6 Things to Look for in a River Table

Danielle Amir-Lobel, Editorial Manager

September 15, 2021

A river table is composed of two pieces of live edge wood, filled in their center with epoxy or resin. Whereas live edge tables often have the natural wood edge facing outwards, river tables tend to turn the live edge inwards, so as to mimic the natural contours of a river. Because of the wood’s natural curves and the endless unique ways to fill the wood gap and create the “river” appearance, river tables are one of a kind and an amazing design piece to add a special touch to your spaces.

We asked one of our brilliant river table creators, Lumberlust Designs, some questions about what you should look for when choosing a river table and their unique designs. Lumberlust Designs create one-of-a-kind pieces using reclaimed hardwood and combine the rustic wood feel with modern metal elements in their pieces. They are inspired by the unique nature of wood and express appreciation for trees by sustainably sourcing reclaimed lumber and reducing waste with their live edge designs.

Ryan, the owner of Lumberlust Designs, sits beside an oceanic resin tabletop.
The owner of Lumberlust Designs beside an oceanic resin tabletop.

What’s the difference between river tables, live edge tables, and resin tables? 

A live edge table is typically a finished slab or slice of wood that features the natural edge of the tree. A river table is made from two slabs of this wood with natural edges, but it uses glass inlay or casting resin to fill the gap in between the wood. Resin tables are non-river layout table tops, and the term could describe a wide range of work, from pieces made entirely of resin, to pieces in which resin is combined with other materials, and to a rustic slab of wood which is cast with resin around the edges. River techniques are not only used in tables, though. One river format that is recently growing in popularity is river mirrors for wall decor. I have also inlaid a fire pit with a river gap for a creative outdoor patio table.

A maple burl sodalite mineral resin river coffee table by Lumberlust Designs.
Maple Burl Sodalite Mineral Resin River Coffee Table, 31×24″

What makes a river table high quality?

High-quality river tables are made from very stable, dry wood slabs that have been properly prepared to ensure strong bonding between the resin and the wood. Utilizing dry and seasoned wood slabs with properly prepared edges is critical for making a quality river table. In addition, using the appropriate casting resin, which is food-safe, balances hardness and flexibility, has proper finishing techniques, and employs bracing on the underside, sustains the wood throughout long-term use without any issues. Furthermore, the legs and base of the table need to properly support the size and weight of the tabletop and be connected with proper fastening methods. River tables that are sold at higher prices usually feature figured burl wood that are more rare and exotic in nature and are paired with legs and bases of equal appeal. 

A close-up of a maple burl resin river with Chrysocolla and Kyanite inlay by Lumberlust Designs.
42″ Maple Burl Resin River w/ Chrysocolla & Kyanite Inlay

What interior design styles do river tables work in? 

Nearly every client’s home to which we have delivered a river table has had a pool, fountain, or lake within view. The interior design style and decor in every space varies greatly from coastal, to rustic, eclectic modern, and Tuscan. In many of our photos, I have tried to show the surrounding decor with water features in view to highlight this aesthetic. In most cases, our furniture art tends to be a one-of-a-kind piece in its space and stands out as a bold focal point. Often, people design our art to fit the space using complementary color choices or metal finishes.

A mesquite live edge river table by Lumberlust Designs.
Mesquite Live Edge River Table

What makes a river table unique?

No two river tables are the same because of how they merge natural form wood with epoxy artistry combined with unique wood or steel fabrication for the legs. For my builds, every component is selected to fit the individual client’s requests. This customization usually starts with a size, shape, and budget discussion, and then I present the client with various options for the design. Wood slabs can vary significantly in color, shape, and flow of the edge. Burl slabs also have a curvy detailed live edge and a more exotic wood grain that can create a more interesting river but cost more than straighter grain common slabs. The resin artistry can range from completely clear, to opaque, shimmery, solid color fill, and even multiple layers. I have also added other natural mineral rocks, like Chrysocolla and Sodalite, for river wall art and table tops. Additionally, I often match colors and metallics to my client’s color palettes, simulated frozen rivers, and created oceanic flows in resin art—the possibilities are endless. I have also used wood and resin as modern table legs and have even used a carved 3D tree pedestal base. I try to approach each piece I create as a one-of-a-kind furniture art design, and there is great room for creativity in the process.

An enchanted river tabletop by Lumberlust Designs.
Enchanted River

How much should a great river table cost?

The cost of a river table varies greatly with factors such as size, wood selection, choice of resin versus glass, and the base design. River tables typically cost more than your average live edge slab table because of the added supplies and labor they involve. A lot of the specific design choices come down to a decision of how much you want to spend. Approaching a maker with a budget and a rough idea of what you want, along with any inspiration photos, will help provide direction for this process. The lower your budget is, the more limited options you will have. Every maker has unique circumstances and overheads that can affect their rates. Most of our river coffee tables range between $3,800 and $6,500, our dining tables range between $5,000 and $16,000, and our river mirrors range between $2,000 and $8,000. Some clients spend more money on special slabs for the table top and less on basic steel legs, so you can also prioritize different spending allocations. You can expect shipping to add at least $1,000 for white glove freight shipping on most larger tables, so working with a local maker near you can help eliminate this shipping cost. I only build glass river tables for local delivery because freight companies do not insure these tables to their high risk and value. 

An ebonized maple bookmatched river style modern dining table by Lumberlust Designs.
Ebonized Maple Bookmatched River Style Modern Dining Table

Is there anything else people should know about? 

I recommend wood and resin river tables for indoor use only. I do, however, build slab tables with fire pits or planter boxes in the river gap design for covered, outdoor use. Lighter and more vibrantly colored wood typically shows scratches less than dark wood like walnut, where any scratches appear lighter. In addition, hardwood surfaces are usually more durable than the resin areas for scratch and dent resistance. 

There are multiple ways to finish wood and resin rivers that will all affect long-term maintenance.  Some table makers will use a resin or urethane top coat; however, the trouble with these methods is that, when the table gets scratched, the repair process is more intense to buff out the damage or add more coats. We polish the wood and resin to the desired sheen and clarity (i.e. satin vs. gloss) and use a food safe oil or hardwax that absorbs into the wood and sets well. The best part about this type of finish is that it can be touched up in your home easily with no fumes, in a similar way as waxing a car. Mobile car detailers are usually equipped to buff out major scratches in our tables.

If you are looking for a bold, unique standout design piece for your spaces, a river table may be the perfect piece for your collection. Wescover has a diverse and unique array of one-of-a-kind river tables. To browse all of our Creators’ unique, handmade river table designs, check out our collection. For a more hand-picked and curated collection of river tables, we invite you to explore our Eclectic River Table Designs collection. Lastly, remember to check out more of Lumberlust Designs’ special pieces, each with its own story behind it!


Also published on Medium.

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