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How to Buy a Coffee Table

Coffee tables serve so many functions and come in so many styles, shapes and materials, that it's easy to get lost in choice. We're here to help with these simple guidelines for finding your perfect coffee table.

Before You Start Looking

It's best to buy a coffee table after you've purchased its essential companion, the sofa or easy chair. This is because the ideal height, depth and width of a coffee table depend on the number, height and width of the couch and chairs. Follow these guidelines when measuring for a coffee table:

The height should be slightly lower than the seat height of your sofa and chairs.

sofa chairs
Pomeroy cocktail table The length should be two-thirds the length of the sofa.
Kai large cocktail table The space between the table and sofa should be about 14-18 inches.
Jonah lift-top coffee table Leave enough space between the table and other furnishings so that you can easily navigate around your room without bumping into the coffee table.

The Size of Your Space and Your Other Furnishings

contemporary modern coffee table If your place is small, side tables for holding small items and ottomans for footrests may suffice. Good coffee table materials for small areas include acrylic, glass, metal and mirrored surfaces that reflect light and make the room look bigger. Rectangular or oval coffee tables have less impact on traffic flow than square or round ones.
reclaimed wood coffee table

If your space is large, make sure the coffee table is substantial enough that the couch and chairs don't dwarf it. The more seating around the coffee table, the larger it should be.

How You Use the Coffee Table

Different functions suggest different materials and designs.
reclaimed wood coffee table In a room that sees heavy use and where people put everything, including their feet, on the coffee table, look for sturdy materials such as wood or a wood and metal combination.
extra storage coffee table If you need extra storage for remotes, headsets, books or eyeglasses, look for coffee tables with drawers or shelves.
lift-top coffee table

If you do everything, including eat and work, from your sofa, consider a lift-top coffee table.

Style

Decide whether you want your coffee table to blend in or stand out. To blend in, it should be in a style that matches the decor of your room and the other furniture. You can find sets of matching coffee and side tables in many styles. If you want your coffee table to stand out, pick a contrasting style, material, color or shape.

For a look that's a little different, consider non-traditional items that serve the function of a coffee table – without actually being a coffee table. Two smaller tables placed side by side, a fabric ottoman with a tray, a storage trunk or bench are just a few examples of what’s possible.

Shop with care, and you can anchor your space with the coffee table that meets your unique needs and style.

coffee table styles

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