How to Choose the Perfect Coffee Table for Your Living Room

Learn how to pick the best coffee table for your space and style.

A coffee table is a handy piece of furniture that can hold everything from remote controls to candles and books. Better yet: contemporary coffee tables go beyond glass surfaces and rectangle designs with updated features like hidden storage, extra seating, and built-in refrigerators. But where do you start when choosing from an overwhelming number of options on the market? To help demystify this essential furniture piece, follow our guide to picking the perfect coffee table for your space and style.

white living room with wood coffee table

John Stoffer

Start by Choosing a Shape

First, determine the desired shape for your coffee table. In interior design, circles represent safety, unity, and infinity. Rectangles and squares symbolize order, formality, and solidity. Rectangular shapes are usually more pleasing to the eye than squares, but repetitive use of square shapes, such as nesting tables, can be just as favorable.

Although most standard coffee tables come in circular, oval, rectangular, or square shapes, you’ll also run into curvy organic iterations, shapes based on nature. These offer spontaneity and comfort that standard, angular coffee tables might not. For example, try a hexagonal shape or something cloud-like. There are even diamond, animal, and guitar-shaped coffee tables. No matter your vision or style, it’s worth searching for a coffee table shape you love.

coffee table with books flowers and disco ball

Annie Schlechter

Pick a Coffee Table Style

In addition to selecting a shape, consider a coffee table that reflects your distinctive style and personality. Here are a few questions to answer when narrowing down coffee table styles:

  1. Which colors and patterns do I gravitate towards? 
  2. Do I want a traditional or modern look (or something else)?
  3. Do I want a formal or casual feel? 
  4. Will my coffee table fit the look and feel of my space?
  5. Will my coffee table complement my other furniture pieces? 
  6. What’s my interior design or decorating style?

Measure Twice to Ensure the Right Fit

Standard coffee table dimensions fall around 17-19” in height, 24” depth, and 36-48” wide. But sizing can vary. To ensure the perfect fit, measure your space and nearby furniture beforehand. And while there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, here are some guidelines you can follow when selecting a coffee table size.

  1. Analyze the proportion of the other furniture pieces in your space (especially the sofa or sectional your coffee table will sit in front of).
  2. If you’re placing a coffee table in front of your sofa, pick a coffee table that equals about ⅔ of your sofa’s total length.
  3. Always aim to leave about 18” between your sofa and table. This provides enough leg room and an ideal range to lean over when grabbing something.
  4. Compare the height of your seating and coffee table, which should only be 1-2 inches lower than your sofa or at the same height as your sofa’s seat cushion. 
  5. If you have an oversized living space, you may need two coffee tables side-by-side. When in doubt, measure and always examine the scale of your space and your seating arrangement.
living room with gray couch and wood coffee table

Hector Sanchez

Choose a Material Equipped for Your Lifestyle

Prioritize durability and safety when picking your coffee table material. Then, examine its texture, both tactile and visual. Next, consider how your material will form a backdrop for your decorative items and complement your overall room and existing furniture pieces. Finally, review the coffee table's maintenance requirements so you can pick a material that feels manageable and holds up well with your lifestyle.

  • Wood: Wood coffee tables are durable and versatile. Mahogany woods look beautiful in traditional spaces, while walnut and natural oak work well in modern and farmhouse living rooms. Black and dark-colored woods show dust and grime faster than lighter woods. Maintenance is straightforward: regularly dust and wipe down wood coffee tables with a damp microfiber cloth, and keep coasters at bay to prevent water rings.
  • Glass or Mirror: Glass coffee tables are elegant and upscale. With its sleek appearance, this material can help small spaces appear more spacious and add luxury to any style. You can place food and drinks worry-free on glass and mirrored coffee tables, but scratches and fingerprints are commonplace and can stick out if not routinely cleaned. Because of the fragile nature of glass, it’s best to skip this option when designing pet- or kid-friendly spaces.
  • Acrylic: Acrylic mimics the look of glass but is sturdy as steel and shatter resistant. Still, acrylic can be more prone to scratching than glass, so treat it carefully. It’s also best to avoid acetate and ammonia cleaners, which can leave a yellow haze.
  • Metal: Many coffee tables are made with stainless steel or aluminum bases. With several metal finishes, including brushed nickel, gold, brass, and copper, this coffee table material can level up the sophistication of any space.
  • Natural Materials: Rattan, marble, and wicker are a few natural coffee table materials you'll come across. It’s essential to assess each material carefully to learn its required care instructions. For example, marble and natural stones may need resealing on a regular basis.

Consider Location

Coffee tables are often situated in a formal living space or family room. Since family rooms and dens tend to experience heavier traffic and more daily activity, you’ll want to scout double-duty furniture pieces. Thus, it may be more pragmatic to leave the delicate, intricate coffee table styles for your formal spaces and prioritize practical solutions in your living room.

Make a Budget

Coffee tables can average between $200 to $1,200 (or upwards). As you search for a table, evaluate the look you’re going for and how long you want your coffee table to last. A table’s construction, material, level of assembly, expected longevity, and warranty will dictate pricing. Buying low-quality or inexpensive tables sometimes means frequent replacements, which can add up over time. How you finalize a budget will depend on your coffee table needs and design goals. Remember: buying a higher-quality coffee table might have a higher resale value if you decide to sell later on.

Determine the Level of Assembly 

Don’t feel like poring over an assembly kit? Assembly can absolutely sway your coffee table decision-making. If you value convenience, read your product’s description to ensure the table comes fully assembled. Options that require partial assembly are also available.

Penfield House Story - sitting area with two modern burnt orange chairs, round coffee table; and console table with lamp Rating


Try New Coffee Table Design Features

Today’s coffee tables pack in function without compromising beauty. Here are a few features to consider; sometimes you’ll find several of these featured in a single coffee table.

  1. Nesting or Modular Coffee Tables: This stackable, space-saving furniture piece involves multiple tables that can be easily tucked together or moved when you need additional space.
  2. Lift-Top Coffee Tables: This style is ideal for creating a makeshift desk or table that doesn’t require you to lean over. Many times, a lift-top coffee table will also provide storage underneath.
  3. Built-In Seating: These coffee tables feature 3-4 seats that pull out to accommodate last-minute guests.
  4. Storage: Consider coffee tables with tops you can lift to reveal storage. These are great for kid-friendly spaces where you need to stow away toys and games quickly.
  5. Upholstered Ottomans: This big cushioned table acts as a plush ottoman. Simply add a tray on top for improved function, or use it as a spot to put your feet up.
  6. Display Coffee Tables: Want to spotlight collectibles from travels, books, or photos? Pick a display-style coffee table, which features a glass surface to showcase items.
  7. Incorporated Appliances: This contemporary coffee table doubles as a fridge, making it perfect for casual living spaces where entertaining is frequent.

Check Shipping Processes

Some stores offer front-door delivery by a carrier or white glove delivery. White glove delivery is a concierge-level service in which your coffee table is delivered and placed within your home in your room of choice. It's then assembled by the delivery service and the room is cleaned up, with all packaging and trash removed. This service is usually an upcharge that can range between $100-$350 per shipment depending on factors like store policy, number of items being delivered, and distance from the delivery warehouse.

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