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How to Pick the Perfect Coffee Table

Whether you're looking for somewhere to place a hot drink as you kick back after a hard day at work, or you need a surface for playing board games with the kids on wet weekends, a coffee table is a wonderful addition to your living room furniture. Choosing something that's perfect for your space may seem daunting; but here are some questions to help you spend less time shopping, and more time with your feet up.

How big should my coffee table be?

The most important consideration when buying a coffee table is, "Will it fit?" You must ensure it's possible to move around freely without banging your legs, so aim to leave from 12 to 18 inches of space between the table and your sofa. For oversized coffee tables, measure doorways and stairwells to make sure it's possible to get the furniture inside.

Once you know how much space you have available, select a coffee table that suits your living room layout and is in proportion with the surroundings. The height or top of the table should be level with the top of your sofa cushions, or slightly lower, which is usually around 18 inches; and the length should be from one half to two-thirds that of the sofa, approximately 44 to 64 inches. If you opt for a round table, a diameter of 36 inches provides a good sized surface without imposing too much on available space.

Extra Advice: Coffee Table Size & Placement Guide

Which coffee table shape should I pick?

The classic coffee table is rectangular, and works in a wide variety of room layouts; but that's not the only option:

  • Square: An oversized square is trendy and modern, and gives everyone sitting around it an equal share of the space.
  • Round: For compact spaces, round tables are a good choice, as the lack of corners make them easier to move around Pair them with L-shaped seating for a dynamic contrast in shapes.
  • Oval: An oval table works in similar situations to rectangular tables, but they have a slightly more traditional feel, and there are no corners to bump against.
  • Unique: Show off your eclectic and eccentric style with something interesting, like an octagon or hexagonal table.

Learn More: How to Choose a Coffee Table

How can I use a coffee table to enhance my home?

The perfect coffee table combines form and function, serving as a useful piece of furniture with an aesthetic that enhances your décor. When choosing a table, think how you intend to use it, and which materials accentuate your style:

  • Industrial: The industrial style features distressed metal and wood, suitable for modern studio apartments.
  • Farmhouse: The country cottage style is very traditional, making use of weathered, reclaimed wood and whitewashes to conjure images of a simpler time.
  • Glass: The transparency of a glass-topped table helps to make confined spaces seem more open and adds an easy touch of glam to your apartment or smaller space.
  • Storage: If you favor functionality or your living room could use some extra organization, storage coffee tables are ideal. They often feature shelves for magazines, or have a life top to gain access to a cubby for blankets.
  • Nesting: These tables are great for saving space because they easily fit underneath one another. You can either place them around your living room or next to your sofa as a cohesive set, or keep them stacked until you need extra table space for guests.

Whatever your style or functional needs, the right coffee table has the potential to reinvent how you use your living space, creating a focal point for social and family gatherings, and ensuring that you have everything you need close at hand when it's time to finally relax.

Related: How to Decorate a Coffee Table