Console tables can, of course, come in so many shapes and styles, but the demilune is unique among them. It’s special for a number of reasons that most of us probably never think about, even though its use is ubiquitous and its history is a long and celebrated one.
Like so many words in the design lexicon, we can once again thank the French for the word demilune, which literally means half moon and defines its shape. The name very simply refers to a table that’s designed to be placed against a wall. In reality, this console accomplishes so much more with its grace and beauty than just brilliant functionality. And since a basic tenet of good design requires form to follow function, the demilune is certainly an all-star.
Even though the clever and resourceful Romans of long ago first introduced and used the console table (albeit in a somewhat different form ), it was the small, elegant tables that appeared in French entryways in the 1700s that were first christened demilunes. They are now thought of by many designers (and their clients) as the most well-known classic console table of all, despite the fact that the term console can include tables that are rectangular, round, oval and almost every other shape possible.
The typical demilune features three or four legs, depending on its design. If the table has three legs, then two of them are necessarily placed at the sides toward the back that goes against the wall while the third leg is situated in the middle of the arc of the circle to ensure stability .
In all likelihood, the great majority of demilunes that graced those French homes of yesteryear and, in fact, often right up to the present time, were most likely gold-leafed, bracketed or bolted to the wall with two ornately carved front legs and a marble top. This is an absolutely timeless look in design. No other console type will afford so much bang for the buck in a limited space as the half moon, which, no doubt, helps to account for its great appeal. In fact, the demilune can be constructed with a V-shape back that will even allow it to fit snugly in a corner .
With this type of console be sure that your table is safely and solidly constructed. This means it should have strong joints that are reinforced with pegs or screws and you should avoid (at all costs) tables that are just glued together because glue has been known to fail, even if it has to support nothing heavier than your keys or the day’s mail.
My own introduction to the demilune doesn’t go quite so far back as the Romans or even the French, but to a childhood memory of a refined German grandmother with a love of beauty and a room filled with Chippendale-style furniture that just happened to include her favorite piece (and mine too): a demilune table placed on a wall between two windows, which, by the way, is often a typical placement for this type of console.
Much later, upon my grandmother’s passing, the table was proudly displayed in the narrow entry of my mother’s home with an elegant mirror placed above it. This is another traditional use for the demilune because a half circle is one of the best ways to save space. It naturally has a smaller surface area than a rectangular shape table would have. A mirror always makes a small space feel larger as well, while also reflecting any light that might come through the entry door. In a word, the demilune and mirror working together is one of those special symbiotic relationships in design.
I’ve just completed a somewhat modified demilune in an art deco style finished in black lacquer and olive ash burl veneer for a client’s small vestibule. But, there have been many others through the years in an endless parade of styles and finishes: elegant and traditional wrought iron with marble tops, transitional designs in shagreen and inlaid bone, elaborately carved and gilded demilunes, those in fanciful faux finishes and exotic woods and even acrylic and glass.
As a seasoned designer, there’s little doubt in my mind that the demilune can enhance your home no matter what the style. Even though the feminine curves of this console give it a more formal look, it’s my belief that it can be magic just about anywhere. Think about how it will work as an accent piece with your décor and the demilune will not only function in the clever way it always has, but add grace and style in its own unique and unparalleled way.
Stephen Leon is a licensed interior designer and president of Soleil Design International; he has been designing and manufacturing custom furniture and cabinetry for more than 25 years. He has served on the board of directors of the Central California/Nevada Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers and is a certified professional in green residential design. Questions can be sent to stephen@soleildesigninter