Although I am not a designer, I decided to try designing a table base myself. Using a ruler and pencil, I made a drawing with the totally cockeyed perspective of an outsider artist (since I don’t really know how to draw) with the exact dimensions. Then I faxed it to a guy I’d heard about at Tringali Ironworks in Boonton, New Jersey. He said he could make my base.
The reason I designed my own table is that I couldn’t find a base I liked or could afford to support a beautiful slab of slate I’d inherited. So I figured: “Maybe I can design one; what have I got to lose?” For a few months, I gradually culled ideas for the kind of base I’d like from flea markets, shops, catalogues and magazines. Then I distilled them into the gist of my table: elemental, modern, made out of a simple industrial material: square iron tubes. When I had a picture in my mind, I drew my cock-eyed design (Well, I actually drew many versions until I got it right.)
A few weeks after I faxed the plan to the iron man, he delivered the base, and some friends lifted the heavy slate top onto it. The table was just what I wanted and actually very versatile. I discovered that I could re-position the iron base in a variety of ways: to make a high counter-height table or lowish coffee table or tv stand (with a smaller top). The moral of the story: You don’t have to be a trained designer, or an expert, to design something and have it made. You just have to know what you want and find a way to communicate that to whoever is doing the making. You can always ask for advice if you’re not sure something will work or not. Perfect drawings don’t matter.
Here are some more notes on a home-designed table:
-When making a design, be sure to account for every detail you can think of. These details include, EXACT dimensions: width, height, depth, thickness of the materials, surface patina, etc. Otherwise, you might find yourself with details you didn’t bargain for. Another approach is to tell the craftsman that if, in executing your design, he has questions, to call you and ask.
-To figure out the exact size of the base, I taped off the dimensions of the top on a bare expanse of floor. Then I play-acted sitting at the “table”, to see where exactly the legs should go so you didn’t knock into them when you were sitting at the table. I calculated the height based on another favorite, comfortable table. I am a big fan of play-acting to figure out where things should go. That’s how I designed my kitchen. (More on that later).
-If you’re thinking of designing your own steel table base, here is a website the shows some options that can be used for steel legs.
-Before we put the top on, I slipped rectangular teflon furniture sliders under each corner of the base so that the heavy table would slide easily without scratching the floor. Otherwise, between the slate top and the iron base, the table would have been so heavy, I could never have moved it, so it would have been self-defeatingly impractical.