Retro faux python table at Donna
Parker Habitat in Water Mill.
This tree trunk side table is for sale at Homenature in Southampton.
No one smokes anymore, but the once wildly popular “cigarette table” has stormed back into vogue.
The cigarette table, as one would guess by its name, once played pedestal to the ashtray. Before the 1980s, no well-dressed “chamber” could be without the ubiquitous ashtray or cigarette table. You simply were not considered a thoughtful host unless stylish ashtrays were scattered about your living room, entry, library and guest room.
Back in the day, ashtrays were always available for the man who would “walk a mile for a Camel” or for a Virginia Slims lady who had “come a long way baby” (a long way from what, I always wondered).
I sometimes miss the ever-present ashtrays, as formidable creative energy was expended on the invention and reinvention of these once-all-but-too-common objects. Fantasies from Murano, restraint from Stockholm, elegance from Paris and fine tradition from England all were applied to this singular object you were supposed to just flick an ash into. Some were so beautiful they appeared as a religious devotional to the once chic and sexy habit of destroying your lungs.
Now relegated to use as candy and nut dishes, these sculptural receptacles have passed primarily into the hands of curio dealers and small object vendors, often hidden away or placed second-tier to the more glamorous present. But the table on which the ashtrays were displayed have returned to high style.
The cigarette table, with its tiny surface once useful for only an ashtray, is now the furnishing of the moment upon which no collection can possibly lavish enough attention. So much so that the cigarette table is frequently found to be the designer’s signature piece.
This flexible, generally light, and mobile table has multiple uses and, because of its diminutive size, multiple locations are swift to be discovered.
Foremost, the cigarette table—which is generally 18 to 20 inches tall and no larger than 18 inches square—sits perfectly aside the current club chairs, which thankfully have started to shrink in scale. Small in scale, the cigarette table does not crowd a pathway, but sits quite sculpturally amid the traffic allowing it to effortlessly glide by.
As you casually place your mug of coffee, glass of sparkling water, or flute of Prosecco down, the height of these tables is in the perfect position to elegantly accept your beverage.
Second, the cigarette table solves the issue of club chairs sometimes squeezed awkwardly too close for comfort. Placed in between, this mini table says, “I’ll make your club chairs breathe a little, but I won’t stifle your intimate going on.”
Round cigarette tables are perfect between two swivel chairs. No bumping into corners when you reach for the popcorn.
Third, several cigarette tables are a clever option to the clunky coffee table in that they allow for freedom of movement in between without having to circumvent that engorged mass anchored like the Rock of Gibraltar in front of your sofa or sectional. In addition, with the pervasive installation of home theatres and media rooms, this small table allows for an individual drinks and snacks table for every viewer.
The cigarette table is popping up outdoors in the guise of garden stools, teak cubes and stone plinths. These small tables are also useful between bulky outdoor chaise lounges and perfect for a tube of sun cream, Diet Coke and a trashy novel while soaking up the rays.
With little expense and a great deal of style, this petite table can deliver a powerhouse effect, especially when placed against a backdrop of to-the-floor upholstery. And likewise, if the cigarette table has volume, it often solves the weight issue of a room filled with tippy-toe furniture legs.
The antiques store, Donna Parker Habitat in Water Mill, features a hammered steel tripod cigarette table with a glass top that could modernize any living space, along with a wonderfully retro faux python table in black and cream. Also offered is a pair of Japanese inspired garden stools, perfect as side cigarette tables for your Zen spa with multiple divans.
Croft Antiques in Southampton has imported several chic African pieces—for instance, an Ashanti stool I’d ride alongside my Le Corbusier-style lounge chair and a Mali-made West African table that was hollowed out of one tree trunk with sweet images of jackals (if jackals can ever be sweet!). There are also elaborately carved teak and ivory inlaid mogul-style tables, collapsible so as to be completely portable. The Nancy Corzine shop in Southampton has acquired a tripod nickel table with mirrored top that spells glamour with a French capital “G.” Imagine this in your breezy cabana.
H Groome, also in Southampton, showcases a Belgian take on this little accessory table: a greiged teak cube, a bluestone plinth and a pickled grey rattan ottoman that seem to breathe the ocean air. I long for their Italian calf skin cubistic/origami stool, fine to sit on but ever so much better to place a small dish of polenta canapés.
Southampton-based Homenature retros it up with a “Palm Beachy” unmatched pair of glazed white china elephant and camel cigarette tables—invented of course to rest alongside your bleached rattan furniture. A stout gnarly tree trunk brings “Lord of the Rings” mystery to your family room; and the textural woven basket could accept your bowl of blue corn chips any day. Homenature’s lacy white barrels could also fit swimmingly beside your wicker rockers, a perfect cool resting place for that fresh midsummer mojito.
Comerford Hennessy in Bridgehampton has designed and built a number of wonderful wood, glass and metal side tables, definitely to be considered for today’s sleek modernist interiors. I always admire their take on natural woods, blown glass, metals and lacquers. Their wares are so befitting the Hamptons state of mind.
In short, these are but a handful of the East End’s purveyors of cigarette tables, the now popular format of the diminutive side table. Without making a large dent in your pocketbook, the presence of a unique, sculptural or eccentric cigarette table could be just the addition to your environment that takes it from bland to beautiful!
Marshall Watson is a nationally recognized interior and furniture designer who lives and works in the Hamptons and New York City. Reach him at 105 West 72nd Street, Suite 9B, New York, NY 10023.
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