How to choose the perfect coffee table for your home: from storage to style


While not the largest or most expensive piece of furniture many of us will buy, coffee tables are nonetheless a crucial choice for the proud home owner. Often placed centrally in a family living space, such as a living room, a coffee table can be both practical and aesthetic.

If you’re in the market for one, it’s worth doing a few legwork to get the right design for your venue and personality, and the good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from.

Storage v display

Being a subset of tables, you wouldn’t necessarily think there were so many subgroups of coffee tables. But you would be wrong. There are a multitude of choices, meeting all needs.

Basically, a coffee table is a small table that you would use in a living room to have a cup of tea or coffee while relaxing on a sofa. Aside from height, another basic requirement is that it be lower than a dining table.

However, more and more coffee tables are also equipped with storage. This can take the form of drawers or the entire table can become a storage unit, with the flat top lifting up to reveal storage space inside.

Then there are the shadowbox coffee tables, which are designed for display purposes. These have glass tops with a segmented space below where you can display your favorite things. From seashells picked up on a family vacation to the collection of antique thimbles your grandmother left you, it’s all about personalizing your furniture and decor.

Other coffee tables look more like works of art than pieces of furniture, finely carved or inlaid with mother-of-pearl, to transform them into real talking pieces.

Wood vs. metal

Coffee tables come in a huge range of materials, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Wood coffee tables have always been popular, the natural material giving a warm and inviting feel to any room. There are many types of wood as well, whether you prefer honey oak, rich ebony, or cheerful red cherry.

If you’re looking for something more industrial, consider a metal coffee table. Here again, there is something for all color tastes, from austere black to the effects of aged brass and even coffee tables in painted or enamelled metal in all the colors of the rainbow.

Rattan is perfect for a more casual beach or country look, while marble provides a super luxurious finish.

If you have a small space, glass coffee tables can be effective when light passes through the structure, making it less heavy and intrusive in a room where space is at a premium.

You can also take the upholstered route with an Ottoman-style coffee table. These are visually appealing and can be easily mixed into your color scheme. Whether you choose traditional leather, luxurious linen, or something more funky and modern, there are options to suit every taste and budget.

Security style

The downside to a glass coffee table is that it can be difficult to clean, with every fingerprint leaving a trail. It’s especially frustrating if you have small children or pets.

Another factor to consider with toddlers is safety. If your heart is set on a glass coffee table, make sure it is fitted with toughened safety glass.

Sticking to the topic of safety, sharp angles can also be a problem, especially metal ones. If you have toddlers or even a smaller space where you might bang your shins too often, consider a rounded coffee table.

When choosing your room, also think about the type of use it will make of it. If you live alone, you might be perfectly happy to risk soft woods or faint fabrics because you know you’ll take care of your furniture. But if your coffee table will be used by a variety of people, make sure it is sturdy enough to withstand wear and tear.

Table vs chest

There may be times when an archetypal coffee table is not quite the right option – for example, if you have a small living space or want to leave the room rug open for the kids to play. In that case, consider one of these alternatives.

Nesting side tables allow you to pull out a small version of a coffee table when you need it and put it away otherwise. The same goes for a butler tray, which combines a tray with a folding stand.

If you’re looking for a more unconventional option, think about what could serve as a coffee table.

Antique luggage trunks, for example, are the perfect size and shape and have built-in storage. Or how about an old spool of thread, a vintage drum, or even a tree stump? Your only limit is your imagination.

Books v flowers

Once you’ve focused on your perfect table, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to decorate it. If there is to remain a functional space, where you can put a cup or a plate of cookies, there is no reason not to have one or two other neatly placed accessories.

Coffee table books are an obvious choice. Whether you love travel, art, design, or photography, choose a few of your favorites to display. You can change them every few weeks to keep things interesting. If you really want to impress your guests, take a look at the Assouline range.

Candles are another great option because they are both beautiful and smell great. Choose the highest quality candle you can afford, as the scents will be more natural and last longer. Byredo, Diptyque, Le Labo, Bella Freud, and Cire Turdon are all popular choices.

If you are a fan of flowers, this is a good place to display them. Varieties such as strelitzia, delphiniums, gladioli, and lilies are all well known for maintaining their appearance and durability. Remember to place your vase on a decorative tray to protect your table surface, especially if it is wood or fabric.

Updated: September 13, 2021, 04:27


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