When it comes to living room furniture and must-haves, we tend to think of sofas, coffee tables, and TV stands when it comes time to plan the layout. But what about end tables? The unsung heroes of the living room and sometimes of the entryway, home office, and bedroom is sometimes just an afterthought. Side tables are excellent easy updates that are also super handy to have.
Choosing an end table might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be daunting to shop so many different styles and shapes. You also have to consider material, size, type, and different features some end tables offer. We’ve gathered up some of the best ways to differentiate and ultimately decide on the perfect end table (or end tables) for your space.
End Tables by Style
No one knows your personal style better than you do — at least in theory. Sometimes we know what we love but finding pieces to best represent our style at home is tricky. If you’re curious, take our style quiz and get started with some pieces you might love. But here’s a quick rundown of some common styles (also, it’s totally ok if you love a little bit of everything — that just means you really can’t go wrong choosing an end table).
Contemporary and modern are usually put together, but there is variation here. Both styles emphasize geometric shapes and minimalism but contemporary is now and current. Modern came about in the second half of the 20th century and reflects newfound technologies and styles. Modern end tables will usually be shapely and in neutral color palettes. You’ll likely see marble, glass, and chrome.
Fixer-upper farmhouse is recognized by tradition, light colors, distressing, and practicality. It’s all about a sense of home and comfort with farmhouse style. Shiplapping, X-shaped details, and warm, functional elements are what you’ll find with farmhouse style end tables.
One of the most recognizable styles, mid-century modern has a distinct look usually involving tapered legs, wood grain, clean lines, and gentle curves with minimal design. Retro-inspired, mid-century modern end tables are often warm wood or marble and have tapered wood or metal hairpin legs with occasional pops of bold color.
Simply put, transitional style takes traditional style elements and mixes in a few contemporary elements for a more approachable, organic look. So a transitional end table might look more timeless and traditional or a little on the contemporary or modern side. It all depends on the balance of your space and what you want to pull in.
Choosing the Right Size
We underestimate how important it is to choose the right size end table for your space. But when it comes time to reach for that drink or book, we remember. In living rooms, end tables should be within two inches of a sofa’s arm height (so choose a 20-24 in. end table if the sofa’s arms are 22 inches in height). End tables shouldn’t overpower the sofa or chairs around them, nor should they be tiny in comparison. The room will look well-balanced when you select the correct sizes.
End Table Types and Features
An end table can take on many different looks and tasks. Consider what you would want or need an end table for in your space. If you want it by accent chairs or your sofa, what do you find yourself reaching for the most? Do you want to use an end table in place of a coffee table? Take all of this into consideration and explore the different features and types of end tables.
End Tables with Drawers
Super, super handy for those who want some extra storage space. An end table with a drawer or multiple drawers can stash some magazines, a book, or the TV remotes that always seem to disappear.
C-shaped End Tables
An excellent way to save space in your living room, c-shaped end tables or c tables are like snack and drink tables. The surface is longer and can nestle right up to your sofa or chair, less bulky than a coffee table and way more stylish than a fold-out snack table. It hovers over the arm of a sofa or chair and sometimes takes up less space than a traditional side table.
Another great option for a small space, nesting side tables provide extra table space without taking up too much room. You can keep them layered with functional pieces as well as decor or a table lamp. You can also spread them out anywhere in the room. Nesting end tables can even be used in the middle of your living room in lieu of a coffee table.
Round End Tables
To soften a room, try a round end table. If you have a square or rectangular coffee table, this is an especially good way to mix and match shapes. Garden stools or drum tables are great statement-making alternatives to traditional end tables. Garden stools come in all kinds of colors and designs, sometimes with patterns. Most garden stools are designed for outdoors and made of ceramic so they’re extra durable as well.
Chairside End Tables
As the name suggests, chairside tables are end tables that can easily sidle up to your accent chairs. Narrower and smaller than the average end table, chair side tables help to visually anchor a standalone accent chair while having a surface for reading materials, drinks, a table lamp, and more.
Tray Top Tables
Tray top end tables are usually pretty minimalist in design, making them ideal for Scandinavian or mid-century-inspired spaces. These pieces have lift-off trays that make moving books, coffee, or food to another part of the house with ease. They’re super easy to clean and look every bit as stylish as other end table styles.
End Table Materials
Like all other accent tables, end tables come in many different types of materials. Choosing the right material is key in a high-traffic area like the living room or in an entryway.
A common material for modern-style end tables, metal is versatile, sleek, and comes in several different finishes to suit your space. With metal end tables, you can match other metallics in the room or you can even break the rules and do chrome with gold, rose gold with black, brass with silver, etc.
Rattan and wicker are always in style but we’ve seen a lot of it lately in decorative accent pieces. A rattan end table looks at home in a farmhouse space as well as a Scandinavian or eclectic boho room.
A wood accent table is timeless and extremely practical for just about any style and space. The finish of the wood is entirely up to you. With wood end tables, you’re likely to get options with drawers, shelves, and hidden storage included.
Glass tops on end tables are elegant, versatile, and classic. You never have to second guess the existing furniture and decor with transparent glass.
Now that you know what to look for when shopping for an end table, it’s time to browse! Just remember to keep your personal style in mind as well as your needs; always think about what you want a piece for and what you want it to do for you.