Coffee tables. You gotta love them. They only became popular in the early 1900’s – before that, your only option to put down a drink was a petite tea table. Now we have lots of options for what sits in front of our sofas, and lots of options to express our personality and increase functionality when making the choice of just what we’ll put there. You can really set the mood here – are you going for a traditional feel, rustic modern, swedish, farmhouse, retro mod? Or, are you trying to tone down or change directions of the style that is already in the room?
OK, standard height for coffee tables is 17″ to 19,” but I am NOT a stickler. In fact, variation in heights can make your perch more original. The lower the table, the more modern of a feel you will get. I have even used a dining room pedestal table in the middle of my living room during the holidays, but that is mainly for a decorative focal point. You can definitely use a tea table that is taller, but it will look better if it isn’t centered on the sofa – off to one side a bit.
Make sure you leave room for legs between the sofa and your table. But also make sure you don’t leave the table “floating” in the middle of the room where you can’t reach it. Keep it close enough to put down a glass without having to stretch really far to reach it.
Let’s talk about shapes. The typical is the rectangle that is roughly 2/3 the length of the sofa. Rectangles and ovals tend to look more formal and traditional.
Rectangles and squares are great as a backdrop for decorative books and trays. Try 2 squares rather than the expected rectangle. They don’t even have to be the same height to look great in a modern room.
Circular tables always look neat and tidy, because they’re never crooked. They soften a room full of sharp-angled furniture. I like to repeat with at least one other circular end table in the same room.
What about the finish? Obviously, a dark wood table will look more formal and traditional. Lighter wood looks more contemporary. Painted tables let you express your personality and are a great foil to a room with lots of wood finishes. Glass and acrylic tables make small rooms appear more spacious, and solid tables that match the floor seem to disappear. You can even do wicker for a warm but casual look – either a rectangular wicker trunk or a pair of square wicker baskets.
Of course, you don’t have to use a real table. Ottomans are definitely popular and fabric slipcovers can be changed out with the season.
Leather ottomans are everywhere. Some even give you lift up storage. This one has a magazine shelf below and top sections that flip over into trays.
An old flat-top trunk is a great option and gives you lots of hidden storage.
Something else to think about – any old table can be cut down to size for a coffee table. An old pedestal table, a side table, a dining table, whatever. That’s what I did here.
Think outside the coffee table. Use what you’ve got, paint it, chop it down to size, top it with a tray. Set or change the mood of your room, all with a simple table. Now, what to put ON the table . . . well, that’s for another post!