Best Supporting Actor: The Neutral Stool-Table

They’re the plus-one of occasional tables and seating. 


Multi-tasking as a drinks table, pull-up seating, or a just handy place to stack books or magazines next to a reading chair, these versatile gems are the unsung heroes of functional layouts.

Their prototype is the ceramic garden stool, which has long been a multi-functional darling with designers and decorators alike (and for good reason).  But when that traditional interpretation won’t do, there are plenty of interesting and organic-looking options that can add a layer of visual interest to any space without competing with other pieces. 

Our criteria for a modern garden-stool stand in:

  • should be 16-18” high

  • should be sturdy enough to support a seated adult

  • top surface should be firm/flat enough to support a drink

Garden stools and their ilk are often depicted as stand-alone end or side tables, but functionally they’re really too puny and short to carry all that responsibility.  Our favorite way to use them is as a supplemental layer to a more substantial piece— a small drinks table that can also double as seating.  We love to see them paired with a taller end or side table beside a reading chair or bed.  

And their height and sturdiness makes them a natural in a nursery or family-living area—a perfect grabbing surface for toddler activity as well as a place for an adult to perch for those impromptu tea parties and floor games.

But their charm goes beyond residential; hospitality specifiers know that a multiplicity of surfaces and surface heights makes for a more satisfying guest experience.  (And also encourages more consumption of food and bev…something that always makes hospitality clients happy).   We challenge contract designers to place some of these little table/stools in a lobby or guest setting and watch how people gravitate to and use them!

Check out our gallery of to-the-trade stool tables here.

Sandy Hughes