such influence that it quickly became a school of thought in itself. Staatliches Bauhaus was founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius in Weimar, Germany, and now the name alone is synonymous with modern and mid-century design.

But, before all that there was Thomas Sheraton. In his day, Sheraton was considered one of the most influential furniture designers in all of England, and in 1791 he published The Cabinet Maker's and Upholsterer's Drawing Book, which contained schematics for making what is now called a “quartetto table.”

The quartetto was, as you might imagine, a set of four wood nesting tables and was very popular in 19th century England. Of course, it’s unlikely Sheraton had the first idea for the nesting table, considering the history of furniture-making stretches far beyond the two centuries since Sheraton’s time, but his Drawing Book is one of the earliest tomes to document it.

Bauhaus Buzz

There’s no doubt that Sheraton spurred the popularity of nesting tables with his book and superior design skills, but it was the combination of improved global communication and powerful influence of Bauhaus designers in the early 20th century that arguably put the table design on the map.

Specifically, it was Bauhaus alumni Marcel Breuer and Josef Albers who put nesting tables, as we know them now, in the limelight. Working in different mediums (Breuer in metal, Albers in wood), both designers put forth nesting-table designs that would go on to shape their place in the furniture market, even to this day.

Nesting Tables, Now

Now you can find nesting tables of all types in all materials, and with varying numbers of tables per set. Breuer’s and Albers’s designs, undoubtedly influenced by Sheraton, both contained four tables to a set. These days, though, it’s common to find two-piece and three-piece nesting tables as well.

Whichever you prefer, take comfort in knowing your nesting tables have a long and storied history; a story of which you are now a part.

Holly & Martin riffs on classic nesting table design with this circular two-piece set in vivid orange. 

These top-rated wood nesting tables from Office Star blend traditional design with modern utility. 

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