They've been around for centuries, but over the course of a couple hundred years, they've been called different things -- petite salon tables, urn stands, telephone stands, cigarette tables and martini tables.
The latter stuck as a popular label in the 1930s, the era when Dashiell Hammett's Nick and Nora were swigging martinis in and Art Deco style especially suited this namesake table. These pieces stuck around in mid-century models, but after came decades of gap years, especially when cocktail tables trended to greater scale.
But in the past few years, there's been more than a blip on the home decor radar. And the popularity of the television series "Mad Men" resurrected talk about a drinking culture lifestyle from the 1960s and 1970s, according to Michelle Lamb, founding director of The Trend Curve, a forecaster for the home furnishings industry.
"Suddenly there were home bars and all these drink tables. If you think about how millennials live—everyone with few exceptions has a home bar. They're doing cocktails, designer drinks. They live in environments that often are quite temporary. These tables are perfect for that. Perfect for entertaining."
The clever mostly tall-and-thin drink tables also are nostalgic to baby boomers and compelling for Generation X, says Lamb.
"Martini tables are the perfect size to rest a drink, book or the remote," says Bob Williams, co-founder and design director of Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams. "They take up a small footprint and add interesting shape, texture, color and style to a room. They even become a focal point, though they might be the smallest piece in the space. Mitchell and I feel every sofa and chair needs a table beside it (or one in between two chairs), and these tiny tables are the perfect solution. You get tremendous bang for your decorating buck as they are so practical, stylish and are usually not the most expensive piece, so using them is an opportunity to show off your style sense without taking big risks."
Last fall, San Francisco designer Jay Jeffers included five martini tables in a collection he designed for the Dallas-based lighting and furniture manufacturer Arteriors. The group includes entertaining accoutrements such as trays, bowls and ice buckets in his "collected cool" style. In the spring, New York architect/designer Barry Goralnick introduced 15 16- to 18-inch martini tables in a line for Vanguard, part of his take on "Blended Modern." What's noteworthy is that they're not just variations of wood or metal finishes. They are well thought out, with specific design references, definitely shaken and stirred up.
"Each has its own story," says Goralnick. "There are different looks -- something for everybody. They become kind of jewelry. A piece that makes a room look finished attracts the eye, with a little sex appeal. It makes a room feel good about itself. And as we joke, they're small enough you can throw one into your SUV or an Uber."
They range from really tiny, 8-inch-square or round surfaces to about 18 inches, sometimes larger if the base is slim. Many have pedestals or tripod bases (with up to eight legs, straight or splayed), or even open caged looks. They're priced from under $60 to $3,000. Retailers range from Target to RH and high-end designers, where you may find solid bronze models as pricey as $8,000.
At the high end, there are upscale figured woods like macassar ebony, gilt or silver leaf finishes, brass, stainless steel, glass or acrylic materials. There even are rustic models, like the live edge acacia wood slab tabletop over tripod that looks like branches and actually is crafted from brass from Hooker Furniture. One classical shape from Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams in acrylic with a glass tops is dressed up with stylish bands of gold. One of Kelly Wearstler's designs features figured marble with its black-and-white pattern a part of the design. Jay Jeffers pays homage to color blocking and Mondrian with his slim black-and-white table. There are Eastern inspirations and industrial styles as well as edgy motifs. One table from the (East) Indian company Geometria has a black skull inlaid with bone and wood veneer on tapered legs striped in turned wood and brass.
Some new wrinkles: tiers and removable trays. Chicago designer Julia Buckingham even designed an acrylic trinket table for Global Views, available in pale purple, blue and clear, with a jewelry-like box in a chain link frame that extends to its legs. It's 11 1/4 by 15 3/4 inches and stands 22 3/4 inches.
Williams recommends contrasting materials, textures and colors. "If you have wood case goods in a room, use a martini table in a shiny metal. If you have a lot of metal, choose one in wood or acrylic. You can even change out with your mood or with the seasons," says Williams.
As small as they may be, so many of these martini tables have supersized personalities, and it's pretty easy to find one to suit your style.
"We're always coming out with new pull-up tables each season," says Williams. "The scale is perfect -- whether your room is small or large. There's always a space and a need."
"In the last year," says Kim Shaver, a spokeswoman for Hooker Furniture, "martini tables have been in all of our major collections. They're as essential as an end or coffee table."
Goralnick says that these accent pieces are called spot tables in the industry -- "because they hit the spot."
(For editorial questions, please contact Clint Hooker at firstname.lastname@example.org.)