Even if you don’t drink coffee, a coffee table is a must in every living room, salon or even a bedsit: if you have a sitting area, you need a coffee table. Coffee tables are practical – obviously – creating a space for drinks, snacks or even dinner; displaying photo albums and books (yes, the coffee table books), and generally putting your stuff somewhere immediately accessible.
But coffee tables have also important design role: they provide the focus and an anchor for any sitting area.
Before buying a coffee table, consider the following:
How will you use it?
This should always be a starting point – and be honest about it.
Do you have kids with sticky fingers? Buy a table that is easy to clean and hard to stain. And if the kids are small, consider the edges and corners – sharp and thin ones will need protectors.
Are people likely to put their feet up on the coffee table? Don’t buy a glass one.
Are you going to eat your dinner from it? Think about heat-resistant surface.
Is it going to be used as a workspace for your laptop or notebooks? Buy one that’s large enough and doesn’t get marked or scratched easily. Consider the height – although we definitely do not recommend working off the sofa on a regular basis (your back will thank you for following this advice!), having some height will make it easier to type or make notes.
Is everybody in your household always reading something, sketching, playing with physical objects? Consider storage (drawers or a shelf) to put away the magazines, books, notepads, pencils or newspapers etc.
Would you want to put a vase with fresh flowers on the table? Ceramic vases often leave damp marks and every kind can risk splashes – buy a table that’s not likely to get instantly water marked.
Choose the style
You will want a table that fits with the rest of furniture in your room. Remember that “fits” does not have to mean “match” – and many interior designers think it should not!
Choose a table that blends with the general style of the room, or pick one that stands out. If you go for the latter option, aim to create a thought-out contrast or juxtaposition of colour, shape or style.
Size and dimensions
The general guideline and your starting point is that the coffee table should be approximately the same height, or even 1 to 2 inches lower than the seat of your sofa or armchairs, and that the perfect length should be about two-thirds of the sofa.
However, before you make your decisions, refer to the first point above – the way you use your space is the most important here, and if your coffee table is to work as a bit of a desk and a dining table too, a higher one might be a better choice.
Leave at least 14” to 18” space between the sofa and the table – and enough space on other sides for seating or people walking past.
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