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Rightsizing Coffee Tables

Scale really does matter when you're selecting a coffee table for the living room. The formula for success: The coffee table should be one-half to two-thirds the length of the sofa.

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Too Small

This miniscule table not only looks out of proportion, it functions poorly as well. Those seated at either end of the sofa would have to do some serious stretching to grab a handful of popcorn or retrieve a book.

Also, because the table is so small, its surface is nearly covered with accessories. There's little room left for a coaster and cup, much less a spot to prop your feet. Tables spanning only one-third of the sofa length are too small and will throw the grouping off balance.

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Too Large

Bigger isn't always better. This coffee table's well-chosen style can't compensate for its overscaled size. Nearly as long and as wide as the sofa, it competes rather than complements.

A table this long leaves little room for traffic flow and no space for stretching your legs out on the floor. Even the tabletop array looks lonely.

If it feels right, it probably is. But this moderately sized coffee table also has the numbers to prove it. The pleasing balance is achieved because the table spans about two-thirds the length of the sofa.

The table is substantial enough to adequately anchor the furniture grouping, yet it leaves room for traffic flow around both ends. The accessories fill out the tabletop without being crowded, leaving space for a coffee cup or other everyday objects.

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