Tips to help you buy a quality coffee table

words Alexa Wang

Are you hunting for a new coffee table to be the centerpiece of your living room? Is your existing table looking a bit tired and worn or simply being overwhelmed by magazines, phones, coffee mugs and more? 

Buying a new coffee table might, on the face of it, seem like a straightforward task. All tables are more or less the same right? Well, not really, no. It might not seem like it but your choice of coffee table can have an enormous impact on your whole living space. In fact, it might be (along with the sofa or suite) the most important piece of furniture in the living area. 

quality coffee table

Don’t believe us? Then think about it for a minute. Which other piece of living room furniture (again, sofa excepted) must work as hard as a coffee table? Just think about all the roles it must fulfill. Not only is it there to keep food and drinks off the floor, but it is also invaluable surface space for remote controls, phones and other gadgets. Sometimes it doubles up as a makeshift desk or workstation, or even as a playing surface for board games and more. Plus, it can serve a serious storage purpose too, for books and magazines, chargers, coasters, and a whole range of other small but often used items. 

On top of all of this – as if it wasn’t enough – the coffee table also has to bring the whole room together, sit in the central space of the living area without feeling too big or too small, as well as match your interior design scheme or serve as a statement piece in and of itself. 

So, as you can see, the humble coffee table is quite the workhorse. All of which can make your new purchase seem a little daunting. But don’t worry. There are some top tips to help you make the right decision. It’s all about breaking it down into categories and working through a quick checklist to establish what you most need from your coffee table. Keep reading to find out more. 

Think about size and shape

The size and shape of your table are perhaps the main considerations and should be very top of your checklist. You need a table that fits in your available space without being dwarfed or taking up too much valuable living room. A good general rule is that a coffee table should be about two thirds as long as your sofa in order to look well proportioned. So, if your sofa is two meters in length, your coffee table should be around the 1.33m mark. Of course, there is some give and take either side of this line, but this is a useful marker to aim for. 

The shape is equally important. If you have kids or pets, then a round coffee table has obvious benefits in terms of the lack of potential injury from pointed corners. But round tables can also work in other spaces too, depending on the configuration of your living room. Be aware that round tables tend to work better in larger living areas, as they can leave awkward areas of dead space in smaller rooms. 

A classic rectangle coffee table shape maximizes both useful surface area and makes it easier to place furniture around the central hub. 

Choose your materials wisely

Remember that your coffee table really does go through it. It is constantly being used to balance hot drinks and food, have feet rested on it, homework done on its back, as well as the general bumps and knocks of a high traffic area. So, you need a coffee table made from a sturdy material that can take all this punishment, without fading, and ideally looking better over time. That’s why wood is always a great choice. But remember that drinks such as coffee, tea and wine can leave marks on a wood coffee table, so you need to make sure surfaces are regularly cleaned and treated to be at their best. 

Materials such as glass and metal are easier to maintain and clean but can sustain damage in other ways. Plus, these are generally less homely and comforting in your living space – but that really does depend on your design style. 

How much storage do you need?

The amount of storage you need depends on how you use your coffee table, so spend a bit of time thinking about its core purpose. Is it mainly there for drinks and remote controls, or does it act like a media center in your living room with magazines, chargers and more scattered all over it? If it’s the latter then you might want to think about a coffee table with storage integrated, such as drawers or under surface racks. 

Once you have established how you are going to use your table you can really begin to focus on your choice of design.

Choose your style

This is last in our list of tips but by no means are we implying that it is least important. In many ways it is the most crucial question about any coffee table purchase. The thing is that the style generally becomes more important after all the other factors have been considered. But you should never buy a coffee table just because it ticks the boxes above and nothing more, you also have to love it. Remember that you’re going to be staring at it every evening for the next few years at least. 

Once you have worked out the size and shape, material choices, and functionality of the table, try and find one in a design that really works in your space, brining other items of furniture together and looking like it has always belonged in that space. 

FAQs

What should I look for when buying a coffee table?

You need to think about the size and shape of the table, the choice of materials, how much storage you need and whether it works with your overall design scheme. It sounds like a lot but there is a table out there for you. You just need to know where to find it. 

Should a coffee table be lower than the couch?

Ideally the coffee table should be an inch or two (3 to 5 cm) lower than the seating area of the couch. This is usually between 16 to 18 inches (about 40 cm). Any lower or higher and it might feel a little strange when putting drinks down and picking them up, plus it could interrupt the flow of a space.

What is the best coffee table size?

Whether you choose a large coffee table or a small coffee table depends on the amount of available space you have. But remember, a good general rule is to get a coffee table that is around two thirds the length of your sofa.

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