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How to Choose the Right Coffee Table for Your Space

By Samantha Todd | December 28, 2021

Coffee tables are used in main living spaces to add space for books, cups, glasses, and other materials that one might use when seated on the surrounding couches and chairs. They are usually the approximate height of the seat cushion of a couch, or slightly higher, and are placed in the middle of a grouping of sofas and chairs. 

Coffee tables are as much about design and style as they are about form and function. There are a plethora of different coffee table styles constructed from virtually any material imaginable. Coffee tables range in price from extremely budget-conscious to extravagant. 

Choosing a coffee table that best suits your space isn’t as daunting as it may seem. In fact, if you consider the space you have to place the table, the type of furniture it will be surrounded by, and the general day-to-day use it will see, you can hone in on a particular style and make it your own. 

The team of designers at Modloft offers some of the most highly crafted, visually stunning coffee tables available. Our luxury pieces are accessible in terms of usability and cost. 

While we discuss the different types of coffee tables available and how to decide which one is right for you, we’ll also offer some of our favorite pieces for your consideration. 

Types of Coffee Tables

There are numerous different styles of coffee tables, but we will cover the basics, from the most common, standard types of coffee tables, to pieces that are more like an artistic sculpture. 

Traditional

Traditional coffee tables are the most commonly used in the average American home. Their design is almost always crafted of wood, and the shape is either rectangle or oval with no drawers for storage. 

Cottage and/or Coastal

Cottage or coastal coffee tables are usually considered a bit kitsch in design, and that design is celebrated in the piece itself. They can be constructed of wood or glass and usually feature multiple different colors, mismatched hardware, and custom designs. They can be crafted to fit a particular home, as is the case with coastal coffee tables, which usually feature some sort of nautical design or beach-type theme. 

Shaker

Shaker furniture is known for its minimalist style, basic structure, and functionality before form. It is never ornate and uses simple, clean lines for visual appeal. Shaker furniture does not have decorative flourishes or finishes. Even the handles and pulls of the drawers on a piece of shaker furniture can be made from wood.

Shaker coffee tables are generally rectangular in shape, feature one to two drawers, and have a very simplistic design. They are popular because they easily fit in practically any space, can accommodate most decorative styles, and can be finished in different colors to suit a particular design. 

Industrial

Industrial coffee tables are usually crafted with a mix of metal, wood, and sometimes concrete. They inspire a factory look and feel and are generally heavier and bulkier in appearance. They work well if balancing out a room that feels softer and look phenomenal with neutral colors. 

You’ll find industrial pieces in urban lofts and studio apartments, as well as open-floor-plan homes that lend themselves to furniture that commands attention. 

Mid-Century

Mid-century furniture describes furniture that was popular in the 1950s-1960s. This furniture is modern in appearance and is sometimes described as “mid-century modern.” Simplistic, lightweight, and clean lines describe these pieces, and the finish is usually wood or even plastic. 

These types of coffee tables have never truly receded from the spotlight, as many new designers opt to build on the basic structure of mid-century coffee tables using slightly more modern materials and/or finishes. 

Parsons

A parsons coffee table is rectangular in design and has four legs equally as thick as the top of the coffee table. It is very simplistic in design and structure and is the most basic of the coffee tables discussed in this article.

Although it can seem that this coffee table is too minimalist in design, it’s actually a great fit for many styles and can be decorated and accessorized to meet almost any stylistic need. 

Contemporary

Contemporary design features materials, patterns, styles, and colors that are popular in furniture during the current time. As such, contemporary design is very fluid and changes year to year. Contemporary coffee tables may be asymmetrical, feature unexpected materials like concrete and/or marble, and are often designed in multiple heights that stack on top of one another. 

Contemporary coffee tables are statement-making and are often considered pieces of art on their own. 

Artistic

Coffee tables that are custom made fall into the category of artistic. This category also includes tables that are completely unique in form and design and are often not functional in terms of sitting objects on top. They are usually more along the lines of sculpture than table but are still placed in the same space where a coffee table would sit. 

How to Choose the Right Coffee Table for Your Space

With so many options, it can feel overwhelming to know which coffee table to choose. We can help you narrow down your selections so you can shop smarter and without a headache. Here are three options to consider when choosing a coffee table for your space. 

Space

Your space is the biggest determining factor in selecting a coffee table for your space. If you have a large space, you won’t be limited to any one style of coffee table, but if you are in a limited space, you’ll have to narrow your choices by what’s available in the area you have reserved for a coffee table. 

Generally speaking, the size of your coffee table should be gauged by the size of your sofa. Look for a coffee table that measures approximately two-thirds the width of your sofa, with a height that measures just slightly lower than the top of the seat cushion. 

You also need to ensure the coffee table doesn’t obstruct walking space around any edge. Between the sofa and coffee table and between the coffee table and any other furniture, there should always be a least 16-18 inches around the perimeter of the coffee table. 

Shape

Once you’ve determined a general size, you can select a shape. Your shape will be determined again by the sofa and adjoining chairs. If, for instance, you have a standard shape, three-seat sofa, you can easily opt for a rectangular, oval, or joined circle coffee table. 

If you have a sectional sofa with a chaise, you will likely be limited to a small circular table or a square-shaped table. 

Craving an asymmetrical, artistic coffee table? If so, you’ll need a larger space so that you can place the coffee table between other pieces of furniture, allowing enough room for walking. 

Style

You may think that style should be first on your list, but it’s actually last! Style is the last factor to consider when picking a coffee table. This is because you could end up picking a style that matches your decor but is overbearing or too small for your space. 

Once you’ve decided on size and shape, you can then begin to peruse the style you want and be certain that it will fit your decor without looking out of place. Using size and shape limits is the best way to make sure the style of your coffee table is most noticeable. 

The Takeaway

You’ve definitely got a sea of options when it comes to selecting a coffee table for your living room. Determining the size and shape you need before focusing on style is the best way to ensure your table fits and looks as best as possible in your space. 

 

Sources:

Shaker Furniture | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Characteristics of Mid-Century Modern Style | The Spruce

Placement Distance From the Sofa to a Coffee Table | Home Guides