Interior Design

Real Solutions: The Unlikely Coffee Table

May 19, 2015

Every home is filled with unique design puzzles, from figuring out how to make do with a tiny room (or fill a giant one) to finding that rug, wall-hanging, or piece of furniture to bring it all together. Here's where we share real solutions, through design success stories in the homes of Food52 team members.

Today: A design solution from a stranger.

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I can take zero credit for this good idea.

Living in a furnished Airbnb apartment means you come into close contact with objects you wouldn’t otherwise–specifically, strangers’ stuff. The Brooklyn apartment I’m staying in for my first few months in New York has a strange decorative contraption on the wall that is either a gardening tool or a torture device, there were at least five pairs of sneakers hanging on the brick wall as “art” that I promptly removed after moving in, and there’s a window in the shower that I was told is a mirror on the exterior.

But there are also features that are worth replicating in other apartments, one of which is this map/blueprint/drafting cabinet fashioned as a coffee table. I don’t even really know what it’s called. And you might not have known either—or have one hanging around—unless you’re an artist or thought you were going to be one in college. I think you can pick up metal ones at art supply stores or vintage wood ones at thrift stores or garage sales—or from your friend who finally came to terms with the fact that he is not the next Dorothea Lange.

However procured, this low cabinet is a smart coffee table because all the thin drawers that conventionally hold thin sheets of paper conveniently hold all the oddities you need in your living room: votives, lighters, magazines, pens, notepads, coasters, bottle openers. Mine came with copies of Life from the 1970s and nice pens, both of which I probably shouldn't steal—so I'm stealing this table idea instead.

What odd, inspiring things have you found in rental homes?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Heather Wautelet
    Heather Wautelet
  • Kenzi Wilbur
    Kenzi Wilbur
  • amysarah
  • mrslarkin
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Heather W. May 20, 2015
Yes! A flat file. You can find them on Craiglist quite a bit from art galleries.
Kenzi W. May 19, 2015
And here lies the most well-written short musing on coffee tables I've ever read.
amysarah May 19, 2015
It's a flat file. Every architecture office has one to store drawings.These days most are metal, but you can still get them new in wood - not cheap, though! (At Sam Flax, Utrecht, etc.) I've seen old ones occasionally, often pricey if in good shape. (A client of ours has a lovely old one - father was an engineer - that I'd trade for services! But alas, it has sentimental value.)
mrslarkin May 19, 2015
omg i have one of these in metal in my basement. and I'm in search of a coffee table. I wonder if I can add wheels? take a picture of the torture I'm curious!