Why Ditching This Living Room Staple Was the Best Choice I’ve Ever Made

published Jul 7, 2020
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Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

When my boyfriend and I moved into our apartment last year, we had a months-long debate about adding a coffee table to our living room. After spending five years in a small studio, I was ready to fill our multi-room apartment with all the furniture my former space couldn’t accommodate. The problem was, we couldn’t agree on what type of coffee table we should buy. I wanted a small round style to fit into the corner of our sectional, while my boyfriend favored a rectangular surface that mimicked our sofa’s boxy shape. We spent the first few months without a coffee table, and after a little while, we realized we actually preferred our living room without one. 

For many, a coffee table serves a solely utilitarian purpose. It’s where you can rest your coffee or cocktail, fan out your art books, or kick up your feet after a long day. However, the one thing that nobody really talks about is how much space this living room staple can take up. My boyfriend and I love to entertain, so we wanted to buy a large sectional that could fit multiple people and give us some extra room to spread out if we’re watching a movie. Since our couch takes up so much space already, we became convinced that adding a coffee table would only make our living room feel cramped.

Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

Not only does forgoing a coffee table create the illusion of a large space—which is the dream for any apartment dweller—but it also creates an airy, inviting atmosphere. A coffee table typically acts as the focal point of a living room, but not having one, in our case, allows the eye to wander from our light blue walls to our printed carpet to the sun-drenched windows.

Plus, not having a coffee table is conducive to our hosting habits—at least it will be, when we actually start hosting again. Instead of having guests that can’t fit on the couch awkwardly position themselves on the floor around the coffee table, they can easily pull up a dining room chair and feel like they’re literally on the same level as everyone else in our setup.

I know what you’re thinking: Sure, ditching a coffee table may free up some space, but where do you put all your books and glasses? Well, we purchased an ottoman from a nearby consignment store to rest plates and drinks. Since the ottoman is small and lightweight, we can easily move it to the corner when we have guests over. Side tables are always an option, too, since, in general, they are smaller and less obtrusive.

Credit: Kelsey Mulvey

Our space also has two built-in shelves (with cabinets below them) to hold all our books, candles, and important papers. (Bonus: They’re also the perfect spot for creating awesome shelfies.) I’ll be the first one to admit that our storage situation made the no coffee table decision a lot easier. With so many ways to set up a room though, I’m sure it’s possible for you to forgo a coffee table in your home if you want to.

Need more proof? Take a look at a few AT house tours. In her Montreal home, Cécile Gariépy was able to get the best of both worlds by ditching a traditional coffee table but positioning a small side table and long credenza near her sofa. Monique Aquino decked our her Los Angeles living room with floor pillows, which double as extra seating when guests stop by. For his house boat, Andrew Dunford went for an ottoman in lieu of a coffee table. Regardless of how you style your space, it turns out this living room staple might not be as essential as you once thought it was.