How to choose a coffee table

The recent months at home have led many people to reevaluate the comfort and configuration of their furniture.

Whether you want to purchase all new furniture or upgrade the look of your family room, your coffee table may be a good place to start. If you’re like most people, your coffee table functions as a serving table, a footrest, a repository for books and magazines, a workstation and your jigsaw-puzzle spot. Choosing the right size, shape and material for your coffee table can make a big difference in how it works and how long it lasts.

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We asked two interior designers for tips on how to make this important choice: Robin Rains, owner of Robin Rains Interior Design in Nashville, and Heather Hilliard, owner of Heather Hilliard Design in San Francisco. Here are their four tips via email:

1. Size and placement are key. It’s important to get the right size and shape table for your room, so get out your tape measure before searching, Rains wrote.

“The height of the table should be generally between 14 to 20 inches tall,” she wrote. “I prefer the table to be approximately two inches lower than the seat height on your sofa. Keep approximately 16 inches from the edge of the table to the sofa and at least 28 to 30 inches to the TV cabinet or furniture opposite the sofa. A table should be two-thirds the length of your sofa for correct proportion.”

Hilliard prefers a maximum of 18 inches between the coffee table and the edge of the furniture it serves.

“Less than 18 inches spacing narrows circulation and greater than 18 inches of space makes it a stretch to set down a drink or rest your feet,” she says. “If the chairs perpendicular to your sofa seem to be crossing into the space in front of your sofa, your coffee table needs to be longer.”

2. Check the proportions and visual impact. A storage ottoman or closed-volume table will feel weighty in a room, Hilliard wrote, so consider an oval to make the piece appear a little sleeker and a neutral color to keep it understated.

“A glass coffee table will add lightness and airiness to the space, but it isn’t suitable for bearing a lot of weight, resting feet or being bumped into by little ones,” she wrote. “A rich material choice with treasured objects atop it will draw the eye, so keeping other design choices clean-lined and more monochromatic will stave off visual overload.”

How to choose a coffee table

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When it comes to furnishing a room, buying a coffee table might not be first on your list. Perhaps you are more focused on finding the right couch for your space or the perfectly comfortable armchair. But according to Los Angeles-based interior designer and CEO of KMW Interiors Kita Williams, the coffee table is often the anchor in the room — especially in larger living spaces. Some of the best styles to consider include coffee tables with lift tops for extra utility, coffee tables with storage for similar function and round coffee tables to manage smaller spaces.

. a good place to start the narrative that will be your living room

Kita Williams, interior designer and CEO of KMW Interiors

“Between the coffee table and the rug, you have an excellent place to build the seating area around,” Williams told NBC News Shopping. “A hearty piece . can be a good place to start the narrative that will be your living room.” Whether you want a coffee table that is understated and function-forward or one that makes a statement, it’s worth determining first what the right coffee table is for your living space.


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What to consider when buying a coffee table

“The most important factor to consider when picking a coffee table is utility,” Williams said. “How will it be used?” Utility is the optimal starting point here.

When buying a coffee table, you’ll want to figure out what works best for your home/place. Perhaps you’re looking for one that provides extra storage space for blankets. With work from home being the new norm, you may be looking for a coffee table with a lift top to function as a desk. Or if you’re looking to upgrade your decor, you may want to try an accent piece or something simpler to display your coffee table books, hold your wine or house plants.

“I can’t say that a coffee table is ‘discrete.’ Even when you get a self-assembled IKEA coffee table, it can make a statement,” Williams said. Anyone entering your living room is going to have “some kind of view or interaction with your furniture,” she added, “no matter what [or] where it comes from.”

“What may seem discreet or nondescript in your mind will always create a conscious and subconscious impression on your guest (and even you) when you engage with it in any way,” Williams asserted. In other words, all coffee tables make a statement. The best coffee table for you is one that reflects the statement you want to make — even if it’s a non-statement.


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Best Coffee Tables of 2020

The best coffee table for you is one that meets your needs in regard to price, look and function. To help you get started, we’ve rounded up some coffee tables in different styles and at different price points, based on guidance from Williams.

1. IKEA KRAGSTA Coffee Table in Dark Blue-Green

“In a very small living space, I prefer a round coffee table. It is easier to get around and is still functional,” Williams said. “It also cuts down on the incidents of bumping into hard or sharp edges.”

A round coffee table can really soften your space, too, and pairing that with a bold color can help make a statement — a great example of checking many boxes with an affordable and compact coffee table. It’s also available in a few neutral shades: Black, White, and Light Beige. But the dark blue-green is both trendy and elegant. If you’re looking for something to hold your beverages and add color to a room, this piece is great for you.

How to choose a coffee table

KRAGSTA Coffee table

2. IKEA KVISTBRO Storage Table in White

“I also recommend something that is possibly multi-functional that could perhaps provide much needed storage for items,” Williams said. Function, however, sometimes means a larger piece.

For a “comfortably usable” living space, Williams recommended ensuring you have 16 inches of free space around the coffee table. If that number is out of reach considering a smaller living space (as is often the case in places like New York City), IKEA’s KVISTBRO is another safe bet and even more affordable. It offers storage for blankets or other items you don’t mind displaying.

Choosing a coffee table is one of the most important, yet often overlooked decorating decisions you’ll have to make. Coffee tables are often centrally located and they serve a very practical purpose inside of a living room. After all, without a coffee table, where would we put our favorite drinks, decor magazines, remote controls, and iPhones?

The coffee table is arguably what gives a living room the most character. It typically holds personal items and decor accents from the home owners, reflecting their personalities.

Personally, I think the coffee table is the second most fun part of designing a living room after picking out the sofa! From marble to reclaimed wood, there are so many fun coffee table designs to choose from – it’s hard to pick just one!

Here are some guidelines and ideas for picking out the best coffee table for your family room!

Choosing a Coffee Table

A coffee table should be proportionate in size to the sofa. As a good rule of thumb, the coffee table you buy should be at least one-half the length of your sofa, but not longer than the sofa itself. A nice happy medium coffee table length of three-fourths or two-thirds is perfect.

The height of your coffee table should be about even with the height of your sofa seat, give or take a few inches.

How to choose a coffee table

Kara Hebert Interiors

Types of Coffee Tables

So what type of coffee table is best for your sofa? Well, it depends on the kind of sofa you have! If you have a standard horizontal sofa, then we recommend going with an oval or rectangular coffee table. If you have a sectional or L-shaped sofa, then we recommend going with a round or square shaped coffee table to fit in nicely. Of course, you can definitely make it work without following these rules if you really have your heart set on a specific coffee table!

Coffee Table Shapes

Here are the main coffee table shapes to choose from:

Oval Coffee Tables

Oval coffee tables are great at balancing form and function. They promote movement and offer ample space for storing things on top. No sharp edges here, so oval tables are great for people with kids!

Rectangular Coffee Tables

Rectangular coffee tables are decidedly more modern and they offer the most amount of surface space to work with.

Round Coffee Tables

A round coffee table can be really inviting to guests and large families who may want to occasionally eat around the coffee table while watching a movie. Add some floor poufs to the other side, and it’s a party!

Square Coffee Tables

Square coffee tables provide a nice and symmetrical look to your living space. They are the most practical coffee table shape and can sometimes offer storage beneath the surface.

Coffee Table Materials

Our favorite coffee tables are often made of marble, brass, wood, or glass. Here are a few recommendations for each material.

Marble Coffee Tables

Marble coffee tables are one of the most highly sought-after coffee tables around. You can’t scroll through Pinterest or Instagram without seeing one! Marble is a heavy and expensive coffee table material. That being said, you can get a pretty great knock-off for as little as $98 (Over 900 people rated it 5 stars).

Brass Coffee Tables

Aged brass coffee tables can give a vintage appeal to your living room.

Wood Coffee Tables

Wood coffee tables are a great choice for farmhouse homes, and anyone who wants a rustic, country feel to their living room.

Glass Coffee Tables

Glass coffee tables are a minimal approach to the coffee table and allow the sofa to draw more attention.

Mirrored Coffee Tables

Mirrored coffee tables add a touch of elegance to any living room.

Alternative Coffee Table Ideas

You don’t have to stick to the traditional coffee table if you don’t want to. Many families choose to use a coffee table made from unconventional materials or objects. Think: a vintage trunk as a coffee table or a flea-market find!

Here are a few alternative coffee table ideas:


Some people choose to forego a coffee table altogether. Others opt for a slightly modified fabric version of the coffee table: the ottoman! Ottomans are great for doubling as a coffee table ADD a footrest. You can easily add a small tray to create a flat surface for when you need it. Many conveniently feature storage underneath, too!

Nesting Coffee Tables

A new interior design trend that I see more and more is the nesting coffee table. Nesting coffee tables are 2-3 separate tables of varying heights and sizes that neatly come together to form a coffee table cluster. A nesting coffee table is great for adding extra dimensions to your living room.

Freeform Coffee Tables

Freeform coffee tables are uniquely shaped tables that don’t really fit into one shape. They may be loosely square or loosely rectangular, to give you an idea of where they can fit. Freeform coffee tables are often made of live edge teak wood, but you can also find some mid-century modern freeform glass coffee tables like this one!

Group of Side Tables

Similar to the nesting coffee table, I’ve seen beautiful living rooms that incorporate 2-3 side tables placed next to each other (often of varying heights) to form a casual coffee table.

How to choose a coffee table

Three Birds Renovations

Coffee Tables by Style

If your home is already decorated in a particular style, then these styles of coffee tables may interest you!

Consider How You’ll Decorate

Lastly, be sure to consider how you want to decorate the top of your coffee table before buying one. Do you want to display coffee table books? Do you want to have a family photo album? A coffee table tray? A vase of flowers? A candle? The possibilities are endless, and it’s always fun to plan the design ahead of time! Consider the colors you want to use beforehand to make sure everything fits together just right!

I hope this post inspired you and made your coffee table decision a bit easier!

The modern coffee table is a multi-functional piece of furniture that can add the finishing touch to a living space or sitting room. Once installed and beautifully styled, the right coffee table has the power to make a genuine statement.

How to choose a coffee table

The breadth of options available can make the task of choosing a coffee table seem greater than it is. Use our guide to choosing a coffee table to help slim down the options to those that will compliment your home and lifestyle…

How to choose a coffee table

First off, consider the space and layout of the room. Checking a few important dimensions will help identify the optimum size for a coffee table. Start off by considering these key points:

• Allow 30cm to 45cm between a coffee table and the seating set around it.

• High traffic living rooms will need more space around the coffee table for people to move around. Allow at least 45cm of clear space around a coffee table in this situation.

• If other furniture or a fireplace will sit along one side of a coffee table, allow for a minimum of 80cm for people to walk between with ease.

• Subtracting these measurements from the full available length and width of the open space between your seating will give you the maximum size for your coffee table.

How to choose a coffee table
Second, take into account the proportions of your coffee table. The size and height should always be considered in relation to the seating around it. A few important things to keep in mind are:

• The maximum length (or diameter) of a coffee table should be two thirds of the width of the sofa it sits alongside. For example, if your sofa is 2.1m wide, the length of your coffee table should be no bigger than 1.4m.

• A coffee table has got to be level with or up to 15cm above the seating height of the main piece of seating or sofa. This is particularly important if you often host people in your living space as it makes it easier to reach and lift a drink or plate.

Finally, it’s time to focus on the looks…

How to choose a coffee tableInterior Designer: Juliette Byrne

Oval or round coffee tables:

The curved edges of an oval or round coffee table can soften the feel of an area that has lots of straight lines and will facilitate circulation in a high traffic living room. And if you’re looking to give the illusion of spaciousness, an oval or round coffee table will appear to take up less space. If you’ve got room, group together two or three matching round coffee tables of differing heights for an attractive layered and flexible display.

Square coffee tables:

If you have the benefit of lots of space between your seating, a large square coffee table makes a real statement. You may also consider using two or four identical square coffee tables and arranging them symmetrically. If your living area has a long sofa against one wall, a square coffee table will add depth to the seating area and break up the long lines of the furniture.

Rectangular coffee tables:

The most popular, shape-wise, is the rectangular coffee table. These look best when placed centrally in front of a sofa, echoing the proportions of the larger piece of furniture. If your living space is long and narrow, this shape will allow the maximum table space for the limited width of the room.

How to choose a coffee table
Choose materials for your coffee table that will compliment your existing furniture and suit your lifestyle. A few popular options are…

Glass coffee tables

These work well in any interior and have a sophisticated look. The glass is easy to look after and the finish of the metal frame can be made to match or standout from the furniture in the rest of the room, as is the case with our new Papillon Coffee Table. A clear glass top will also give the feeling of open space and allow for a view of the rug or flooring underneath.

Marble coffee tables

Marble coffee tables need careful maintenance due to the porous nature of the material. Though, if cared for properly, a piece of marble furniture can outlast all other furniture. A beautiful marble tabletop will allow even the most modern coffee table design to sit comfortably in a traditional interior.

Metal coffee tables

How to choose a coffee table

Made of brass, steel or gold-plated metal like our Balzac Coffee Table, metal coffee tables also need to be cared for in order to keep the surface in good condition. A bronze coffee table will patinate beautifully as it is used, improving with age.

Every sitting area is used and styled differently, which is why we offer a broad selection of coffee table designs in a variety of shapes, sizes, finishes, and materials.

Whatever shape or material you choose to suit your lifestyle, our coffee tables can be sized to fit your space and if you prefer to stretch out your legs and want a side table instead, we can help you with that, too!