Sophisticated Game Room Designs

Game tables are a form of decor that can bring families together

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A living room shows off a custom-made backgammon table by Oomph
A living room shows off a custom-made backgammon table by Oomph.

Roll the dice. Draw a card. Call. See. Ante. Bid.

Hit me. King me. Hold….

I win!

From mah-jongg to Mind the Gap, canasta to Exploding Kittens, board games are enjoying a resurgence in popularity. Even before the pandemic, sales of games were surging. According to The Washington Post, the global market for cards and board games will reach $21.56 billion by 2025.

Jaimi Pike, book buyer for the Vero Beach Book Center, noticed the game grab building in the years preceding COVID, especially mah-jongg. Customers were requesting the cards that are issued every year for play. “We didn’t know what that was,” she says. “Now we sell 800 to 1,000 cards annually, and 200 mah-jongg sets.” Responding to demand, the bookstore will also be offering mah-jongg tabletop mats.

Which brings us to the wild card: the game table.

This room, designed by Sandra Morgan, includes a bright game table
This room, designed by Sandra Morgan, includes a bright game table.

My earliest memory of a game table is accompanying my mother to an S&H Green Stamps store, where she traded in her books for a new game table for our basement rec room. Before that, we played go fish, Candy Land, Monopoly, or checkers at the kitchen table or on the floor. Having a proper table drew us closer together, elevated the experience, and created a separate destination within our home for working on an ongoing jigsaw puzzle, playing hearts, arranging Scrabble tiles, or even vying for Ken while playing the Barbie Game (you didn’t want to draw Poindexter—eww).

Sandra Morgan suggests tables with acrylic tops for more gaming options
Sandra Morgan suggests tables with acrylic tops for more gaming options.

While board games have been played for nearly 5,000 years, the game table as such first appeared in the 11th or 12th century, becoming more commonplace in the 18th century. The earliest versions did double duty, serving as end tables, consoles, dining, or tea tables. Thomas Jefferson owned 13 Federal tea and card tables. Other styles had tops that rotated to reveal a chessboard on one side and checkers on the other. Some incorporated a secret drawer, and others had a cavity for storage of game pieces. Tables dedicated solely to backgammon are more popular than ever.

Early in her interior design career, Sandra Morgan put the finishing touches on rooms by creating custom backgammon boards. She hand painted the boards, framed them, and supplied the cups, dice, and counters. When they weren’t in use on a card table, they could be hung on the wall. Morgan has used game tables in her designs on numerous occasions over the years, seeing a real opportunity when family and great rooms made living rooms passe. “I’ve been specifying 36-foot-square tables in living rooms to give them another purpose,” she says.

Morgan also notes that the options for tables themselves have become “stylish and colorful,” from companies such as Jonathan Adler, which makes a cool acrylic table with brushed brass corners, and Oomph, which offers both square and rectangular game tables in an endless array of custom colors, with an optional acrylic topper to convert to more games.

An acrylic table designed by Jonathan Adler is a sleek addition
An acrylic table designed by Jonathan Adler is a sleek addition.

Good lighting, so you don’t mistake a “bam bird” for a “green dragon,” is essential, calling for an overhead chandelier, recessed light, or a floor lamp. Seating can run the gamut, ranging from lush wing chairs to simple cushioned side chairs. Card table covers can be monogrammed, as can decks of cards. A needlepoint backgammon board or bridge table cover imparts an element of custom luxury.

Popular culture has influenced game playing. Chess sets and books on chess spiked when Netflix was showing The Queen’s Gambit, says the bookstore’s Pike. And the clattering tiles of the warp-speed mah-jongg games in Crazy Rich Asians spurred sales of game sets and books for players aspiring to that cacophonous sparrow chittering for which the game is named.

Designer Susan Schuyler Smith sums it up perfectly: “Playing a game of Rummikub with the kids, mah-jongg on the tile-top table, or a competitive chess match—game on!”

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