Tabling it

The dining table is often the heart of the home, serving  not only as a place to eat but to celebrate, discuss thorny issues, or simply bring people together for a good old-fashioned time.

Now, with the holiday season fast approaching, the table becomes more important than ever in the home and there is no better place to view an assortment and get advice on making the best selection than from Heidi Johnston, owner of Yellow Monkey Antiques in Cross River.

Johnston, an interior designer and former vice president in charge of product and design for Scalamandré, has a special love of tables. She imports many of them from England and Europe and has made them integral to decorating projects from Maine to Florida, with second and country homes among her favorites.

FAVORITE STYLES

“My specialty is mostly English and European country antiques and I have done many large decorating projects in Bedford, Nantucket and Charleston, South Carolina. Here in Cross River, many people come to me to purchase dining tables and the chairs that are so important to complementing them to perfection.”

Johnston says long, rectangular farmhouse tables — the classic harvest tables — are in high demand and she carries a large number of sideboards and buffets as complements.

“My favorite tables have a hand-rubbed finish using plenty of quality wax. I like to see the wood grain and lots of distressing. I don’t think the finish of a table should be so precious that you can’t set down a drink.”

Johnston says her favorite — and most popular — table woods are walnut, chestnut and oak.

And, as to color, she says, “I still like brown furniture but don’t like pine. I do not sell American tables or any other American furniture.”

In terms of size, she says her tables are mostly large. “The smallest is about 72 inches long. My clients want to sit at a 10- to 12-foot table, often with a leaf that can be drawn out for additional seating. These days, everyone seems to want big tables.”

Johnston says the chairs should be perfect foils for the table. 

“Most of my chairs are reproductions but they fit my antique tables perfectly. People must realize that good chairs, even reproductions, are not cheap. They are complicated to make properly. My chairs are beautiful and really set my tables off. In many cases, the chairs around the table make all the difference.”

When it comes to style, she adds that the chestnut, drop-leaf table is the most in demand. “The wood is beautiful and it’s versatile. The distressing can be exquisite. Second in demand is the large, long farm, or harvest, table. And, finally, I am seeing an increased demand for wine-tasting tables, which are often oval in shape and smaller in size than their grander counterparts.”

Johnston says that although her clients mostly want a long rectangular table, she enjoys an oval table. “But most people are focused on seating up to 12, which is easier with a rectangular shape and draw leaves if needed.”

Most of the tables at Yellow Monkey range in period from 1846 to 1910, and Johnston travels across the Pond at least once a year to make her selections in England and on the Continent, sending them back here by container ship. “I used to go looking several times a year, but have cut back. I try to squeeze my buying into one extended trip,”

FILLING CLIENT NEEDS

Johnston also looks for tables on the East Coast antiques trail and goes shopping for customers who want specific features in their tables. “After 40 years in this business, I know how to satisfy my customers,” she says. “After I see their space I know what will and what won’t work out for them. I also have no hesitation in purchasing a good reproduction as long as it has the right finish.”

The Yellow Monkey is a large shop, filled with hundreds of antique and reproduction selections.  “I span the gamut of European and English pieces and sell many smaller decorative items such as lamps, mirrors, tabletop statuary and beautifully framed art. Upholstered pieces are also available.”

Johnston says she is confident in her ability to answer her clients’ needs, whether it’s redecorating a country home or finding the perfect ice bucket. “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to pull things together for them,” she says.

Working right here in the Westchester-Fairfield region is a treat after her forays up and down the East Coast and abroad. “I live nearby in Cross River with my family and am happy to call this region my home,” she says.

For more, visit yellowmonkey.com.

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