Inlay? No way!

By Miriam Ehrlich

Hello everyone, it’s Miriam again! The object we will be looking at this week is a beautiful Federal era table. It is a Pembroke drop leaf table made of wood. There is an intricate design of bellflowers along both the edge of the table and the tapered legs in gold. Pembroke drop leaf tables were designed for occasional use in the home. People were excited about them because they were easily tucked away and had many different possible functions, from dinner to writing. This particular table is 20” in length and 32” in height, and is in good condition. This table is prime example, both in condition and style, of the Federal period of furniture.




The Federal period spans from around 1790, the time that the government was developing, to 1830. The formation of the United States Constitution pushed new Americans to look to ancient democratic Greece and republican Rome for inspiration. The style of the period is reflective of the development of a new nation. The Federal period is sometimes referred to as Neoclassic, as Americans looked back to the classical ages of Greece and Rome for inspiration to form an identity. The style can be characterized by subtle intricate carvings, tapered legs, and simple styles, as depicted in this table. It has a sturdy, masculine look to it, and was considered very tasteful. Because of their detailed design, today tables in the federal style can cost anywhere between a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.

Inlays were very common for furniture from the Federal era. There were many different types of designs, from birds to family crests and plants. The style was used to catch a person’s eye. They are made by making cuttings into various types of wood. Some of the most popular were mahogany, birch, and pine.


Some rooms of the White House are in the Federal furniture style. The White House displays this as a symbol of the federal era when this country started. The Green Room parlor is known for this style in particular. It was restored to look like this after the fire of 1814 during the War of 1812 by original architect, James Hoban.

This table has been hiding in the storage section of the 1799 LeFevre House and has not been displayed in years, if ever. This table is not alone. The Historic Huguenot Street permanent collection holds hundreds of pieces from a variety of time periods. This season, we have been working hard at freshening up the Deyo House, opening up the opportunity to showcase the span of our collection. Furnishings from the Federal Period will be highlighted in the new tour, so be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, May 7, our opening day!


Montgomery, Charles F.  American Furniture, The Federal Period. Bonanza Books: New York, 1978. 271.

The Green Room.” The White House Historical Association. The White House Historical Association: Washington D.C., n.d. Web. 5 April 2016.

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