Rent Table and the Porringe
Serving Austin & the Dallas Metroplex
Doris Younger, ASID, RID | TX Certified Interior Designer #2977

The Rent Table and the Porringer Corner

Imagine that you were a Lord or gentleman landowner in old England in the 1700’s. You allowed farmers to work your land in return for a tax which might be paid in coin, or as a percentage of the crops harvested. Once each harvest season you would pull up a chair to a round table with drawers all the way around the table and as each tenant came into the great hall in your estate home to pay their rent, you would keep track of their payments on documents contained in the drawers around your handsome “rent table”. As there was one drawer for each tenant, the larger the number of tenants you had, the more drawers and the larger the size of the table itself. So the size of the table was a measure of wealth and status in those days. This design is still seen in traditional period pieces and often used in large entry halls as a centerpiece.

A second type of table was one with porringer corners or rounded circular projections out from each corner. Both in Europe and America, the scourge of the time was fire so the porringer corners had a very practical reason. Without running water it was doubly difficult to put fire out before it did major damage and before electricity, lighting at night was generally by candle or oil lamp. If you set your candle lamp or oil lamp down on a table as you worked and the table shook at all, the lamp could easily be bumped off the table and create a fire. To help avoid this, a round corner called a porringer was created which had a hole in the center lined with a pewter basket. The candle or oil lamp could be lowered into the basket which would prevent it from being knocked off the table. Long after the practical need for porringer corners the rounded shape has persisted although without the hole in the center and the pewter basket. This is not only a lovely detail on a period piece of furniture but still practical because it is much nicer to bang into a rounded corner than a sharp pointed one!

Just for Fun with Doris Younger Designs

The evolution of furniture from utilitarian to artful is often a key to the manners, mores and means of other times and places.  In that spirit and just for fun, here are “romance” stories about some of those pieces picked up over thirty five years of studying and practicing interior design.  Are they true? I don’t know for sure but if not, I’m sure at the very least they contain seeds of truth in the development of traditional furniture styles and, as I said, just for fun……. Read More fun stories here.