Turning the tables

Every home needs an assortment of tables of various sizes, heights, and shapes. With a little ingenuity, a person can devise many of his own tables and in doing so combine practicality with personal expression.

Richard Jones, a former national president of the American Society of Interior Designers, for instance, made a whole collection of tables for his Manhattan apartment. He used chunks of ceramic sewage pipe for some bases and for others the round wicker basket hampers from import stores. He fitted both hampers and pipes with circles of thick glass.

Arnold Friedmann, a professor who wrote a book a few years ago called "Commonsense Design," says he has made many makeshift tables from the large wooden spools that are used for telephone and other cables and that come in many sizes. He says he has often obtained these empty spools simply by asking local telephone companies for them. He also makes dining tables with a set of sawhorses with a flush door on top, or fits a rectangle of thick glass over sawhorses to make a desk-table. He also converts old blanket chests or trunks found at flea markets into bedside or coffee tables.

Other quick and inexpensive table ideas:

* Two octagon-shaped redwood planter boxes can serve as a table base, with the lower box turned upside down and a round plate glass top. Terra cotta clay pots from dime stores and plant shops can also be combined in the same way.

* A simple rectangular-shaped pedestal can be the base for a table that has a square painted top. This basic idea can be used for a table of any size.

* Barrels, in their entirety or cut in half and fitted with stained plywood tops, make informal tables for terraces, family rooms, and vacation houses.

* A 24-inch piece of cement pipe and a plywood top can team up to make a useful furniture piece.

* Two chrome metal tire rings bought from a car salvage yard, bolted together and given a round plate glass top, produce a contemporary feeling.

* A dramatic combination is a white laminated plastic top on a shiny black oil barrel.

* A portable, used for serving patio buffets and then stored away in the basement, consists of two antique milk cans, used as end bases, covered by a flush door for serving surface.

* A cardboard container covered with a bright fabric makes a patterned table base.

Sources for many of the raw materials for these tables are flea markets, lumberyards, and demolition yards.

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