Table has a value in the $200-$275 range

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DEAR HELAINE AND JOE: We have a table with drop leaves that looks like a sofa table. The Imperial Furniture Company of Grand Rapids, Mich., made the item. Can you discern its age and value? Thank you. — G.C., Chicago

DEAR G.C.: Over the years, Grand Rapids has certainly earned the name “Furniture City.”Important manufacturing entities such as Baker Furniture Company, Berkey & Gay, Herman Miller Furniture Company, L. & J.G. Stickley, John Widdicomb Company and many others are located there.

If Grand Rapids is known as “Furniture City,” the Imperial Furniture Company, established in that city in 1903 (one source says 1904), was once anointed (perhaps by itself) as the “world’s greatest table makers.” F. Stuart Foote founded the firm; he was once the lumber buyer for L. & J.G. Stickley.

There is an interesting story concerning F. Stuart Foote. It is said that in the 1920s, Foote’s wife needed a low table for serving guests and Foote cut down the legs of a dining table to satisfy her needs. He later claimed the invention of the “coffee table.”

After Foote’s death, Bergsma Bros. acquired Imperial Furniture in 1954 or 1955 (depending on the source consulted). One reference says that Bergsma Bros. operated the manufacturing facility until 1983, while another says it closed in 1962. The closing date is not important to G.C. because this table was made long before either year.

Imperial made all sorts of tables, desks, teacarts, china cabinets, buffets and chairs for dining tables. Products ran the gamut from telephone tables with small stools and nesting tables to tilt-top tea tables, book tables, end tables, extension tables, lyre base tables, console tables (with mirrors) and table desks.

Mahogany, walnut, oak, chestnut, maple, pine and gumwood were just some of the woods used; other woods were utilized for decoration, such as satinwood, Pollard oak and ebony. The table in today’s question appears to be largely made from mahogany, but it is impossible to tell for sure from photographs.

There is no question that this table was designed to be a “multipurpose” piece of furniture. When the drop leaves are down, it would make a good sofa table; when they are up, the item would make a great serving table for parties.

The drawer suggests that the item was designed to “triple” as a “check-writing desk” (a term from the era) or perhaps as a sort of library table. However, the medial stretcher would make it uncomfortable for protracted use as a desk.

Here’s a hint that might help G.C. date this piece. Imperial tables made between 1910 and 1917 were marked with an oval logo, but later pieces had a shield-shaped logo. We believe this table was made during the second quarter of the 20th century — say, circa 1930.

As for the value of this item, small tables are hot right now. Go to an estate sale, and the small tables are the first things to go. Because this one is a multipurpose item, it should have great appeal to modern homeowners with smaller homes or apartments (despite the dated style)

For insurances purposes, G.C. should value this table in the $200-$275 range.