A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Every cloud has a silver lining. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole.
It appears that things are strongly defined by their delineations, their edges. No surprise then, it is the overlooked periphery that embosses the centre; the overwhelming experience of a scene can only arise from corners and edges.
So too with tables, a discerning buyer’s first tactile experience of it should start from the edge.
Discover how the edges are constituted; is it a wooden table you are looking at? Is the table a solid chunk of 20, 30 or even 50mm? Are the edges filleted (rounded) or a chamfered (45° angle cut)? It’s important for the table not to “bite” you in return for the price you have paid. Marks on your hands after a day on the laptop is not a good sign. A fillet or chamfer of about 5mm and above is comfortable. If it is too wide, it will start to “eat” into your real estate and perhaps may embellish it unnecessarily. I think wooden tables should be just left on their own without a “protective” glass panel on it. It strikes me as a superficial overlay to all that warmth we would expect from what we truly desire beneath it.
While I am not a fan of glass tops, they can sometimes complement an existing transparent and minimalist aesthetic. Nevertheless, be careful what it reveals below; transparency isn’t always a virtue. A tinted glass, if one still insists, would be a better alternative. Unfortunately glass tops aren’t commonly filleted but chamfered. In this case, the chamfers are usually very fine; of about 1–3mm. However, even with this treatment, the lines on your hands are bound to recur. This is why glass tables are also seen with timber borders (the last 6 inches) so as to solve this common discomfort.
We now arrive at the metal table and by extension all other sheet surfaces. These can be folded on the edge to create a natural, rounded line, but these are rarely done well. Often, there are points that aren’t welded and grinded down sufficiently. This explains why your architect friends are so enamoured with imported European Stainless Steel Kitchens because their edges are finished off seamlessly. Lastly, be careful when choosing laminate and veneer table tops. Because these can’t fold, they have to be joined edge-to-edge unless the laminate is thick enough (2mm) and can thus be chamfered at the edge. The common practice would show that the sheets stop about 1/4–1/2in from the edge and a solid timber edge profile takes care of those nasty edges I mentioned above.
To sum it up, go soft on the edges! While you may admire a table for how it looks, its test lies at the edges. That is the real proof in the pudding you are going to savour. Living on the edge should be comfortable, no less.