this thing's incredible

My ‘Very De Stijl’ Yellow Dining Table Cost Less Than a Fancy Dinner for Two

The author’s inexpensive dining table holds a place of pride among his pricier, fancier furniture. Photo: Eric Margulies

I love furniture, but I hate buying it. It’s obscenely expensive, often requires assembly above my pay grade of putting batteries in a remote control, and feels … quite permanent. But when my wife and I moved into a new “adult” apartment — one with a dishwasher, a bedroom larger than our bed, and central air — we decided it was finally time to get rid of our mismatched collection of fourth-hand Ikea stuff and pastel-colored furniture that felt more Boca Raton retiree than Brooklyn millennial.

Aside from buying what seemed like more Allen wrenches than you’d find on the shelves of a small hardware store, we splurged on our dream décor, including a mid-century-looking coffee table from West Elm, some vintage Frank Mariani dining chairs (which I wound up paying far less for than planned, because I bought them at auction), and a custom bed frame designed specifically for our new bedroom. But after spending all that time and money impeccably curating our home, the one piece that everyone — from the guests at our first housewarming party to our designer and musician friends to even our parents — won’t stop obsessing over is our dining table: a very cheap (for a dining table), fluorescent-yellow metal number designed for outdoor use.

We bought the table thinking it would be a stopgap, something slightly better to eat dinner off of than the floor. Although I filled a Pinterest board with very specific references while shopping for other furniture, I was ambivalent about the dining table. A big part of that was my reluctance to spend more than $1,000 on something I knew I would spill multiple drinks on within the first month of ownership. (Our old dining table was a hideous wooden pedestal that absorbed stains like it was Silly Putty; it now belongs to a C-list British celebrity who claimed it from Craigslist.) But another issue with looking for a dining table was that, for what I wanted to spend, I could seemingly find ones that fell into only three categories: “reclaimed” wooden picnic tables that looked plucked from an HGTV home-makeover show, way too modern things that looked better for surfing than for eating on, or tables so basic I couldn’t bring myself to pay the equivalent of a moderately used ’97 Honda Civic for any one of them.

It was with this level of resignation that I encountered our would-be dining table while browsing a restaurant-supply store in Newburgh for new pots and pans. Its shiny yellow metal called out to me from the patio section. Upon a closer look, it was not only luminous but utilitarian and objectively inexpensive (far less than any of the others I had seen or considered). Only after driving home with the thing did I discover I hadn’t even needed to drive to the suburbs to get it: The table is sold on Amazon — in a multitude of colors, no less. (Note that the different colors come at different price points, but none cost more than roughly $200.)

Even though I bought the table thinking we’d soon replace it, once we set it up, I started to see it as something that might stay for good. Then people started complimenting it: “Something out of The Jetsons,” “ingeniously minimalist,” and “very De Stijl” are just three ways people have described it. (A fourth, from my editor, is that the primary-color table is kind of Kindercore.) Beyond how it looks, though, this dining table is just a great table. As someone who once called a TaskRabbit to install his shower curtain, I found it astonishingly uncomplicated to assemble. It easily seats six, which is about as many people as I’m comfortable with in my home at most times. Being metal, it’s easy to clean and more or less stain resistant (whatever is coating the table to make it suitable for outdoor use also repels all manner of messes). We’ve had it for more than two years, and it really does look more or less the same as when we bought it — and not for lack of use, because the other thing about buying such an affordable piece is that I’m never afraid to really use it (as you might be with other, design-ier furniture). I never think twice about chopping vegetables on it or throwing my bag on it after a long day or spilling an average of two drinks a week on it. A smaller but no less appreciated detail is that it’s light enough for two people to move. And don’t let its bright color fool you: The table’s clean lines and otherwise simple design make it neutral enough to work in different décor aesthetics and easy enough to pair with any chairs or plates.

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My Very De Stijl Dining Table Cost Less Than A Fancy Dinner