Tips to Selecting a Coffee Table

February 6, 2017
selecting a coffee table

A coffee table can make or break a room. It can be the statement piece, or it can fade into the design. It is the one accessory a living room must have, in my opinion. Choosing the right coffee table can be an overwhelming experience for some people, though. On the other hand, armed with a few tips and tricks, the process can be down right fun.

Start by knowing what it is you wish to accomplish with your coffee table. Will it be a statement piece, or be more functional? Doe it need to be fancy, or do you want something more simple?  Does the shape or material matter to you, if so how much does it matter?

octagon coffee table


Coffee tables come in all shapes and sizes. The most common seem to be rectangles. By no means are they the only shape to choose from. There are squares, ovals and rounds. Are there children or pets to think of?  If so, a round or oval table would be best. There are no sharp edges to injure oneself on during a fall or a bump into it.  If you opt for a round or oval shape, make sure you have 30 inches between the coffee table and the television console. Of course if the TV is wall mounted, you will still need to have walk way clearance.




What functionality is required? Will it house the remote and kid’s toys or just lay books and magazines on it? Some coffee tables have hidden storage, or built in display cases for artwork. In most cases, the functionality is being able to simply set down a drink or a small plate.



How long is the couch?  Pick a coffee table that is the same scale as the couch. For example, A long narrow couch will look well paired with a long and narrow coffee table. A long narrow table paired with an over-sized couch will look dwarfed in comparison. One rule of thumb is to keep a large scale piece with a large scale piece, provided the room is well suited to large scale furnishings.  Scale is simply the idea that each piece has equal visual weight when compared to each other. You don’t want to pair a delicate love seat with a heavy industrial metal table.

contemporary_glass_coffee table


Then there’s the question of material. Coffee tables come in wood, metal, glass tops and acrylic. The material you opt for will largely depend on your style. Wood is considered traditional, while metal and glass tops fall more into the modern to contemporary style ranges.

Think long and hard about going with a glass top coffee table. Sure they look fabulous and like acrylic coffee tables they visually open up a space. Nate Berkus, though, learned that kids and glass don’t mix well.  His daughter Poppy recently shattered the glass top coffee table in his bedroom causing shards of glass to go everywhere. All she did was innocently slammed a toy down on top.


Alternative Options 

If your style is a bit more eclectic, don’t feel the need to opt for a traditional coffee table. There are wonderful pieces that double nicely as a coffee table in just about any eclectically decorated space. I love the idea of turning an old steamer trunk into a coffee table, as long as it isn’t higher than the couch. Another option is to use a cedar chest, or a small grouping of nesting tables.  An over-sized ottoman offers both a place to leave the remote and a tray of magazines, but also provides additional seating when hosting a party.  In a small space, grouping together several garden stools will give the room a casual feel.

Once the needed functionality, scale and design are understood, shopping for a coffee table becomes easier.  Some of the best places to find coffee tables locally are area thrift stores, consignment shops and antique dealers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.