Discover Vintage America - SEPTEMBER 2019

The versatile Ta-Bed can be a table by day and a bed
by night

Q: I have a piece of furniture called a "Ta-Bed" manufactured in Chicago according to the metal plate on the inside of the lifting top. It is necessary for me to sell this library table/bed piece of furniture since,  because of health issues, we have had to move to a townhouse with no room for such a large item. I have no idea of the value and would like to ask if you could provide me with a value or advise me where to contact for a value.

A: Thank you for asking about the Ta-Bed. In the antiques trade this is referred to as "novelty" furniture. In my world I love dual duty items and wish that pieces such as this were still being made. It just makes sense especially for those with limited space such as in a studio apartment or in my case it would be wonderful for the spare bedroom which serves as my sewing room.

The Ta-Bed follows along the lines of the Murphy bed. The Murphy bed doesn't serve a dual function, the space for the mattress is a cutout in the wall and you pull the bed down when you need it. It does save space but that's about all it does.

Novelty furniture came about during the American Depression, the stock market crash occurred in October 1929 and the Depression lasted until WWII. The working middle class found themselves in poverty and destitute, and threatened the existence of much of American industry, including the furniture manufacturing and retailing industries. People could not afford to purchase a complete dining room set or living room ensemble, yet they still had the desire to make small additions and improvements to their home decor.

Companies that could no longer sell large pieces of furniture adapted in order to help the housewife make small and inexpensive changes to the home. An item that was popular prior to the crash was the tea cart, also known as hostess wagons. The Stickley Brothers improved upon it by adding extra shelves, 18 color variations, folding handles and wheel variations.

Chicago companies really stepped up their game during this period this includes the United Table-Bed Company. They made their famous "Ta-Bed," a bed that folded up to look like a small breakfast room table. It was marketed as a multiple use product that "saves space, saves rent, and perfectly combines in one piece of furniture the functions ordinarily performed by two." There were a variety of styles including Arts & Crafts.

The stand-out piece that was found in almost every home was the smoking stand. It took up very little space, came in a variety of colors and wood veneer designs. While the interior looked to be lined with copper it was actually painted metal.

Many modern furniture manufacturers today owe their existence to the survival mode adopted during the Depression and a large part of that mode was the design, construction and sale of "novelty" furniture to the American public.

As to the value of your Ta-Bed, they sell for $400 to $800. The price point depends on condition of the table and the bed.


Note: All prices given are for sale in a private sale, antique shop or other resale outlet. Price is also dependent upon the geographic area in which you are selling. Auction value, selling to a dealer or pawnshop prices are about half or less of resale value.

Michelle Staley is a Lenexa, KS-based dealer and researcher with 35 years of experience in the antique trade. Send questions with photos to Michelle to publisher@discoverypub.com. Please keep queries to one question; questions without photos of the item may not be answered. Michelle is also available for consulting and extensive research work beyond this column. If you would like an appraisal on an antique or collectible please go to www.michelleknowsantiques.com for a one-on-one appraisal.