Our Top Picks

Guides

Coffee Table 101: All About This Living Room Must-Have

Recently updated on February 21st, 2024 at 11:53 am

Your living room coffee table might seem like just another furniture piece that sits in the middle of everything, but it’s actually more valuable than you might think. Coffee tables have been around for centuries, used initially as surfaces for serving, but nowadays, they serve numerous purposes. Your coffee table is usually the centerpiece of your layout, where you can rest your feet, put down snacks, display books and magazines, or gather around with friends. Coffee tables come in different shapes, sizes, materials, and styles to fit your home decor. Don’t underestimate their importance; learn how to choose the perfect one for you.

Modern living room with fluted coffee table

Photo by Fantastic Studio from Freepik

So, what Is a Coffee Table?

A coffee table is a table typically placed in front of a sofa in the living room. Its main purpose is to hold beverages, books, decor, and other items within reach while relaxing.

Size and Shape

They come in a range of sizes, shapes, and styles to suit your space and needs. Round, square, rectangular – you name it. For compact living rooms, a small coffee table around 36 inches wide is ideal. Larger rooms can handle more extensive tables up to 54 inches wide. An oval or round coffee table is an ideal choice if you want maximum surface area without sharp corners.

Height

The standard table height is between 16 and 18 inches – high enough to make getting on and off the sofa easy but low enough for comfortable lounging. Some tables offer storage space underneath, so a 20-inch table provides more headroom.

Materials

From wood and metal to stone and glass, coffee tables are available in diverse materials to match your decor. Wood like oak, walnut, or teak is a popular, natural-looking choice. Metal tables with stone, marble, or granite tops also provide an attractive, durable surface. Acrylic or tempered glass coffee tables are stylish options for a lighter look.

Functionality

Basic tables simply provide a surface for items you want to keep close at hand. More functional tables offer extra storage space under the tabletop or drawers for stowing everything from remote controls to board games. Some even have built-in charging stations to power up while you lounge.

Living room interior with blue sofa and dark wood table

Photo by 2designbcn from Freepik

Insight – Legs: Coffee table legs come in different styles, from curved to tapered to X-frame. Choose based on your decor preferences.

The History and Evolution of Coffee Tables

The coffee table, that ubiquitous piece in living rooms everywhere, has been bringing people together for centuries.

The Origins

Coffee tables date back to the late 15th century in England. In reception rooms, these original tables were simple, three-legged stands used to serve tea, coffee, or other drinks. As living rooms transitioned from more formal spaces to relaxed, multi-functional areas for gathering and entertaining in homes, the coffee table evolved too. In the mid-20th century, coffee tables became lower and more eclectic. New materials like glass, chrome, and Formica made tables sleek, modern, and easy to care for. Coffee table books also became popular as decor and a way to spark conversation.

Current Trends

Today, there are tables for every style. You can find rustic wood tables, industrial metal tables, nesting tables, lift-top tables, and more. Oval, square, round, and rectangular shapes provide options for any space. Many now use their tables to display decorative items, books, magazines, or personal photographs. The coffee table continues to unite people, whether sharing a drink, playing a board game, or just resting your feet. After hundreds of years, the coffee table remains an essential piece that completes a living room. What would home be without it?

Retro living room with vintage table

Photo by User16450298 from Freepik

Different Coffee Table Styles and Materials

There are several styles of coffee tables to choose from that come in various materials. The style and material you select depend on your decor and how much use the table will get.

Wood

A wood coffee table is a classic choice that provides warmth and texture. Options, like pine, maple, and acacia work well in traditional homes, while teak and bamboo have a natural, organic, feel perfect for boho or eclectic spaces. Wood tables stand up well to daily use but require periodic conditioning with wood oil or wax to prevent stains and water damage.

Metal

For an industrial look, choose a metal coffee table. Wrought iron and steel have an antique feel, while aluminum and chrome are sleek and modern. Metal reflects light and creates an airy, open feel in a room. However, metal tables show scratches and water stains more easily and can dent if not adequately protected. Use coasters, placemats, or table pads when placing drinks on a metal table.

Glass

A glass coffee table is a superb option if you want to keep a space feeling open and light. However, glass shows fingerprints and requires frequent wiping down. Tempered glass is a better choice as it’s less likely to break into sharp pieces if cracked. For extra protection, choose a table with rounded corners.

Stone

Natural stones like marble, slate, and travertine make exquisite coffee tables. Stone is ideal for high-traffic living rooms as it’s incredibly durable and heat-resistant. The natural veining and texture of the stone add visual interest. However, stone is heavy, cold to the touch, and prone to staining if not properly sealed. Stone tables also typically cost more than other options.

Living room with two chairs and a gray sofa

Photo by Studioworkstock from Freepik

Insight – Shop Online or in Stores: Both options have pros and cons in terms of selection, return policies, and the ability to see the table in person.

How to Choose the Right Coffee Table for Your Space

Choosing the right coffee table for your setup depends on a few key factors. Think about the size and shape of your space, your decorating style, and how you plan to use the table. The options are endless, from minimal glass tops to rustic wood slabs, so take your time to find one perfect for your needs.

Style

Choose a style that matches your current preferences and setup. Glass, wood, metal, stone, and upholstered tables come in a range of styles, from modern to farmhouse to mid-century. A glass-topped table keeps the space airy and open. Distressed wood adds rustic warmth. Polished stone and metal lend sleek, contemporary lines. An upholstered ottoman doubles as extra seating. Mixing materials, like a wood base with a stone top, creates an eclectic custom look.

Usage

How you plan to use your coffee table determines certain features. If you entertain often, look for a spacious table with storage for books, baskets, coasters, and trays. For casual relaxing, a simple option with space for remotes, magazines, and snacks works well. If you have kids or pets, consider a table with rounded edges and a durable top that can handle scratches or watermarks. Nesting tables give you flexibility for both display space and storage.

Neutral living room with sofa sectional

Photo by MediaStock from Freepik

Insight – Cost: Coffee tables range widely in price from under $100 to over $1,000, depending on materials, size, and brand name. Set a budget that works for you.

Final Thoughts

The coffee table is an iconic furniture piece that adds value to any home interior. Whether you prefer a round, square, or rectangular shape, or wood, glass, or metal material, a coffee table brings people together and completes the living room look. With decorative touches paired with books or magazines, a coffee table creates an inviting space for conversation, connection, and quality time with friends and family. Elevate the ambiance of your living room or new home with an essential coffee table that will captivate and inspire, making it the centerpiece of your space, perfect for creating unforgettable memories.

Broaden your horizons! Explore our vast collection of articles, each offering an immersive experience of exploration and knowledge.

Want to Save this Guide?

Enter your email & get this guide sent to your inbox.