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Coffee Tables Buying Guide

Let’s Talk About Occasional Tables

What are occasional tables? Occasional tables are pieces of furniture intended for use as needed, and usually refer to coffee tables, end tables, and console tables. Since they are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, materials and styles, the possibilities are endless, and picking the right kind of occasional table for the various rooms of your home can be overwhelming. Since the living room or family room is where you relax and entertain, you want to select the right combination of tables to complement the room’s main purpose and its décor. A few basic guidelines will help you to decide how and what to choose.

What Kind of Occasional Table Do I Need?

Coffee Tables

The kind of occasional table you will need not only depends on how much space is available, but also on its intended function. In general, coffee tables, also referred to as cocktail tables, are low to the floor and ideal for placing in front of a sofa or couch. The coffee table isn’t just a place to put a cup or the remote control: use a trunk style table or one that includes a drawer to increase storage space.

Round Coffee Table

Square Coffee Table

Storage Coffee Table

Trunk Coffee Table

Round Coffee Table Square Coffee Table Storage Coffee Table Trunk Coffee Table

End Tables

Usually chosen to match the style and material of the coffee table, end tables, also known as side tables, are usually placed beside a chair or on either side of a sofa. These occasional tables can harmonize a room, while adding functionality by providing the perfect place for task lighting or to set down a glass or a book.

Oval End Table

Rectangular End Table

Drum End Table

Magazine End Table

Oval End Table Rectangular End Table Drum End Table Magazine End Table

Console Tables

Commonly known as console tables, but sometimes called sofa tables, these occasional tables are intended to rest against a wall or sofa. They can add sophistication to a hallway, living room or dining room by providing a place to showcase those decorative touches, such as mementos, that add character to your home. Usually rectangular in shape, you can also choose from square, oval or half-moon styles, depending on the room in which the table will be placed. For example, a half-moon console table would be perfect in a hallway or a small guest bedroom.

Rectangle Console Table

Demilune Console Table

Glass Top Console Table

Metal Console Table

Rectangle Console Table Demilune Console Table Glass Top Console Table Metal Console Table

Nesting Tables

Ideal for limited or small spaces, without compromising functionality, nesting tables generally come in a set of two or three varying, corresponding sizes.  They are versatile and can be moved around a room wherever they are needed, or they can be conveniently stacked out of the way when not in use. From round to square to triangular, nesting tables come in a variety styles, including traditional and modern.

Square Nesting Tables

Glass Nesting Tables

Round Nesting Tables

Wood Nesting Tables

Square Nesting Tables Glass Nesting Tables Round Nesting Tables Wood Nesting Tables

Coffee Table Sets

Handy when redecorating an entire room, coffee table sets are grouped to include tables of different types and functions, but are already conveniently matched in style and finish for convenience and practicality. Popular coffee table set groupings can consist of an end table and a coffee table, or a console table and end table with a coffee table. A coffee table set may also include tables meant for a special purpose, such as a game table.

Metal Coffee Table Set

Wood Coffee Table Set

Black Coffee Table Set

Natural Coffee Table Set

Metal Coffee Table Set Wood Coffee Table Set Black Coffee Table Set Natural Coffee Table Set

What Kind of Material Should I Choose for My Occasional Tables?

Engineered Woods

Engineered woods are processed by using heat and pressure to glue wood fibers together. One type of engineered wood is medium density fiberboard or MDF. MDF is more affordable than solid wood, but just as strong and durable. If you want occasional tables that are easy to care for while having the look and feel of real wood, select an end table made of MDF and a combination of veneers or laminates.


Laminates are produced by pressing layers of plastic, metal or wood together, then sealing them with a thermosetting resin. They are commonly used to make home furnishings because they are durable, easy to care for and economical. Since laminates don’t fade and have no grain, they are easier to match when adding additional pieces to your living room. If you don’t need the whole occasional table set, start with the piece you need first, be it a coffee table or end table.

Wood Veneers

Wood veneers are created by a similar process as in the making of laminates. Thin slices of real wood are glued to the piece of furniture using heat and pressure. Since it can be applied to any smooth, flat surface, this is a popular material for furniture like occasional tables. Since it is not as expensive to manufacture, it also gives furniture the texture and appearance of genuine solid woods, while keeping costs down.

Solid Wood

Solid wood furnishings are considered to be the most durable material for furniture and are constructed from wood cut from the trunks of trees like pine, mahogany or oak. They are more expensive than engineered wood products. If your budget allows for a occasional table set made of solid wood, it will be something that you will prize for years to come. Should you want to add more pieces at some time in the future, keep in mind that solid wood furniture may be more difficult to match to the existing ones in the room, even if produced by the same manufacturer, due to factors like wood density and variations in how the finish was applied.

Asian Hardwoods

Asian hardwoods, also referred to as parawoods, rubberwoods or tropical hardwoods are from Southeast Asia. Furniture made from these hardwoods is considered to be ecologically friendly because before the tree is harvested, it was used to produce rubber for approximately 30 years. A pedestal table made from Asian hardwood is rich in texture and style.

Wicker or Rattan

Wicker or rattan is constructed from thick vines or tropical woods, and is typically braided or bent into shape. Occasional tables made of wicker tend to be traditional or casual in style.


When purchasing an occasional table with a glass top, select one that uses tempered glass. Tempered glass is made by either treating it with heat or with a chemical solution, which makes it stronger than regular or annealed glass. It is designed to break into small fragments rather than large shards, like untreated glass.

What Style of Occasional Table Should I Select?


Traditional styles are inspired by the fashions, trends and social customs of the past, ranging from the elaborate fussiness of the Victorian era to the functional influences of Colonial design. Well-known for ornate details like elaborate carvings and dark wood finishes, traditional furniture can have a formal or more relaxed feel. Traditional style occasional tables tend to reflect old world elegance and customs.


Contemporary furniture is characterized by polished surfaces, geometric shapes and neutral palettes. Typical features of contemporary occasional tables are curved and tempered lines. Because this style of furniture is a fusion of other styles, modern and traditional, a neutral, contemporary console will blend in with almost any informal décor.


Modern occasional tables has clean lines, crisp edges and streamlined detail. Usually made from, metal or steel, typical of this style, is a metal base featuring a novel or asymmetrical design.

Country or Rustic

Country or rustic style occasional tables typically combine simplicity with a traditional feel. Tables of this style are casual and unpretentious, and are almost always made of wood, in light to medium finishes. Distinguishing characteristics of this style are its comfortable look and soft curves. Country furniture is also known for its distressed finishes and folksy details like animal motifs or hand-painted stenciling.


Casual occasional tables are simple in design and are usually large or over-sized to maximize comfort and function. They may feature textured elements such as restful, horizontal lines and rectangular or softly curved detail. Use a casual table paired with an easy chair to create a relaxed atmosphere.

What Else Should I Keep In Mind When Choosing an Occasional Table?

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Think about how the space will be most commonly used and who will be using the room. For example, a teenager might be reluctant to invite friends over if the living room’s décor is Louis XVI, or it may be impractical to decorate a room with white furniture if your family has a dog and a cat.
  • Assess how much space is available. Selecting large or oversized pieces for a small or narrow room will make the room look and feel cramped. Available space will also play a role in the shape of the table you will select for a particular room.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match styles. Modern square end tables paired with a traditional, rectangular console table might be perfect for your room, depending on how and where they are placed in relation to each other.
  • To maximize storage throughout your home, select occasional tables that can do double duty. For example, choose a trunk style coffee table or an end table with a drawer. Another choice is a console table that includes a shelf.
  • Increase available seating in your home by choosing occasional tables with seating. Some tables come with concealed benches. There are also occasional tables that convert into ottomans, complete with a storage place for the cushion when not in use.
  • Many styles of occasional tables include special features such as occasional tables with drawers to help prevent clutter or lift-top lids that will give you display options.

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