5 Questions to Help You Choose a Coffee Table

Copper-table.jpg
Coffee table with a copper base. Photo (c) Bassett

Coffee tables come to mind right after sofas when you think of living room furniture. And while coffee tables are ubiquitous, there is bewildering variety to choose from. These five questions may help to narrow down your choices:

Do You Need a Living Room or Family Room Coffee Table?

Living room and family room coffee tables are used differently, and family room coffee tables get more rough use. Keep that in mind when buying a coffee table.

  • You may want a more formal coffee table in your living room depending on how you have decorated. More fragile and delicate surfaces such as glass can be used in living rooms.
  • A family room needs a sturdier coffee table. You may also want to look for one that has storage options, like drawers. The surface should be able to take abuse because spilled snacks or feet on the table are more common in casual settings. Glass tops are generally not suitable for family rooms, not just because of fragility, but finger marks and scratches too. For glass-tops without frames, there is the danger of sharp corners, especially when you have small children.
  • Delicate surfaces can also end up getting scratched if it is a heavy-use area.

Will You Use Your Coffee Table as a Centerpiece?

The coffee table is often called the centerpiece of the room. But you will notice that the same term is often used for a sofa, a rug, or any other piece of furniture.

Crowning glory, centerpiece, focal point, how many can you have in a room? Since there can be only one, you have to decide whether your coffee table gets the starring role.

If you do decide on the coffee table as a centerpiece, these attributes will make it stand out:

  • Style
  • Size
  • Material
  • Surface finish and color

    Combine two or more of the above if you want it to truly stand out.

    How to Mix Furniture Styles
    Traditional Style
    Contemporary Style

    Which Material Do You Prefer?

    When you shop for a coffee table, you'll become aware of how many choices you have when it comes to material. The most obvious material that comes to mind is wood, but you don't have to restrict yourself to wood if you don't want to.

    • Take a look at your room and other furniture to determine what material would look best. Clear acrylic and glass can make a small room look more open. The glint of metal can accomplish the same purpose. Glass, acrylic, metal and stone also look good in a modern room.
    • Darker wood, such as mahogany or walnut, or materials such as marble and metal can look good in a traditional room.
    • Leather or faux leather can work well in a variety of settings and they are also easy to maintain.
    • Consider the material's durability and safety especially when you have small children.

    What Kind of Shape and Size Will Be Best For Your Space?

    Coffee tables are available in many different shapes. While the shape of the room can play a role in choosing a coffee table, pay attention to your seating configuration more than anything else.

    • Rectangular or oval coffee table work well for smaller rooms.
    • Squares or round coffee tables are good for large seating configurations, such as large sectionals or a large sofa and love seat.
    • Round or oval tables are useful around children because of the absence of sharp corners.
    • Consider scale as well as actual measurements when selecting a size. Select a coffee table that is no more than two-thirds your sofa's total length. An important thing to remember is to leave enough space around the coffee table for leg space. Leave at least a foot and a half between the table and the sofa.
    • Your coffee table should be the same height as the seat of your sofa or lower.

    Do You Need Added Functionality?

    The level of functionality your coffee table offers depends on how you want to use it. While most coffee tables have a flat surface supported on a base, there are plenty that offers additional features.

    • Look for coffee tables with additional shelves, drawers or compartments if you need them to double up for storage.
    • Trunks and ottomans can offer lots of storage.
    • Some tables have surfaces that can be raised for working or eating.
    • Casters and wheels are useful if you need to roll away the coffee table.