When we looked closely at images of the invalid Matisse sitting in bed or in a chair making his beautiful paper cutouts, we realized that he used an adjustable bed table similar to one we’ve had for years.

We came across ours while trolling Ebay for mid-century furniture nearly 20 years ago. Billed as a Danish Modern Teak Rolling Tray Table, it looked mighty useful so we bought it. Over the years, we’ve found it to be astonishingly versatile:

it’s a handy laptop desk we can place anywhere in our space (including over the bed for sick-day working a la Matisse), a side-table to place by the dining table to hold wine or platters of food. Since the height adjusted from 25″ to 35″ we used it low and horizontal as a side-table for our sofa; it hit at exactly the height of the sofa arm. Perfect.

These days, we keep it by the window covered with a linen cloth for an instant still-life studio for Improvised Life photos.

Ellen Silverman
Ellen Silverman

 

The main surface tilts from horizontal to an extreme angle; a lip holds reading materials or laptop in place. There’s a little surface on the side for a copy of tea or flowers. Wheels allow us to move it easily. And, should we decide we just don’t have room for it, it disassembles and can be packed into a flat box. You can see detailed pictures at 1st Dibs.

1stdibs.com
1stdibs.com

Our version by Danecastle is similar, but not quite as elegant (or pricey) to a “reading stand” designed by the great Bruno Mathsson.

1stdibs.com
1stdibs.com

These vintage mid-century models are pretty pricey now. We’ve seen the cheaper Danecastle listed on Ebay for about $600 (we bought ours for $90.)  If you’re lucky you might find one at a second-hand store or yard sale.

But looking closely at Matisse’s, his was not particularly beautiful.

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We’re thinking it might be possible to hack the various laptop/bed tables around, like this $25 Angle & Height Adjustable Rolling Laptop Desk Over Bed Hospital Table Stand. We’d swap out the fake wood for real, make the top pieces sleeker rectangles,  and rough-up the finish of the metal support using a sanding sponge. (Ed note: we haven’t actually seen this one, but it gets good reviews.) bed reading table hack

 

It might be possible to do similar visual-enhancing hacks to a vintage hospital table. It’s the stand that’s the essential part.

vintage hospital table

We like this baby as is:

vintage hospital table

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