Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sharp Card Tables

My friend Jean and I were recently discussing card tables. While she wishes she had one, I wish that mine wasn't quite so mundane. A collapsible thing that I purchased ages ago from Kmart, the table is far, far from chic. Thank goodness for card-table covers.

While chic card tables do exist, I can't imagine that there are as many being produced today as there were back in the early-to-middle part of last century. Back then, playing cards was what one did. There were tame afternoon card games played by the ladies, while evening card games, often dressed-up, coed affairs, were, more likely than not, accompanied by libations and a cigarette or two.

As I was recently flipping through Emily Genauer's 1939 Modern Interiors: Today and Tomorrow, I was reminded of the attention people once paid to the equipment of gracious living, including card tables.  Based on images in this book and others, I'd say that card tables were considered to be almost as important to the home as sofas and dining chairs.  And these were not your run-of-the-mill card tables, either.  Considering the Thirties was a decade in which new and novel materials for the home were frequently touted, many card tables were made of unique and interesting materials, such as crystal.

Below, you can see the modern card tables- and their modern surroundings- that caught Genauer's eye.  And since drinking and smoking went hand-in-glove with card playing, you'll also see a smattering of bars and one very stylish smoking room.

Image at top: A 1933 card game that included Mrs. Edward J. Mathews, Mrs. Charles P. Grimes, Miss Gladys Livermore, and Mr. John Wheelwright.

"A gaming corner and bar" that was part of the Belgian Exposition at the Paris Exposition of Arts.  Note the drinks shelves that were built in to the table's legs.  Also, look at the floor, beyond the table, and you'll see the card motif that was part of the rug's design.

Also at the Exposition was this "stunt game room" whose walls, floor, and chairs were made of porcelain.  Note the playing card motifs on the back wall.  The color scheme was gray, white, and apricot.  Genauer suggested that this room should have been labeled, "for phlegmatic players only."

Perhaps more gaming than card table, this version, featured in an unidentified American model room, was made of crystal.  The top was constructed of two pieces of crystal, which were separated by four crystal balls.  The top tier's gaming board was marked by alternating squares of mirror and etched glass.  Even the globe holder was made of crystal.  Both pieces were designed by Vicovari.

A room at what I believe was the Paris Exposition.  Everything one could want for a night of entertainment was here, including a card table and, as Genauer made an effort to point out, a ledge at the base of the bookshelf on which one could display a lamp and smoking accessories.

A game room replete with King and Queen panel and guitar-motif curtains.

A home bar, which seems as good a place as any in which to play a game of cards.  Genauer advocated this type of modern private bar, warning readers about those that resembled "a garish night-club or an English tap-room," which Genauer deemed undesirable and inappropriate.

"Apparently of much greater importance to the French in their bars than the liquor itself and the facilities for preparing it, are a beautiful setting and a most comfortable sofa so one may relax while sipping." Hence, this luxurious smoking room, intended for sipping and smoking.

All photos from Modern Interiors: Today and Tomorrow by Emily Genauer


  1. Also notice the gorgeous chandelier in the room with the crystal card table - lit by dark-colored candles I might add. Pure glamour.

    1. Yes! I think Rose Cumming would have approved. ;)

  2. Anonymous11:54 AM

    Oh my gosh Jennifer, the King and Queen panel reminds me so much of my parents home that was built in the early 70's. We had a bi-level home with a floating stairway like on the Brady Bunch, only ours went down to a fairly large family room which had four doors. My Uncle was a commercial artist, so he painted each door as one of the "aces." On the door to the courtyard, he painted the very detailed Ace of Spades, and in the center he painted the initial of our last name. My parents lived in that house for 40 years until they passed, and they never changed those doors. Sadly, I don't believe we have any photos of them. On my last visit to the house before it sold, I tried taking a picture of the "Spade" door, but my cell phone at the time had an awful camera (back in 2011), so it didn't come out very well. Thank you so much for bringing back the wonderful memories, not only of my parents, but of my dear (and very talented) Uncle as well.

  3. Everything about these rooms is gorgeous. Billy Haines was famous for his games tables. Now, we only need a place to rest our elbows for our thumbs to work our cellphones more efficiently. Thanks. Mary

  4. Love the integrated drinks shelves! My Edwardian card table is the perfect desk, it folds neatly in half for when I've got occasional correspondence. But when a deadline calls, I open it up so I can spread my things out. It's such a versatile piece of furniture I've never regretted buying. I shunt it all around the flat for drinks parties, photoshoots etc.

  5. I'm lucky to have inherited two of those lively folding wood card tables and the matching chairs that folded into a square and could be stacked. I think that Scully &Scully, that bastion NYC store (and catalog) of all the accouterments of gracious living, still sells them.

  6. Didn't Isaac Mizrahi has a really sharp custom card table made in the movie Unzipped?