The Perfect Parsons Table

via Design Manifest

via Design Manifest

Once coined the “Gap pocket tee” of American interior design, few pieces have retained their stylish stronghold as much as the Parsons table. Its straightforward, boxy design features substantial, square legs with a top of the same thickness. Brutally simple, the Parsons table melds effortlessly into most any aesthetic.

Despite its reference to the iconic American clothing staple, the Parsons table is actually a French creation. Designer Jean-Michel Frank was lecturing in the 1930’s at the Paris branch of Parsons School of Design when he tasked his students to “design a table so basic that it would retain its integrity whether sheathed in gold leaf, mica, parchment, split straw or painted burlap, or even left robustly unvarnished”.

One student, who was never identified, designed the simple table, which was originally called the T-square table. A handyman janitor at Parsons in New York brought the French student’s design to fruition by building the piece. The table was exhibited at a student show and quickly became popular with designers and architects, who had the table custom-made for clients.  It wasn’t until the early 1960’s when two furniture companies, Mount Airy and Directional, first manufactured the Parsons table.

Many knock-offs have ensued since, transferring the design to function as desks, dining tables, side tables and console tables.  Depending on how they’re finished, matte or glossy, neutral or bright, a Parsons table will either make a punch or serenely blend with other pieces, including antiques. It’s also a great choice for tight spaces.

Check out a few favorites:

via Feldman Architecture

via Feldman Architecture

via Vanillawood

via Vanillawood

via indulgy.com

via indulgy.com

via Dayka Robinson Design

via Dayka Robinson Design

via Kate Collins Interiors

via Kate Collins Interiors

via Katie Ridder Rooms

via Katie Ridder Rooms

via Balance  Associates Architects

via Balance Associates Architects

via Tina Fussell

via Tina Fussell

via Holly Marder

via Holly Marder

This Parsons style dining table harmonizes perfectly with modern and antique furniture.

via Fougeron Architecture

 

Thank you to Mitchell Owens of the New York Times for historical information on the design of the Parsons table from his June 8, 2006 article, “Dying for a Parson’s Table”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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