Dining tables are a central part of any home. Families gather around them regularly to bond, share their day, and create memories together. Depending on your personal style and taste, you can choose from many different styles of tables, but if you’re looking for something unique and eye-catching, you can choose a refectory table. But what is a refectory table and how can you make it fit into the theme of your home?
This is a short guide on what you need to know about refectory tables.
What EXACTLY is a Refectory Table?
A refectory table is a type of dining table that was originally used in European monasteries during the Middle Ages. The table got its name because the dining room in a monastery is called a refectory. Its large space and width allowed groups of monks or priests to come together for communal dining. Over time, it became popular in large residences such as abbeys or castles. Royalty and noblemen would use these tables for feasts and banquets, particularly for important occasions such as weddings, birthdays, or to receive important visiting dignitaries.
Refectory tables are generally made from oak. They have solid and thick cylindrical legs as well as a low stretcher that hugs the floor. Due to its design, refectory tables were stable and durable, which would eventually lead to the table becoming a long-standing classic. Today, you can find any antique refectory tables in parts of Europe particularly Spain, England, France, Italy, and Germany.
The Refectory Table in the Modern Home
If you want to bring a refectory table into your home, there are two themes that you can choose from:
Bring an “Old World” feel into your dining room by decorating your space in a traditional look. Choose either gray stone walls for a streamlined design or go for clean and bare white walls that will give a stark contrast to your refectory table. If you have space and budget for it, hang a wrought-iron chandelier above your table; this will make you feel like you’re dining in a refectory just like monks did in the Middle Ages! To simulate the soft and warm light given off by candles, you can install dimmer switches.
If you want a more contemporary look using a refectory table, you can opt for a “cozy farmhouse” theme. Refectory tables are great to match with this theme because they have a natural and rustic look, and farmhouse meals feature the same sense of community and group dining that’s perfect with refectory tables. Large kitchens with flagstone flooring and wooden décor pair well with the chunky and solid design of a refectory table. If possible, place the table near a window that lets in a lot of natural light to highlight the ornate construction of the table.
Matching Your Refectory Table with Chairs
Finding the right chairs for your table will depend on the theme that you chose. If you went with the traditional look, nothing could beat an oak bench! You and your family will enjoy sitting together around your refectory table, dining just like monks during the Middle Ages. What’s more, both the refectory table and the oak bench feature a patina that will age well through the years. As the patina darkens, the dining set will acquire an antique look that will add value to the table and bench.
If you went for the farmhouse look, a set of Windsor chairs is perfect for your refectory table. You can only opt for other chairs with high backs such as spindle back or ladderback chairs. Make sure that the chairs are also made from oak so that they will match the table in appearance. As much as possible, make sure to stain the chairs in the same hue as your refectory table so that it looks like one complete set.
Brand New vs. Antiques: Which is Better?
Now you need to choose between brand new or antique refectory tables.
If you’re lucky enough to find antique refectory tables for sale that fit your budget, go for it! You’ll need to inspect the table personally to ensure the quality of the table as not all antiques have been taken care of through the years. Often, there’s only a fine line between looking like an antique and just looking old. You should also bring along an expert who knows how to look at antiques because there’s always a chance that your “antique” table was just made a few months ago and deliberately distressed to look old!
If you don’t have the time or the budget to buy an antique refectory table, you can opt to purchase one brand new. There’s nothing wrong with buying a refectory table new because you can be assured of the quality and durability. They are also cheaper compared to genuine antiques! If you still want your refectory table to have that “antique” look, you can request that the maker use distressing techniques such as staining the table to artificially darken the patina. Some people might even prefer having a refectory table made from scratch because they can decide on the pattern or design.
How do I Tell if My Refectory Table is Authentic?
If you come across a refectory table that being sold as an antique and you’re unsure of its authenticity, there are small signs that you can look out for, such as:
Refectory tables that were built before the 18th century used wooden pegs to hold the pieces together. If you see modern screws, it’s a possible sign that the table is not an antique.
- Saw Marks
Look at the saw marks on the table. Precise saw marks usually mean that the table was made in the 19th century or later. Evenly spaced but angular saw marks suggest that it was made during the 17th to 18th century, while irregular and coarse saw marks suggest it was made in the 16th century.
These marks can be difficult to spot and analyze if you don’t have experience in dating antiques so if you’re going to be spending a lot of money on your refectory table, it makes sense to invest in an experienced and trustworthy antiques appraisal expert as well. Find out more about tables.
So, what is a refectory table? Basically, it’s a kind of long, low-lying table that’s perfect for large families or groups that love to eat as a community. Refectory tables are great for fostering a strong bond between people and creating close-knit groups. If you love sharing meals with your family, why not do them in style? Get a refectory table for your home, today!