I still remember the first time I saw a transformable coffee table, about a dozen years ago in a friends’ home—a small place that definitely didn’t have room for both a coffee table and a dining table. Now I see clients who struggle with making everything fit in a small home, and dual-purpose furniture can really help.
The Mascotte table from Calligaris, designed by Edi and Paolo Ciani, has a number of nice design features. The user just presses a button to select from one of seven heights—so it’s extremely easy to adjust, and quite flexible. The tabletop size can be doubled; there’s a butterfly opening mechanism for that. And the table has two scratch-resistant rubber wheels, so it’s easy to move around.
This video shows just how easy it is to adjust the Mascotte table. It can go from 42 cm to 74 cm (about 16.5 inches to 29 inches), which means it covers standard coffee table and dining table heights.
The mechanism for adjusting the height is obviously a key design decision for such tables. The Paris table from Compar is raised and lowered using a pump mechanism.
Looking at this video, it seems the Paris table is easy to adjust, too—a smidgen more complex than the Marcotte, perhaps, but still no big deal.
The Lem adjustable table from Magis, which first came out in 1985, was designed by Andries and Hiroko van Onck. They explain how it works: “By unclasping a simple grip under the table top the Lem table height can be adjusted from a coffee table to a dining table…a steelspring is loaded when the table is pushed in the lower position…The three injection molded polycarbonate ‘feet’ include each two ball joints.”
In 2012 the table was redesigned, changing the central joint of the legs, so it looks a bit different.
Olsson & Gerthel, one of the many companies selling the table, explain that it’s raised or lowered by turning the tabletop. This would seem to indicate the table can be adjusted to any height the end user wants (within the table’s range of 43-73.5 cm), and some end users will appreciate that added flexibility.
Sedit makes a number of transformable tables where the tabletop rises up from the base. In some of those tables, such as the Piccolo, the table incorporates a bit of storage—always helpful in small spaces.
The Piccolo is another table that’s very easy to open and close, as the video illustrates. However, it’s also a table that’s limited to two heights. That will be fine for most end users, but others will miss the flexible height options that some other tables provide.
Other tables transform without any mechanical apparatus. One such table is the MK1 from Duffy London. This makes the adjustment a bit more complex—but I don’t think I’d have any trouble with this table, and I’m no good at such things. It converts with “two simple movements” per Duffy London, and I could handle that. Still, this wouldn’t be the table for certain end users with physical limitations.
The M-Table from Oito takes a somewhat similar design approach, with legs that pivot to raise or lower the table.
The 3styletable is just what its name indicates; it can serve as a coffee table, a desk, or a dining table. This design requires the end user to reassemble five pieces into different configurations, making it a more complex transformation than most other such tables. It’s still not very difficult, but it might not be something the end user would want to do on a daily basis.
The height of the Vidun table from De Padova, designed by Vico Magistretti in 1987, is adjusted with the big wooden screw that forms the base. This particular table wouldn’t work so well as a coffee table, though, since it only goes from 63 cm to 80 cm (about 25 inches to 31.5 inches).