Plain and honest are terms are often used to describe the antique refectory table. This straightforward example of early oak furniture, often referred to as farmhouse furniture because of its versatility, can just as easily be shown off in a smart dining room or a working kitchen. In fact, historically the tops were often reversible so that the unpolished side could be used for preparing dinner, and then the polished side overturned to serve and eat it.
There are some good examples of oak refectory tables still in existence from the Jacobean era (1603-1625). To own one of these examples creates a sense of history in the house that manifests itself every time the family sits down to dinner. From the uneven texture of the hand hewn wood and protruding wooden dowels of its maker, to the knife marks, drink and heat stains, and the friendly bend in the central stretcher from the feet of countless owners and their families, this table maps its progress through time. All this use is then encapsulated in the most divine patinas produced by constant waxing and age.
As woodlands disappear in Britain and oak for furniture becomes scarce, many new refectory tables are built of Japanese and other nationalities of oak. However, it does not matter how good these reproductions are, it is English oak that hits at the heart of many Britons for their antique tables and nothing else but the original article will do.
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