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How to Choose the ‘Right’ Coffee Table for Your Living Room

Often an overlooked piece of furniture, the coffee table doesn’t quite have superstar status as a sofa in the living room. But that doesn’t mean it can’t make or break your space. Rather than just settling for ‘something nice’ or treating it as an afterthought, there are a few things we can consider before making your purchase. Here are some pointers to think about:


The Right Size

When it comes to height, your coffee table should be roughly the same height as your sofa seats or just slightly lower. Keeping it too low will make it difficult to reach for things on the table. Having it too high and it will make things look awkward. Plus, it’s more comfortable reaching up for things compared to reaching down for them.

Design: Space Atelier

Consider also the clearance space around the coffee table. You want it close enough to reach for your coffee mug, but not so far away that you will bump your knees on it every time you sit up. Around 30 to 40 cm of clearance space for traffic works, but go wider if it’s the main walkway.

Design: Icon Interior Design


The Right Proportions

As a general rule, your coffee table shouldn’t be smaller than half of your sofa. But neither should it overtake it in size. A good size would be approximately two-thirds of your couch. If you’re going for an L-shaped sofa, take reference from the length of the horizontal side rather than its entire length.

Design: Icon Interior Design

Besides physical proportions, also consider visual proportions. For instance, if your sofa is dense and solid with no visible legs, you might want to opt for a coffee table with tapered legs to lift the visual bulk in the living room. Likewise, with a couch with raised legs, you might want to go for a weightier coffee table.

Design: 0932 Design Consultants


The Right Material

Lucite/glass or shiny metallic coffee tables are great in a small space. The former can ‘disappear’ into the background, while the latter can help bounce more light around the room to create the impression of a bigger space. Opt for see-through coffee tables if you want to avoid concealing that expensive rug you bought. Steer clear of glass if you want a kid-friendly option though.

Design: Space Factor

Wood lends a cosier, warmer ambience to your space, and depending on the design can work with modern spaces or more traditional styles. If you’re opting for hardwood or wood-like tiles, you will want to avoid going for a coffee table with the same wood tone. Choose a darker or lighter shade for contrast.

Design: Three-D Conceptwerke

If your coffee table is heavily used or doubles as your kids’ drawing table, avoid overly precious materials that can show up scratches or dents easily. Materials like marble or wood are best avoided in this case.

Upholstered coffee tables are also a good choice for softening the look of your space. And it’s also a more comfortable choice for folks who like putting their feet up on the table. Pair them with a tray to set your coffee mugs on.

Design: DB Studio


The Right Shape

There are four kinds of shapes for coffee tables in general. A rectangle coffee table or an oval one works well in smaller or narrower living rooms where you need to maximise the passageway, while round or square coffee tables are great with an L-shaped sofa configuration or a larger space as they sit neatly into that nook of your couch.

Design: Tab Gallery

Consider also the shape of your sofa and immediate accessories like your rug. If both are more angular, you might want an oval or round shaped coffee table to temper the straight lines. For high-traffic living rooms, an oval or round shaped coffee table is also great for easing circulation and visual flow.

Design: Versaform


The Right Fit (For Your Lifestyle)

We all have different lifestyle habits and it’s important we think about that when picking out a coffee table. In families with children, the elderly or pets, you will want to choose a coffee table that has no sharp edges for safety.

Do you read in the living room and need the extra storage space to manage your books and magazines? Or do you have a lot of remote controls and tech bric-a-bracs lying about? Get a coffee table with lots of storage space such as ones with open shelving. If you prefer concealing your stuff, you can opt for a trunk or an ottoman.

Design: Jesswan Interior

For homeowners who entertain often, a coffee table with wheels or castors or even a collection of smaller coffee tables can be helpful in creating a more flexible living room. Having nesting coffee tables is also a wonderful way to add layers to a neutral space.

Design: Schemacraft Interiors

Eat in front of the TV? Opt for a coffee table with an adjustable height so that you won’t have to sit hunch while you eat.

Design: Third Avenue Studio

We could go on, but the main thing is to consider how you will be interacting with your coffee table in the living room before making the decision to buy that piece of furniture.

What are some of your considerations when you choose a coffee table? Let us know in the comments!


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