This Is the One Spot You Haven’t Put a Side Table in a Living Room (But Should)

published Jan 21, 2024
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For as long as I (or anyone who loves interior design) can remember, a coffee table has been as much of a living room staple as a couch, and it’s not hard to see why. A living room is all about connecting with your nearest and dearest, so you need somewhere to place your belongings. After all, leaving a glass of wine or cup of coffee on a pristine rug sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.

But I have a confession: I’m really not crazy about coffee tables. Sure, they might be practical, but I often find that one can make an open, airy room seem disjointed. My husband and I love to host dinner parties and larger gatherings, so a coffee table feels like a major wrench in our home’s schmoozing setup. Plus, if square footage comes at a premium, it can take up a lot of valuable floor space. 

But what’s the alternative? No coffee table to speak of? Been there, done that, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be either. Instead, you can simply swap a full-sized coffee table for a smaller side table (or a duo of side tables, if you feel so inclined). I know what you’re thinking: A side table might fit nicely next to an armchair or at the very edge of a loveseat, but floating in the middle of the room? Not necessarily. In my experience, though, if you choose the right silhouette, a side table can totally work as a de facto coffee table.

Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

A few years ago, I received the Jinxx Side Table from Moe’s Home and quickly realized it’d make a perfect coffee table. While many side tables are rectangular — and might look a little forced if used as a coffee table — the one I have is round, which not only is easy to navigate around, but also breaks up the hard lines of my sofa. And thanks to the mix of a marble tabletop and geometric acacia base, it also takes on the appearance of a compact coffee table. Because my husband and I love to watch movies, we have our side table at the corner of our sectional for easy access.

That’s the beauty of this table styling idea, too: It’s super easy to move around, depending on when and where we need it. Any time we place our “coffee table” in the crook of our couch, it doesn’t become a physical obstruction when we have friends over. Those who are sitting at our sectional still have somewhere to put their food and beverages, and those who don’t can mix and mingle freely. Simply put, it’s the best of both worlds.

I might’ve opted for a coffee table to make the most of my living room’s generous floor plan, but this can also be an excellent hack for small-space dwellers. Bonus: Because side tables are often less expensive than coffee tables, it’s also a great way to cash in on great style for less. If you’re looking for a place to start your search, I’ve got you covered. Keep scrolling for a few round side tables that will be the star of your living room.

1 / 6
Article
$249.00

A side table might be small, but this one from Article punches above its weight in both form and function. The magic lies in its lower shelf, which is the perfect spot to stow art books or remote controls.

2 / 6
Target
$32.00

You don’t have to spend a small fortune on an excellent end-table-turned-coffee-table. Between the dual shelves and $32 price tag, this option from Room Essentials offers some excellent bang for your buck.

3 / 6
Bed Bath & Beyond
$137.59
was $320.00

If you’re looking to get the look of the Moe’s Home side table for less, try this one from Safavieh. The geometric wooden base offers plenty of negative space, so your side table gets the job done in style without overpowering the rest of the room.

4 / 6
West Elm
$319.99
was $399.00

As the West Elm Aria Side Table proves, it's all about the details. Thanks to this option’s scalloped edges, this surface will act as an awesome coffee table alternative and rack up the style points with compliments from friends.

5 / 6
Wayfair
$419.99
was $719.00

Craving a pop of color? This option from Oren Ellis is available in fun colors, like green and purple, not to mention the glass frame lends the design a retro touch. It’s almost like an infinitely more stylish version of the inflatable furniture that ruled the late 1990s.

6 / 6
Urban Outfitters
$219.00
was $249.00

While a round side table is a great coffee table alternative, not every space calls for a perfectly circular surface. The solution? This cool oblong option, which will work in narrower layouts. Bonus points for the unique, sculptural base.