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Gather Round: The Charms of Round Tables

The last lingering days of winter are a cozy time perfect for chili, fondue, casual lunches and gatherings. They’ll be even better if they happen around round tables. Photos: Hooker Furniture, Diane James Home floral, Sur laTable fondue pot.

The last days of winter are a cozy time, offering fleeting days of quiet before the bustle of Spring begins.

It’s time for casual family lunches, afternoon tea, cocoa after school, a fondue party on Saturday night with the neighbors…so many ways to enjoy home and each other.

And what better setting than a round table?

The inviting Applewhite Table at 60 inches round is the perfect setting for a relaxed Sunday lunch when family members come indoors after outdoor activities. Photo: Hooker Furniture

Whether they are dining tables, or cocktail tablesthey have definite charms, and these tables are good candidates for the warm, cozy occasions that all can enjoy.

The Applewhite Tabledesigned to bring the essence of rustic American design to your home, works as well in a dining area as in other spaces — perhaps facing a bay window. 

The lyrical design of this 60-inch Boheme dining Table makes it the ideal setting for a romantic candlelight dinner. Hooker Furniture.

By Candlelight

While round tables are ideal for a casual lifestyle, they also adapt beautifully to more formal occasions — with crisp linens, stemware and fresh flowers as centerpieces. On this  Boheme Ascension Dining Tableyou can imagine the soft reflection of candlelight on the polished zinc top. Seating six, the Ascension table’s antique milk finish adds to its appeal and echoes its Belgian heritage.

The right floral centerpiece adds a touch of beauty to an elegant dinner occasion. Photo: Diane James Home

Wonderhowto.com has a complete guide to arranging flowers for a dinner party. “Keep it low” is a cardinal rule, especially at a round table. “Low and long” is the recommendations of lifestyle guru Clinton Kelly, and be sure to keep the water at room temperature. Kelly also suggests small bud vases on the table, rather than a single, major arrangement. Shop for a variety of these at local thrift stores.

My Favorite Round Table Memory

Having lunch with Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Ranch in Texas was one of the best meals of my life in every way…a gracious hostess, a sumptuous table and moments of pure pleasure. Photo: National Park Service.

Years ago, I was invited to lunch with Lady Bird Johnson at the LBJ Ranch in Texas. The former First Lady led us all in saying grace as we held hands around the table. The menu was from the King Ranch Cookbook, and I think, one of the best meals of my life in every way. On the table was a bouquet of Texas wildflowers that elicited conversation about Mrs. Johnson’s commitment to the beautification of not only Texas, but all the states.

Committee Meetings

From the Curata Collection, this 72-inch table welcomes big groups with its simple, yet sophisticated style. Hooker Furniture.

It’s that time again–the neighborhood chili supper to benefit the local library or school. What better place to do all the planning than a friendly round table? There’s room for all volunteers to work comfortably. Inspired by contemporary Italian design, the top of the Curata Table is of white oak veneers, while the base has a black nickel finish. 

Afternoon Break

At center stage before the fireplace, or wherever family collects, the Luckenbach Coffee Table with its antique travertine top is the ideal focus fore countless convivial moments. Hooker Furniture.

Make memories around this iron-based coffee table over mugs of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. British potter Emma Bridgewater is known for her vibrant homespun design, including an array of personalized mugs.

Everyone in the family — and family friends — will want an Emma Bridgewater mug with her bevy of cheerful motifs.

 Fondue Supper

A cozy ritual that never goes out of style, the fondue dinner is yet making a comeback. Only a round table will do for maximum enjoyment of this European style of eating that makes ordinary ingredients exotic.

The unique Urban Elevation table sits six comfortably, allowing for comfortable spacing as guests ‘cook’ their own fondue ingredients.

The 54-inch top of the Urban Elevation Table is constructed of waxed resawn maple, offering a rustic yet sophisticated style. Aluminum sheeting on the single pedestal base adds to the table’s bold, dramatic design — ideal for a lovely, relaxed occasion. 

Sur La Table sells the perfect fondue pot. Fondue originated in 18th Century Switzerland, as bread dipped into melted cheese. We Americans added a lovely finish: the chocolate fondue, with berries or morsels of pound cake.

The design of the Medina Cocktail Table is as casually inviting as its inspiration in America’s Hill Country — One feels right at home around it. Hooker Furniture.

Club Gathering

Comfy seating around an ample round coffee table encourages a free-flowing discussion at this month’s club meeting. The design of the Medina Round Cocktail Table has a time-worn saddle brown finish paired with a black base, and the 48-inch top easily accommodates refreshments for the group.

For the final days of winter, consider chili or old-fashioned Beef Stew. Beef stew recipes stay in families like bequests. But here is one you might want to add to your recipe box — offered by New York Times food columnist Molly O’Neill. Make a batch for the Saturday crowd coming in from skating, sledding or shopping — or the crowd gathered to watch college basketball games.

Old-Fashioned Beef Stew by Molly O’Neill is the ideal project for a chilly weekend. Beef, onion, carrots, potatoes and red wine come together in cozy harmony.

Old Fashioned Beef Stew


  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 pound beef stewing meat, trimmed and cut into inch cubes
  • 5 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 ½ cups beef broth, homemade or low-sodium canned
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch rounds
  • 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons salt


  • Combine the flour and pepper in a bowl, add the beef and toss to coat well. Heat 3 teaspoons of the oil in a large pot. Add the beef a few pieces at a time; do not overcrowd. Cook, turning the pieces until beef is browned on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch; add more oil as needed between batches.
  • Remove the beef from the pot and add the vinegar and wine. Cook over medium-high heat, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any browned bits. Add the beef, beef broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a slow simmer.
  • Cover and cook, skimming broth from time to time, until the beef is tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the onions and carrots and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Add broth or water if the stew is dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle among 4 bowls and serve. Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.


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