The skirted table: making a comeback?

Or did it never really leave?

I was surprised to read a short article in praise of the table skirt in today’s Wall Street Journal. Former Domino dynamo Sara Ruffin Costello confesses that she has dragged one from apartment to apartment, changing covers as she goes.

Sara Ruffin Costello table skirt
The Wall Street Journal, April 16-17, 2011

Ms. Costello declares that, “The strong dose of fabric balances rooms that have a lot of leggy furniture and goes with any kind of interior design scheme…”

Rectangular skirted table
Nicky Haslam, designer; photo by Simon Upton in The Wall Street Journal

She’s right, of course.

I have to confess that  I’ve always pooh-poohed the skirted table. When someone says, “table skirt,” I think round, ruffly, conservative, flowered, and, well, kind of ’80s.

Flowered skirted table

By Vicki Daeley

Yes. Kind of like that.

It’s hard to explain, but a skirted table felt like a cop-out. Don’t know what to do in the corner? Let’s put a skirted table there w/ a lamp on it and all those extra family pictures! And tchochkes! And heck, a few small books lying on their sides!

But a year or so ago I remember taking a long hard look at a picture of rectangular sideboard cloaked in white cotton duck in a quirky, white room. (Was it in Apartment Therapy? Metropolitan Home? I can’t find it now.) It looked so modern. And fresh.

Table skirt

Palmer Weiss in the blog, La Dolce Vita

Ms. Ruffin is absolutely right about the softening, grounding effect amidst a skirt in a sea of furniture legs. When a room craves fabric – even a contemporary room – my first instinct is tall, simple, ring-top drapes…

table skirt

Tom Scheerer in the blog, So Haute

But maybe I should consider a skirted table instead.

Table skirt dining room

Via Gretchen Leigh Clark Interiors' blog

I’ll keep it tailored and straight, which probably means that the round skirted table will continue to elude me, unless my fabricator knows Tom Scheerer’s.

Am I the only one who has shunned – unfairly – the skirted table? Do weigh in. I’m curious.

Annie Elliott – aka bossy color – is an interior decorator and design blogger in Washington, D.C. She has been quoted in publications from The Washington Post to Real Simple and is considered an expert on color, residential space planning, and telling people what to do in the nicest way possible.


  1. says

    I love the “New” Skirted tables. Especiaily with the knife pleats and ribbon trim.

    A fgeat way to incorporate a fabulous piece of fabric.

    Came over from Stefans, so nice to meet you!

    Come over and enter my fashionable Giveaway from The French Basketeer…

    Art by Karena

  2. says

    I have a seamstress that makes fitted “slipcovered” tablecloths, so I am all into them now. I’ve been able to transform some pretty ugly tables/ottomans, or at least provide a seasonal change when a pick-me-up is needed. I think it’s all about the style they are done in – the flouncy ones with the HUGE weighted piping at the bottom and the square toppers are definitely dated. Love the clean-lined ones, the ones with uber-chic fabrics, and even the layered ruffled ones.

  3. Holly says

    I love the look from La Dolce Vita – sleek and modern and great pattern on that skirt. It’s a great way to hide a few items that you don’t want out on display!

  4. flyingcarrot says

    So glad to read this, Annie. I just did a tailored linen skirt for a straight edge table…well, it was actually a plank on top of a butt-ugly base. Now looks FAB with a very textured linen skirt. It really does help to break up lots of legs, and putting it under glass allows a different material for a table top instead of metal, wood or stone. Nice trend-spotting!

  5. says

    I haven’t done a skirted table in a long time, but I just seem to have forgotten about them. I think they’d be ok with more modern fabrics than we used to use in the 90s (which is when I did mine).

  6. says

    I have had a skirted table as my dining room table for 15 years and I am done!! It’s always been the right size for every place I’ve lived in so I’ve never changed it, but it’s happening now. I do like the skirted buffet though, this post has me thinking maybe I need one in my new dining room (without the skirted table).
    Great post Annie!

  7. says

    Don’t mind the square skirted table but really not into the circular ones….. look kind of granny to me. My friend is renting a home where she isn’t allowed to remove a broken wall heater and she’s put fabric over it to make it look like a skirted table and I have to admit that it really does look good. As long as they’re not cluttered and there’s no lace: then, yeh, I guess that it can work……. :)

  8. Angela N says

    I love them! And made one out of some scrap wood I found (in the garbage). I made mine a plain white cover and tried it with some red trim but the trim was not right. I ended up taking it off and love it! It sits up against my stair wall as a landing strip by the front door. It also hides my hubby’s lovely Guitar Hero drums. lol Where are you supposed to store those things anyways??

  9. says

    I have only ever had the round ones from back in the bad old days. I retired them to storage years ago. I must confess that I always thought the rectangular variety were still very much in use and acceptable. But maybe that just means that I look at the Ballard catalog too often. :)

    That round one by Tom Sheerer is has me a little obsessed.

  10. Mary says

    I think a skirted rectangular table makes the perfect desk in a home office. The skirt hides all the ugly computer cords.

  11. says

    You know, I was thinking about that! It does seem like a good solution to the cord conundrum. Would a man go for that, though? And how much “skirt” do you leave hanging down on your (the chari) side of the table? Inquiring minds! Thanks for the comment, Mary!

  12. Mary says

    I’m sure a man would go for it if it was a SHORT skirt. HA!
    Now that I got that out of my system…For the chair side…maybe have a split in the skirt. Or be able to pull the fabric to the side.
    In the picture of the table by Palmer Weiss, he doesn’t have the chair pulled in. Looks good in the photo but most people would want to push the chair in. I personally wouldn’t mind having the fabric across my lap while working at a desk like that. To me it’s no different than sitting at a dining table covered in a table cloth.

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