London Duplex Apartment:   by Hartmann Designs Ltd

​Interior inspiration: Choosing a coffee table

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan

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Happy with your sofas? Very impressed with your choice of window treatment and wall colours? So then, what’s left for your living room? How about a coffee table?

A coffee table is one of the very last pieces picked for a living room, only after you’re 100% happy with your seating. For some, choosing a coffee table is a very easy choice – maybe it’s already been decided for you, like a piece you inherited or the one picked out by your spouse or roommate. 

However, if you are similar to the majority of people out there (even interior designers sometimes scratch their heads over the abundance of available options), then scroll right ahead to let our handy guide point you in the direction of the perfect coffee table. 

Trust us: it’s out there, waiting for you – you just need to find it!

1. Choosing a coffee table: Your need and budget

London Duplex Apartment:   by Hartmann Designs Ltd
Hartmann Designs Ltd

London Duplex Apartment

Hartmann Designs Ltd

Like any other furniture piece, the prices for coffee tables range from budget friendly to ultra expensive. Thus, before you shop, know how much you can afford.

Your overall design budget should be broken down to into areas such as accessories, lighting and furniture. Furniture includes items like the sofas, side tables, chairs and coffee table, with the larger portion of your budget allocated to the bigger pieces. However, you are absolutely allowed to tip the scales and spend a little bit more on your coffee table should it not compromise the price and quality of your chairs and sofa. 

homify hint: Be practical. Look at your living room and ask yourself if you really need a coffee table. Is there room for one? Will it add to the space’s style and functionality? Or will an extra piece just result in a cramped look?

2. Choosing a coffee table: The proportions

Formal Living Room:  Living room by Studio Duggan
Studio Duggan

Formal Living Room

Studio Duggan

Obviously your new coffee table must be in proportion to your sofas to maximise comfort for everybody in the room. You may have your eye on another coffee table, but if it’s oversized and your living room is rather small, forget about it. That will only limit the legroom and have an adverse effect on the flow of the space. 

In terms of size, the perfect coffee table allows for at least 45cm of space between it and the edge of the sofa. This ensures people can reach over comfortably for their drinks, but also easily stretch their legs out.

3. Choosing a coffee table: Functionality

You should know what your coffee table will be used for right at the start. Is it a decorative piece meant to complement your living room’s style? Will it help out with storage? Remember that there’s a whole world of designs out there, some with shelves and drawers to help stash away kid’s toys and magazines. 

But whether you want it to help with storage or not, there’s still a good chance you’d want to set a drink or plate down on the coffee table’s surface, right? Thus, choose one that can comfortably hold drinks and snack plates. 

On the other hand, if décor is more the purpose, focus on one with lines and texture in a material you love.

4. Choosing a coffee table: The right shape

Wharf Road, Islington:  Living room by Patience Designs
Patience Designs

Wharf Road, Islington

Patience Designs

The shape of your coffee table needs to complement the existing pieces in the room. Long sofas look great with either rectangular or oval coffee tables. Small love seats could also work with those shapes as long as the size fits. For super modern sofas and large sectionals, we recommend square or round tables. 

And for a sleek modern or contemporary space with lots of harsh and sharp lines, go with a round or curvy coffee table if you’re trying to soften the space up.

5. Choosing a coffee table: The right height

Exposed Brick With Copper Highlights:  Living room by Gracious Luxury Interiors
Gracious Luxury Interiors

Exposed Brick With Copper Highlights

Gracious Luxury Interiors

Usually if you pick a coffee table that's the same or a little taller than your sofa's seat height, it’s no problem. But for a really relaxing look and feel with your lower sofa or lounge seat, you may want to go lower to match. 

Should you wish to go taller, consider a coffee table that has a smaller diameter to balance the composition.

The rule of thumb? Your coffee table needs to be just shorter (5 to 10cm) than the height of your sofa’s seat.

6. Choosing a coffee table: The material

In picking out materials for your coffee table, you must also take your lifestyle into consideration. For instance, don’t go for a wooden surface that requires coasters if you’re not a regular coaster user. And don’t pick a glass table if you have little toddlers that love jumping on the sofas. 

In terms of fitting in with your living room’s style, a more sophisticated look can be complemented by materials like glass combined with either brass or steel. And wood always has its own feel to it, whether it’s cherry, maple, oak or walnut. However, oak and maple are usually more casual, while walnut and cherry are chosen for more formal spaces.

7. Choosing a coffee table: Balance your style

Living Room Renovation:  Living room by Orkun İndere Interiors
Orkun İndere Interiors

Living Room Renovation

Orkun İndere Interiors

Just like any other furniture piece, your coffee table’s style needs to be considered in relation to the room’s look. Favour a contemporary look? Then go with a sleek metal table with a glass top. If country casual is more your taste, we suggest a rustic oak table. 

As we said, the coffee table should be picked after the sofa and chairs, so let their styles guide you.

8. Choosing a coffee table: Alternative options

Penthouse apartment, Vauxhall:  Living room by Keir Townsend Ltd.
Keir Townsend Ltd.

Penthouse apartment, Vauxhall

Keir Townsend Ltd.

At the end of the day, nobody is forcing you into going with a traditional coffee table. There are tonnes of other options to consider such as old steamer trunks, cedar chests or ottomans, depending on your living room’s design. 

Should you feel that a coffee table will take up too much space or hurt the look you’re going for, place more emphasis on side tables instead. Or just pick an ottoman or two that can double up as coffee tables and seating spots. Your room, your choice!

Speaking of living rooms done just right, see Our favourite, easiest tips for a colourful living room.

Is a coffee table necessary for your living room and, if so, which one?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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