There are definitely a lot of different elements (furniture pieces, accessories, decorations, etc.) which can ultimately contribute to the creation of a pleasant and comfortable ambiance and a welcoming living room decor but few are as crucial as the coffee table.
This is the piece that somehow ties everything together. Somehow a living room is not the same without a coffee table or a set of chic side tables arranged as a collection in front of the sofa. Luckily there are plenty of unique coffee tables to choose from so that each space can look and feel special.
How to choose the perfect coffee table
Like with everything else, it’s important to do a bit of research before choosing a coffee table and to define your priorities in order to make the best decision. Here’s a few things to consider:
Make sure the size is right. A coffee table that’s either too small or too big can ruin the balance of the whole room. Choose the size based on the proportions of the living room, on the size and shape of the sofa and any other seating arrangements as well as on the way in which you plan to use this space. Make sure to leave enough space around the table to freely move and don’t block important focal points.
Pick the right shape. The size and the shape of the coffee table go hand in hand. Since there’s plenty of shapes to choose from, you have lots of different options. Each one has its own unique particularities. A rectangular coffee table has a classic look and suits a lot of different setups while a round table adds warmth to the space around it and makes it feel cozier. There’s also less common shapes that can make your coffee table stand out.
Choose a suitable material. Most coffee tables are made of wood or from a combination of wood and a different material like metal for example. There’s various different types of wood to choose from and all sorts of combinations of materials that can impact the way in which the table looks and the style it gives off. Metal is usually associated with industrial design while some types of wood are great for creating a rustic décor.
Functionality vs aesthetics. These two elements should ideally be in sync and should balance each other out. A great coffee table looks interesting and is also practical. It’s up to you to decide where you want the emphasis to be and also to decide on what you want to focus when it comes to the overall functionality of the table. For example, you might want a table with lots of built-in storage or you might want one that stands out and makes a statement.
A marble top for an unexpected look
A coffee table can be special in a lot of different ways. An idea can be to opt for interesting or unexpected materials. For instance, a coffee table with a marble top would definitely stand out and would also have a timeless appeal so it doesn’t really matter what style you’ve chosen for the rest of the living room decor.
Something casual made of basic materials
For a chic and casual look with a little bit of industrial character you could opt for a coffee table made of wood and metal. It could have a slender metal frame complemented by a wooden top. The contrast would be nice but not too obvious.
A square-shaped table for a cozy setup
Square-shaped coffee tables are quite unusual even though a lot of times the shape suits the seating area perfectly. With that in mind, you can create a cozy setup that both looks and feels good. At the same time, the coffee table can offer some practical storage for things like books, magazines, remote controls, etc.
How about more than 1 coffee table?
A single coffee table might not the enough for a big living room or n L-shaped sitting area. In that case it would be more comfortable and practical to have two or more coffee tables. They don’t all have to look alike. Consider combining different materials, shapes or even heights.
A less than common geometric shape
Another idea is to choose a coffee table with a hexagon-shaped top. It’s unusual enough to stand out and to look cool and practical enough to not require compromises. In many ways it would be very similar to a round coffee table.
Several small tables for added flexibility
In a lot of cases a flexible layout is considered a plus because it allows multiple types of seating configurations to be created based on the type of activity. As a result, a collection of side tables can either be used separately or as a group.
Different heights and shapes
When you think about it, having two or three small coffee tables as opposed to a single larger one is practical even if all you’re doing is lounging or entertaining guests. Such a configuration is useful especially when several different types of seating units are involved.
A mix of table styles and materials
It can also be useful to have the usual living room coffee table and to complement it with a few additional tables or different shapes and sizes. This way you can mix and match them based on what you plan to do at that moment and also to arrange the furniture in different configurations if you desire.
A coffee table for a cozy seating area
Coffee tables can be paired with more than just the typical living room sofa. A coffee table can be a perfect accessory for a cozy reading corner or for an intimate lounging area. It’s not just the living room that can benefit from such a chic setup.
Coffee tables designed to sit in groups
Some coffee tables are designed to be used as groups, sort of like a large piece made of several smaller ones which fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Such designs are eye-catching, intriguing and often very practical as well.
Mix and match small accent tables
If you like the idea of having several small coffee tables instead of a single piece, you don’t necessarily have to choose pieces form the same collection. They can have different proportions, shapes and can even be made of different materials.
A single large table for everyone to share
Of course, the opposite is also valid: a single large coffee table positioned in such a way that everyone feels comfortable around it. Although this option offers less flexibility, sometimes it can be more practical and comfortable.
A slender and chic design
Although the coffee table is the centerpiece of the living room this doesn’t mean it has to stand out in a very obvious way or to take up a lot of space. A design like that of the Ewalt coffee table is a nice fit for a small room because the clear glass top and slender frame give it a lightweight and sleek appearance.
A coffee table with a bit of storage
Having some sort of built-in storage is very practical for a coffee table. The Gascon table features a semi-open shelf inside which is super handy for storing all sorts of things like gadgets, chargers, magazines, remotes and so on. It’s also a nice little space where you can display a few decorations.
A stylish pair of modern-industrial tables
The geometric metal bases of the Betio coffee tables give them a really cool and sculptural look. The round wooden tops are simple but add a warm touch to the otherwise industrial design, managing in the end to give this set an eclectic and versatile character. Use both tables as a set or separately, based on your needs.
A clean, open and modern design
If you want something minimalistic to go with your breezy living room design, check out the Altieri coffee table which impresses with its stylish glass top suspended above the sculptural frame. The shelf can be used as a display area as well as for storage. This two-tiered design takes a stylish form without being opulent.
An elongated, bench-like table
In certain scenarios having something similar to the Chesterfield coffee table can be very practical. Having a larger surface at your disposal is great when you’re playing board games or serving snacks or when you just want more space in general. This table features a combination of wood and metal and has a slender frame that gives it a lightweight look.
Ottoman-style coffee table
For a more casual vibe consider getting an ottoman-style coffee table. An interesting example is the Burlison table which has a solid wood base and is covered in woven rattan. This gives it an organic look which goes really well with the circular shape. Such a table also gives you an opportunity to add more texture to your living room.
A solid wood coffee table
Sometimes a more bulky coffee table can be beneficial because it helps to ground the room and everything around it. The Cassius table is a cool example, featuring a drum-like shape with a wide circular top. It’s made of mango wood and you can see all the different imperfections and textures on the surface of the table which makes each piece unique.
Nesting table combo
Nesting coffee tables are great for small living rooms. They usually come in pairs of two or three. The Maywood table come as a pair of two and they fit nicely together due to the way the frames compliment and complete each other. They can also be sued separately and they’re multi-functional.
A modern table with built-in lights
The Aquin coffee table has a simple and modern design with clean lines and a glossy finish. What helps it stand out however is the strips of LED lights attached to the underside. They create a beautiful and subtle glow around the table and there’s 16 different colors to choose from in order to create the perfect mood every time.
A cute table with storage baskets
The Denning coffee table has its own way of standing out and looking charming. It has a rectangular top and a solid but also open frame with a storage shelf below. It comes with two wicker baskets which fit perfectly on the shelf, giving you plenty of storage space for books, gadgets and chargers, toys, remotes and any other items that would otherwise clutter the table.
Coffee table vs cocktail table
Although coffee tables are quite different from cocktail tables, they’re often put in the same category and even believed to be similar or used interchangeably. So what sets them apart? Well, quite a few things.
A coffee table is basically the centerpiece of the living room, almost always used as a companion for the sofa. It’s a low table and it’s used for a variety of different purposed. We serve beverages and snacks on it, we keep our phones, remotes and various other items on it and we even use it to put our feet up when we’re watching TV.
A cocktail table in comparison is taller and usually has a pedestal base. It’s not usually something we put in our homes but rather something we find in restaurants, bars and various other similar places. When you go out and you take your drink on the terrace to have a smoke, the table that you all gather around is a cocktail table.
Coffee table vs side table
Coffee tables, side tables and end tables are also fairly similar to one another and in some cases used interchangeably but they are quintessentially different in lots of ways. The coffee table, as mentioned before, sits in front of the sofa and is usually at the same height as the seat. It doesn’t clock your vision when you’re watching TV and it’s multifunctional.
The side and end tables sit next to other pieces of furniture like the sofa, an armchair or even another table. They too are multifunctional but they’re also more compact than a typical coffee table. Their height is variable and they can be as tall as the arms of the sofa or lower than the seat, depending on design and style.
What’s the ideal height for a coffee table?
There’s no unique answer to this question because, like in most cases, it all depends on the situation and on your needs. Typically the height of a coffee table is somewhere between 16-18 inches. Of course, this is not set in stone.
You should aim to adjust these dimensions and to choose a height that suits you and your needs. Choose the height of the coffee table in relation to your living room sofa. In general, the table should be fairly at the same height as the seat cushions.
Think of how you’re going to be using the table. If you plant to serve drinks on it or to use as a dining table from time to time, make sure you feel comfortable using it when you’re sitting on your sofa. If it’s too low and you need to bend down this will make the whole experience uncomfortable. On the other hand, if the coffee table is too high it can obstruction your vision when you’re watching TV and it would also be uncomfortable if you want to put your feet up.
DIY coffee tables
Given that there’s so many little things to consider and to look for in the perfect coffee table, you might just decide that it’s better to build a custom one rather than to try to find it in stores. If you want to turn this into a DIY project, check out some of our favorite designs below.
A pallet table with hairpin legs
If you’re going for a modern-industrial or slightly rustic design, this pallet coffee table might be just what your living room needs. The main advantage with this project is that it makes use of a reclaimed wooden pallet which makes it inexpensive and quite easy as well. As always, there’s ways to customize the design so feel free to get creative with it and to adapt it to your own needs.
Wooden table with a tile top
Part of what makes DIY furniture projects so cool is the freedom to use all sorts of materials and supplies that you wouldn’t normally consider for such pieces. For example, this coffee table has a solid wood base with balusters being used as legs and it’s topped with a large tile.
Modern coffee table with hairpin legs
Hairpin legs are super versatile and a great asset when it comes to DIY furniture projects. They’re easy to install and they go with pretty much any style. Here they’re paired with a simple and stylish coffee table made out of wood. It’s rectangular in shape and it has a built-in shelf which can be for storage.
Wooden slab table
Some of our favorite tables have a live edge or are made of wood slabs and this is one of them. You can make a similar one by cutting a slice of wood from a log or a stump and what’s cool in this case is that each table is unique because of that. This particular one is a side table meant to sit next to the sofa but you can definitely make a coffee table in the same way.
The multipurpose hairpin leg table
In addition to being pretty easy to make, this hairpin leg table is very versatile. You can make it work anywhere in your home. Place it next to the sofa as a side table or in front of it as a little coffee table. It can also be a nightstand in the bedroom or an accent table in other parts of the house. The hairpin legs come in different sizes which lets you easily customize the height of the table.
A rolling crate table
Another easy way to make a coffee table is by combining four wooden crates. The idea is to place the crates on their side and to fit them together like a puzzle so they form a square-shaped table with a hole in the middle. You can either leave the top as it is or place a flat board or a piece of glass on top. Another idea is to fill the opening in the middle with a planter or something similar.
Live edge coffee table
Live edge wood is magnificent for all sorts of furniture pieces but especially coffee tables. You can make one from scratch if you can find either one large board with live edges or two that you can place side by side. Add braces on the underside and screw in a set of hairpin legs and the table is done.