The Use of Conference Tables Throughout History

Conference tables have long been an important article of furniture and location for historic events. Lawmakers have discussed important matters and made decisions that affected entire nations at conference tables. Even iconic films use conference tables in their set pieces. Below are some of the most famous and historically relevant conference tables in existence.

6 Examples of Historical Conference Tables

Conference tables have been used for hosting important meetings since long ago. Although the styles and technology incorporated have changed over the centuries, this type of table has been a feature of governments and organized societies that pre-date the United States. The examples below explore conference tables in history.

1. The U.S. Declaration of Independence Conference Table

If you have seen John Trumbull’s famous painting of what is now known as Independence Hall, Philadelphia, you might have noticed the conference table with a green tablecloth and ornate gold trim where the famous document rests. The table and single chair used for the signing of the Declaration of Independence were probably smaller than they appear in the painting, as the proportion sizes for furniture crafted in the 1700s were typically smaller than modern furniture.

The table was made from wood and had several desk drawers. It was surrounded by similar tables, where many of the signers had to wait during the assembly meeting. The original table where the famous Declaration text was ratified has been lost in time, leaving artist renditions, models and a recreation of the Assembly Room as its most accurate reflections.

2. The Yalta Conference Table

The Yalta Conference Table is where representatives from World War II — the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union, or the “Big Three” — met to discuss the aftereffects of the war, mainly those impacting Europe. Part of the discussion involved how the countries conquered by Germany could re-establish themselves.

This conference table had a round top and was wide enough to fit all of the meeting’s important participants, including Joseph Stalin, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. A white tablecloth was used during the conference.

3. The Potsdam Conference Table

The Potsdam Conference was the final World War II meeting held by members of the Big Three. This round table is where the United States, United Kingdom and Soviet Union met in Cecilienhof Palace to discuss the punishment of Germany following the defeat of the Nazi party after World War II.

The tablecloth used for the event was red, and the flag of each participating nation was placed at the centerpiece. Extra lines of chairs were set up around the table to accommodate the number of people present.

4. The First Solvay Conference Table

The first Solvay Conference was held in 1911 for the open discussion of physics and chemistry, recent discoveries in the sciences and problems presented by these discoveries. The table used for the event was rectangular and protected by a light tablecloth, which was still customary for formal gatherings of all sizes in the 20th century.

5. President Ford Conference Table

The President Ford conference table is where many important meetings were held in the Oval Office. The table itself had an oval shape and was often used without a tablecloth. The wooden table’s surface was highly polished and reflective. It counts as one of the first modern tables on this list.

A Ford Executive conference table is a product built similarly to this famous furniture piece. These models often share the unique oval shape that made the table so iconic.

6. The White House Conference Table

The conference tables used at the White House are heavy and ornate works of art. They are made of premium quality materials and have locking drawers for storing important documents. Wood surfaces are traditional for conference tables used for such an important purpose.

4 Examples of Famous Conference Tables

Conference tables have also been used in popular culture, from TV shows to film. The presence of a conference table usually conveys to the audience that something is at stake. But this prominent piece of furniture has also been used in satirical work, indicating absurd meetings where the attendees have exaggerated or extreme options. Below are some of the most famous conference tables to date:

1. “Dr. Strangelove” Stanley Kubrick Conference Table

Sir Ken Adam was the designer who worked on this large round conference table. It was featured in the 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.” The table allowed for a total of 26 seats and was 22 feet in diameter.

Although the original film was in black and white, the table was covered in a green felt material during filming so the actors could connect to the symbolism of gambling with fate. The war room table’s design was possibly inspired by the conference table in the real-life UN Security Council Chamber.

2. “Austin Powers” Conference Table

The conference table that appears in this spy action comedy film franchise is shot to look attractively oversized. It is accented by several large black chairs with high backs. The table’s polish is intentionally dark to suit the villain of the series, Dr. Evil.

3. “Shark Tank” Conference Table

The conference tables in the hit TV series “Shark Tank” are just large enough for the Sharks to gather around in observance of the show’s participants and occasionally partake in proposed food products or other samples. The bare surfaces of the tables have an attractive shine. In some seasons, multiple sectional tables are used to give the Sharks their own space, but the most iconic is the single conference table with a panel blocking the Shark’s feet from view.

4. “The Apprentice” Conference Table

The conference room table from this TV series has an iconic design featuring an ornate border. It weighs 300 pounds and was sold at auction for $32,000. Truly a work of art, the table’s surface shows its impressive handiwork.

The table has decorative inlays and is crafted from multiple layers of the highest quality materials. It will likely have lasting durability for generations.

Get Your Own Custom Conference Table

Do you need your conference table to make a powerful statement? Greg Pilotti Furniture Makers produces modern conference tables inspired by classic designs. Each of our tables is a carefully constructed masterpiece built to suit your preferences. Contact us for custom conference table designs and consultations or if you have questions about a product or service.