How to Select the Perfect Coffee Table

Hello!

There are three main factors to consider when selecting the perfect coffee table:  size, shape, and style.  I’ve enlisted the help of some of my design colleagues from Canada and Texas to help me illustrate these concepts.  Big thanks to Claire Jefford and Kristy Mastrandonas for sharing their beautiful rooms which help demonstrate how to select the perfect coffee table!!

Size

One of the most common mistakes people make is choosing a coffee table that is the wrong size.  The scale of the coffee table should match the scale of the other furniture pieces in the room.  To determine the proper length, follow these guidelines:

  • If you have a sofa, take the length of the sofa and multiply it by two-thirds. This will determine the approximate length of coffee table needed.
  • If you have a sectional that is L-shaped or U-shaped, you should do the calculation a bit differently. There should be 12 to 18 inches between each inside edge of the sectional and the coffee table.
L-Shaped-Sectional-With-Coffee-Table

L-Shaped Sectional with Coffee Table

Design:  Claire Jefford

Photo: Stephani Buchman Photography

To determine the proper depth for a coffee table, make sure the passageway between the far edge of the coffee table and the TV or fireplace is approximately 30 inches or more.  In very small spaces, you can go as low as 24 inches.

The proper height for a coffee table is one to two inches lower than the height of the sofa cushions.  It is okay to have a coffee table that is slightly higher than the sofa, but no more than two inches.

As a final check to make sure the coffee table you are considering will be a good fit, mark off the size of the coffee table in blue painter’s tape on the floor.  This will allow you to see if the scale of the coffee table is a good fit for your space.

Shape

Shape is the second factor to consider when selecting a coffee table.

If you have a sectional that is L-shaped or U-shaped, a round or oval coffee table may be a better balance for the space than one that is square or rectangular.

U-Shaped_Sectional-With-Oval-Coffee-Table

U-Shaped Sectional with Oval Coffee Table

Design: Tiffani Stutzman

Photo: Oivanki Photography

If you have small children, a coffee table with rounded corners is a safer option.

To add interest to a space, consider selecting a coffee table that is a different shape from the end tables in the room.  For example, if you have round side tables, select a square or rectangular coffee table.  Stay away from matching sets to get a look that is unique.

Rectangular-Coffee-Table-With-Round-End-Tables

Rectangular Coffee Table with Round End Tables

Design:  Claire Jefford

Photo: Stephani Buchman Photography

Style

The third factor to consider when selecting a coffee table is style.  This includes both the functionality of the piece, as well as the material.  Do you like to put your feet up on the coffee table to relax?  Are you a person that hates to use coasters?  Do you have small children?  These are all factors to consider when selecting the style for your coffee table.

If you have a more formal living area, stay away from coffee tables that are rustic or distressed.

If you don’t like to use coasters, a glass or metal coffee table may be a better fit.  Glass coffee tables are simple to clean and don’t scratch easily, but they can shatter if a heavy object is dropped.  Keep this in mind if you have small children.

If your sofa or sectional has very short legs (three inches or less), a coffee table with long legs or a glass top may keep the space from looking too “heavy”.

Coffee-Table-With-Long-Legs

Coffee Table with Long Legs

Design:  Claire Jefford

Do you need extra storage?  If so, an upholstered coffee table with a top that opens up may be perfect for you.  Upholstered coffee tables can be great for putting up your feet, but don’t work well for setting drinks unless a tray is used.  Another option for increasing storage is a coffee table with storage baskets underneath.

Upholstered-Coffee-Table-with-Storage

Upholstered Coffee Table with Storage

Design:  Kristy Mastrandonas

If you occasionally need extra seating, consider getting a coffee table that has benches underneath that can be slid out.  For extra flexibility, consider using multiple or nested coffee tables that can be arranged in different configurations around the room.

Finally, mix up the finishes in a space.  If you have wooden side tables, consider a metal or glass coffee table.  Again, stay away from matching sets.  It is fine to mix finishes.  For example, if you have a silver light fixture in your living room, a gold or brass coffee table can create a nice contrast.  Just make sure that your accessories tie together both finishes.

Gold-Metal-Coffee-Table

Gold Metal Coffee Table with Wooden Side Table

Design:  Claire Jefford

Photo: Stephani Buchman Photography

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips on how to select the perfect coffee table.  Thanks again to Claire Jefford and Kristy Mastrandonas for sharing some of their beautiful projects!!

Thanks for reading!

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