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How to Buy a Console Table

Also known as a sofa table, a console table is a piece of accent furniture intended for use in a living room, family room or hallway. It is a great place to put a vase of flowers, pictures and those other little touches that make a home feel welcoming. Especially in a small room or narrow hallway, pairing the console table with a mirror can make the space feel larger. Console tables come in a wide variety of styles, sizes, heights and materials. Choosing one might seem a little confusing. A few basic tips can help you decide which type of console table will best suit your purposes and add that finishing touch to your décor.

Before You Begin

Decide where the console table will go, then take measurements. Having an idea of how much space you have to work with will save you time and money in the long run.

Console tables are often placed against the back of a couch (hence its other name, sofa table). If you are buying a console table for this purpose, measure the height of the couch. The console table should be the same height or slightly lower than the back of the sofa.

Particularly if you are furnishing a whole room, make a budget. Knowing how much you have to spend will narrow your choices down, making the final selection easier.

Choose the style of your console table accordingly. If you want it to blend with the existing furnishings, match it with the furniture currently in the room. However, if you want to create a focal point that is visually interesting, choose a console table in a different style or material from the rest of your furniture.

Think about color. If the room is small in size, select a console table in a light wood finish, since lighter colors tend to make the space appear larger.

Especially if the console table is going into a hallway, consider purchasing one with a drawer, open shelving, cabinets or cubbies. It will increase the functionality of your entryway by giving family and guests alike a place to put keys, gloves, purses, etc.

Choose a Style

Choosing one style for each room gives your home continuity and flow, and is a direct reflection of your personal tastes and lifestyle. The good news about picking a style is that there is no right or wrong. There are so many different ones to choose from that it might drive you a little crazy selecting just one. Décor styles can be grouped into some basic categories then broken down into many sub styles. Decorating styles include traditional, contemporary, modern, country, transitional and eclectic.

Traditional furniture is usually made of wood and has medium wood finishes or dark wood finishes. Furniture pieces are richly ornamented with elaborate decorative and architectural detail such as moldings, turned spindles, cabriole legs and intricate brass drawer pulls. They tend to be oversized and impressive, with a stately or formal appearance. Traditional furniture, based on historical periods and social trends, spans several centuries, from the Renaissance to the Victorian era.

Transitional furniture resembles traditional style because it is a blend of both traditional and contemporary decorative elements. However, transitional style has a relaxed appearance because decoration is pared down and is not as ornate. Lines and forms are flowing, but can also be combined with linear components. Transitional furnishings are both functional and comfortable and tend to be of a more moderate scale. A transitional console table typically has classical lines, rounded corners and a medium to dark wood finish.

Contemporary style focuses on function and form rather. Lines and forms are more linear, but can have rounded corners and softer and simpler ornamentation. Contemporary furniture pieces have an uncluttered, calm appearance and are commonly constructed of lighter woods with light wood finishes and medium wood finishes. Sub styles of contemporary furnishings include urban, Art Deco and retro.

Modern furniture is geometric or asymmetrical, reflecting the new technologies, materials and philosophies that emerged early twentieth century. Many people use modern and contemporary as interchangeable terms, and while there are certainly some similarities, there are also some distinct difference. Modern furniture tends to have no ornamentation or if there is decorative detail, it is lean and spare and an integral part of the design of the piece. Surfaces are sleek and polished; chrome and glass are common construction materials. Sometimes it is considered to be cold, but modern furniture is an expression of a particular architectural movement.

Country furniture grew out of traditional conventions. However, it depicts the social customs and philosophies of the region of its origin. For example, as colonists adapted old world cabinetry techniques to their new surroundings, Colonial furniture used lighter finishes and decorative detail became less ornate. A country style console table is usually constructed of wood and can have scalloped edges, wainscoting and turned legs.

Eclectic style is just what it sounds like, and is as individual as the person doing the decorating. It utilizes a variety of different design and style elements. Since eclectic style is a mix of historical periods and trends, you can pair a contemporary console table with a Queen Anne armchair. An eclectic room has a "layered" look that is textured and visually interesting.

Choose a Material

Because it is used to set down keys, hold a table lamp or display mementos, you want it to be strong, sturdy and appealing. When choosing what your console table will be made of, don't forget the tabletop. Some manufacturers offer stylish sofa tables with distinctive tops made from a variety of materials including stone, glass and leather. To make a bold statement in a hallway or room, choose a contemporary glass console table or one that has a mosaic or granite top.

A genuine wood console table is a piece of furniture you will treasure for a long time to come. Considered to be the most durable material for furniture, genuine wood furniture is crafted from timber cut from the trunks of trees. Popular hardwoods for furniture construction are beech, oak or maple. Softwoods such as pine and cedar are also commonly used for furnishings. The terms "hardwoods" and "softwoods" refer to whether the timber used to make the furniture is from a deciduous (a tree that loses its leaves) or coniferous tree (a tree that does not shed its leaves), and not to the hardness or softness of the wood itself.

No matter what the style, metal console tables possess an elegant and sleek appearance. They can be crafted from iron, steel aluminum or other alloys. A metal console table will typically have a glass top. Since metal furniture is constructed from different types of metals, in any number of combinations and strengths, the quality of metal used can vary from one manufacturer to another. Not only is a metal console table stylish, it is also durable and easy to care for.

Glass is a popular material for the tops of many types of console tables. When shopping for glass top console tables, select one made of tempered glass. Since it is designed to break into small fragments rather than large shards, like untreated glass, if it should break, it will be safer. Tempered glass in made in one of two ways: it is treated with heat or coated in a chemical solution.

Another popular material for a console table top is different kinds of stone, especially marble, granite and slate. A top made from stone can be crafted from one piece or from veneers. A marble or slate veneer is produced by adhering thin slices of real stone to the surface of the furniture piece, usually made from an engineered wood like plywood or MDF. This gives the console tabletop the appearance of real stone, but it will weigh less and be not as expensive.

Choose a Type

Yes, looks are important, but so is function. To get the most out of your console table, purchase one that will match both your décor and your lifestyle. First, identify the primary purpose of your table: is it to display accessories such a lamp or a vase or do you want someplace to store scarves and gloves so they're handy when you're ready to go out the door? Since there are so many different types and styles to choose from, select a console table that will make your room or hallway more efficient, while giving your décor a fresh new look.

Console Tables

Console tables are designed to rest against a wall or couch and can serve several purposes. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including rectangular and oval. The half-moon console table is often referred to by its French name, the demilune console or sofa table. When made of metal and glass, the half moon console is especially elegant in a hallway and creates the feeling of spaciousness. If you are in the habit of entertaining, a console table in a living room or family room is very versatile, since it can be used as a buffet table or a mini bar area. Console tables can breathe new life into your décor by defining the room while adding functionality.

Storage Console Tables

A storage console table is the ideal accent table because it provides additional places to store things out of sight or in plain sight, if you prefer open shelving to enclosed storage. Storage console tables can make a room clutter-free, particularly if the design includes baskets, multiple drawers or cubbies. Especially if you need to maximize your floor space, selecting a storage console table is a smart way to increase the room's functionality. Storage console tables can be added to a foyer, dining room, living room or even a guest bedroom.

Wine Consoles

A wine console table is a great way to keep a small, select collection of wines at your fingertips. It not only does it make entertaining easier, but it also portrays you as a smart and sophisticated host or hostess. Wine consoles are available in a number of styles, and can range from having intricate details to spare, clean lines. Depending on the manufacturer and the design, wine rack console tables can hold a small number of bottles to ones that can accommodate 40 or more bottles of wine. Wine consoles are a great place to set down drinks, a plate of appetizers or an open bottle of wine while it's waiting to be poured. 

Convertible Console Tables

Some types of sofa or console tables can be converted into a compact sized dining table by raising, flipping over or pulling out leaves. It is ideal for a small apartment or a dual-purpose room, because they are essentially two tables in one. The convertible console table is particularly handy if you don't have a regular formal dining area. When you do host the occasional dinner party, the console table can be converted into a dining table and then back again, when the evening is over. Even if you do have a formal dining area, having another table you can use for additional seating is a good thing to have during the holidays.