A drop leaf table is a table that has at least one leaf with hinges that allow the leaf to be dropped down flat against the table legs. A drop leaf table may have half of the table that drops or it may have two hinged sides that drop, with a narrow section left in the middle of the table. Drop leaf tables are available as either dining or occasional tables and can be in any wood finish and shape.
The English Elizabethan drop leaf table dates back to the 16th century. These tables were often made of oak and designed to double their length. Earlier Elizabethan drop leaf tables are usually of a plain Gothic style, while the later ones are often more elaborately carved. The English Jacobean tables of the early 17th century are large and are gate leg rather than drop leaf in design. Gate leg tables differ from the drop leaf table style in that the leg assembly swings out like a gate to support the leaf when it's not hanging down.
A drop leaf table made from good wood such as cherry, walnut or oak can look very elegant even with the leaf dropped. They are also very versatile and useful tables as a drop leaf dining table with two leaves that drop down can be stored behind a sofa and the remaining narrow middle section can be used as a sofa table to hold a lamp or other items. Smaller drop leaf tables with the leaves folded can easily be stored in a closet.
Drop leaf tables are ideal for small spaces such as apartments with limited eating space. One leaf can be dropped to allow the table to be pushed right up against the wall to save space. When extra eating or serving space is needed, the table can be moved out from the wall and the drop leaf can be put back into place to allow for the use of the entire table.
The drop leaf tables with leaves that hang close to the floor offer the biggest table space when the leaves are put into place. Some people like to use drop leaf tables for card games or other occasional uses since these tables are usually quite easy to set up and store. Drop leaf side tables are also handy for entertaining as they can be stored with their leaves down almost anywhere in the home and then set up when and where they are needed to hold food or serving dishes.