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Coffee Tables Buying Guide

Matching Your Coffee Table to Both Your Lifestyle and Décor

It might not seem like a very important decision, but just like the other furnishings in your home, the coffee table you choose will contribute to the mood of the room and reveal your personal style and tastes. Matching the coffee table to your lifestyle and décor is easy once you have identified the room's predominant focus. For example, if your living room or family room is used mainly as a place to watch TV and movies, you'll probably choose lots of comfy seating and a coffee table that can handle big bowls of popcorn and other kinds of munchies. You want the coffee table to be functional, yet it should look good, too.

Classic Types of Coffee Tables

Each type of coffee table has a specific purpose and function, and therefore, will have its own particular impact on your room's décor. However, regardless of the type of coffee table you choose, you will be able to find one to match the style of your current furnishings. Manufacturers offer these classic types of coffee tables in styles ranging from traditional to contemporary to country. By giving some thought to what role you would like your coffee table to play, you will be able to find one that will perfectly fit your lifestyle.

Glass Top Coffee Tables

A popular decorating opinion designates the glass top coffee table as the chicest choice for a living room, especially if the glass top is paired with a metal base. Depending on its setting, a glass top coffee table can appear dramatic when the metal base of the table is used to create a floating effect. A coffee table with a glass or mirror top can "throw" light around a small room, making the space appear larger. Don't strike this type of coffee table off your list of possibilities just because you have young children. Glass coffee tables are easy to clean, a plus when there are kids around. If you have your heart set on a glass coffee table, make it child-friendly by choosing one with rounded corners and glass insets instead of a top made entirely from glass.

Tray Top Coffee Tables

A tray top coffee table is ideal for a household that enjoys entertaining, having parties or just hanging out with friends and family. This type of table is extremely versatile, making ferrying snacks and drinks to and from the kitchen easy and convenient. It simplifies hosting a cocktail party if you can just pick up the tray and pass around the hors d'oeuvres. Some manufacturers offer coffee tables with two or more removable trays, increasing the practicality and functionality of the table. Trays with removable glass inserts can be used as "shadow boxes" and is a good way to display child art, pictures and other mementos, while creating a conversation piece unique to your family.

Lift Top Coffee Tables

A lift top coffee table typically has a mechanism that raises the top of the table from cocktail to dining table height. This type of coffee table is great for families who enjoy having a meal while watching the television, because you don't have to lean hunched over to eat. A lift top coffee table also comes in handy when doing crafts with the kids or if you want to settle down on the couch with your laptop. The best thing about a lift top style table is that when you no longer are using it as a dining table or work area, it can easily be converted back into a coffee table again.

Storage Coffee Tables

A room, especially a living room or family room, can always use a little more organization. Choosing a storage coffee table for a smaller-sized space is a smart way to increase the room's functionality and help you remain sane when it comes to keeping the area tidy and clutter-free. These kinds of coffee tables are available in a range of storage options, from drawers to baskets to cabinets and any combination thereof, including a choice of open or enclosed shelving. Baskets are great for hiding away stray toys when unexpected visitors appear. Some storage coffee table designs even include a magazine rack. If you do seem to always be tidying things away when people drop over, perhaps a coffee table that provides hidden storage would be the best choice.

Nesting Coffee Tables

Nesting coffee tables give a room options, adding versatility and functionality. A nesting coffee table usually features the initial coffee table with additional tables that store underneath. You can utilize nesting coffee tables in a number of ways, including extending the "length" of the table by sliding one or both out from either end or simply moving one of the smaller tables to other parts of the room, as needed. Nesting coffee tables come in very handy when entertaining or if everyone in the neighborhood gathers at your place to watch the game on TV.

Ottoman Coffee Tables

Using an ottoman as a coffee or cocktail table has become more and more popular because of their flat table-like top. It is a great place to put a tray, a pile of magazines, the TV remote or a bowl of popcorn. Especially when there's young children, using a round, plushy upholstered ottoman as a table would be an excellent choice when decorating a living room or family room, since an ottoman generally does not have sharp corners. Another advantage to using an ottoman as a coffee table is mobility. You're not restricted to placing the ottoman in front of the couch the way you would if you used a more traditional type of coffee table. Some manufacturers produce round or square coffee tables that incorporate individual ottoman seating, which can be used around the table or moved around the room wherever needed.

Other Considerations

The coffee table will be a focal point in the room, and should be part of the decorating flow; not disrupt it. Now that you have some idea of what kind of coffee table would suit your décor and lifestyle, to ensure that it blends in and doen't stick out, keep the following in mind:

  • The height of the coffee table should be as high or only slightly higher than the seating area of the couch. Most manufacturers produce tables that range from 16 inches to 18 inches high. Especially if you entertain frequently, a coffee table that is slightly higher than the couch's seating area will make it easier for your guests to set down drinks and plates without straining.
  • The space between the table and the couch should be at least 16 inches to allow enough room for knees and standing up and sitting down. The same applies to any pieces of furniture at either end of the table or on the other side of the coffee table. You want enough room to be able to walk by.
  • In order for the table to appear balanced (not too small; not too large) when placed in front of the sofa, the coffee table should be two-thirds of the length of the seating area of the couch (don't include the arms in your measurements).
  • The style you select and how you decorate a room, characterizes your personal taste and what is most important to you. While the coffee table you choose should match or complement the furniture in the room, it should also define the room's function, whether it’s entertaining, relaxing or an all-purpose room for multiple activities.
  • Typically, coffee table construction materials fall into two main categories, wood and metal. However, the tabletop can come in a variety of materials, including stone, glass, tile and leather. When selecting a coffee table, take into consideration who will be using the room (and the table) the most. You might really admire the coffee table with a slate top but if you have a toddler, it might not be the best choice.

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