A brief history of “Opium Tables”
Tables referred to as “opium tables” typically earned that name due to their association with opium dens. Opium tables were specifically designed for and used in these places.
Tracing the origins:
Although the history reaches back to ancient civilizations in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and other regions, the culture of opium dens became prominent in China during the 17th century then spread to Western countries, particularly during the 19th century. Cities such as London, Paris, San Francisco, and New York had opium dens that catered to Chinese immigrants and other users. Smoking this substance is now illegal and should be avoided due to its potential for abuse and harm, but the legacy of the furniture used in these establishments stays with us.
Opium dens had a distinct atmosphere and decor, with these characteristic tables being a prominent feature, thus they became known as “opium tables“.
Opium tables were designed to provide a suitable surface for smokers to consume comfortably. They were usually low to the ground, allowing users to recline or sit close to the table while smoking from pipes or other smoking apparatus.
From the second half of the 20th century these tables have reinvented themselves and moved onto a fresh start. With their beautiful curved legs, sturdy but simplistic look, they are a great addition to any home décor style, lending it an elegant, oriental feel.
Design and appearance:
Most commonly you find tropical hardwood ones without carving in a square or rectangular shape made of mango-, teak- or rosewood hand crafted by skilled woodworkers in India. Or slightly lighter versions from Acacia, which are most commonly from Thailand and they depict carvings of elephants and a tropical jungle. Finding console tables with opium design is a rare treasure.
Most recognizable for its beautifully curved legs, you can find them on almost every continent from Africa to the Americas1!
Nowdays these coffee tables are most popular in tea houses or distinguished homes creating a unique vintage inspired oriental ambience for the space.
A short glimpse into the future:
As the minimalist interior design is expanding worldwide, the furniture market has been moving towards mass produced lighter wood products that can be manufactured at much lower cost and much faster, albeit generally speaking providing much lower quality and feel.
The aging generation of skilled craftsmen are retiring, which was accelerated during covid where many small businesses collapsed due to lack of demand. The younger generations are looking for easier work and pay in the cities, so this skillset is slowly disappearing, making these products more rare to find and moving towards a “collectibles market“.
Sharing our passion:
Discover our selection of handmade solid wood simply majestic coffee tables from India and Thailand. The grain and pattern of mango wood from India lends a vibrant exotic feel to the opium tables. The acacia wood opium tables are decorated with handcarved motifs or are simply brought to us as beautiful console tables.
The natural brown colour radiates stability and a calm energy, recommended to be placed where the family and friends gather, it will help lighten the mood and inspires good conversations with your loved ones.
Decorate your home with these magnificent tables, they will stay with you for generations, becoming part of your family’s story.