Essays: Cafe Table and Chairs

You see them everywhere. From Paris sidewalks to real estate brochures.

The ubiquitous small table – just big enough for two plates with cups and sometimes placed just far enough from things to ensure a private conversation.

A conversation. A private connection. Perhaps an intimate confession.  All suggested by this furniture configuration.

I travel. I’ve seen quite a few combinations of furniture styles and settings for this symbol of interaction. In real estate sales staging, they are a popular prop in those not-so-realistic mood shots of the featured property. In Airbnb listings, you see them placed on every patio, balcony, porch, deck, in every yard, foyer, and/or shaded spot – as if to show you where you could have that heart to heart with your cousin.

Fine. Well and good. We’ve all seen and used them. Here’s the deal: not only are there no people in those photos, but the groupings are rarely used in the actual places I’ve seen them in, save in restaurants and coffee shops. They seem placed in the context arbitrarily; as an afterthought.   Either the placement is unnatural, or the weather of the day makes them uninviting.

But I think there’s more. I have seen them around everyday homes. They either have a serious layer of dust or a box of clutter on them. Oh, I think conversations go on – just more likely in the hall or out the car window.

Some staccato rant about a missed call or a ‘love you’ rote exchange. 

I think the cafe table and chairs represent that conversation we want to have – slowly, one on one.