How Do I Choose the Right Coffee Table?

published Apr 30, 2016
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Sophie Timothy)

For some, the choice of what type of coffee table is easy; an intuitive design decision. Or, maybe it’s even been decided for you, if it’s been inherited from a roommate, partner or family member. For others, any number of variables—from unusual living room layouts to oversized furniture to kids or pets—can confuse the issue.

First, decide if you even need or want one

Do you need a coffee table to set stuff down on while you watch TV or entertain friends? Or does the room feel too open or naked without it? Conversely, is your too-small space already cramped and you don’t really need one?

(Image credit: Tamara Gavin)

Choose the shape

Very long sofas could handle a rectangular or oval coffee table. Small love seats could use those shapes if the size doesn’t overwhelm. Super modern sofas and large sectionals can handle square or round coffee tables. You might also consider a round coffee table if you have harsh, sharp lines in your room and you’re trying to soften the shape up.

(Image credit: Ellie Arciaga Lillstrom)

Get the height right

Most of the time, if you choose a coffee table that’s the same height or a little taller than your sofa’s seat height, you’ll be fine. But if you want a really laid back feel and have a lower sofa or lounge seating, you might want to go lower to match. If you want to go taller, consider choosing a table that has a smaller diameter to help balance the composition.

(Image credit: Claire Bock)

Pick a material that will work for your lifestyle

Don’t choose a wood surface that needs coasters if you’re not a coaster user. Don’t get a glass table if you have toddlers that like to take leaps off the seating. Choose a material that will not only complement your existing furniture, but will also work with how you’ll treat the piece.

(Image credit: Heather Keeling)

Bonus round: Consider multiples

Some spaces will work better with multiple smaller coffee tables. Smaller spaces can benefit from multiple coffee tables because it gives the room more flexibility to adjust the layout for different activities. But other rooms might benefit from multiple coffee tables thanks to the layered, sophisticated effect.

→ Have your own FAHQ (Frequently Asked Home Question)?

Unlike our Good Questions (which are about very specific design dilemmas in your home, FAHQs are more general design questions that anyone might be wondering about home design. Ask your FAHQ in the comments below and we might answer it in a future post!