How to Choose a Coffee Table

MacKenzie Cain
Written by MacKenzie Cain
Updated March 1, 2016
living room with ottoman coffee table
If small children are in the house, look into getting a multipurpose ottoman that acts a table. (Photo courtesy of Habitar Design)

Coffee tables serve as a focal point in the center of the room.

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They hold food, drinks, books, plants and even an occasional puzzle or board game. Coffee tables need to be selected to best fit your needs. Consider the following when deciding on which coffee table you should purchase for your home.

What is the purpose of your coffee table?

Think about how you will use the coffee table on a day-to-day basis to decide what function you need your coffee table to serve. Choose a table that will provide the best solution.

If you need more storage, choose a table with drawers in the bottom or a top that flips open with storage inside.

Do you need a lot of table space? Will you want to put your feet up? Do the edges need to be rounded or cushioned for small children? 

living room with patterned furniture and rug
Your coffee table height should be the same height as your surrounding seating, normally about 18 to 20 inches high. (Photo courtesy of Habitar Design)

What size coffee table do you need?

With your existing furniture in place, decide on the general size of the table you need. The average coffee table is 48 by 24 inches or 48 inches square, with slight variations in both directions.

Make sure there is enough room to easily move between furniture pieces. Round coffee tables aid circulation, especially when there are many available seats.

If you have a large space to fill, another option would be to choose a pair of ottomans to sit next to the table, or even have two smaller coffee tables to break up the space. Not only are they mobile, separate pieces can be used to your advantage by allowing for a combination of textures, colors, and visual weight to be brought into the space.

Are there any other accent or side tables in the room? The majority of the seating should have easy access to at least one table to put down a glass, book or other loose items. If there are other side tables already in the space, a smaller coffee table placed in front of a sofa may suffice. If this is the only table, select something larger. 

How much of a visual impact do you want your coffee table to make?

The visual weight of your table plays a huge role in the overall look and feel of your space. If the surrounding furniture pieces are simple with clean lines, a visually heavy table will make a statement and add warmth and coziness. You could even add baskets to an open area below a table to achieve a similar effect.

If the surrounding furniture pieces are bulkier, a table with less visual weight will create balance. Glass tops or open bottoms decrease the visual weight of coffee tables and create a more open feel.

Don’t be afraid to bring in some color with an upholstered coffee table or ottoman. This is another way to create a cozier feel and draw people to the surrounding furniture.

What type of coffee table works best for your house? Let us know in the comments section below.

As of Feb. 29, 2016, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.

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