Scenic Erie Station Village

Choosing the Right Coffee Table

Living room with coffee table. Image credit: Level 23

June 2021

When it comes to furnishing their apartment’s living room, people tend to focus most on sofas and chairs. But the coffee table is the workhouse of the living room. It holds drinks, snacks, remotes, maybe a pizza after a rough day. It can act as a desk for your laptop. If you have kids, it’s a play table. And it has to look good, too. Given all the expectations you have for your coffee table, how do you pick one you’ll truly be happy with?

The Right Size

The size of your coffee table is largely driven by the furniture around it. Assuming it will be placed in front of a couch, your coffee table should be between 1/2 and 2/3 the length of the couch. The height should be no higher than the top of the seat cushions of your couch and ideally 1-2 inches lower. If you have side chairs near the table, factor in the height of their seats, too.

The Right Shape

While personal preference comes into play here, there are some general rules to follow. If you have a standards sofa, a rectangular or oval coffee table is great. It gives easy access to everyone on the couch. Rectangular tables provide a little more surface and storage space while oval tables are great if you have kids (no corners) or restricted access to your furniture. Square or round tables work best when you have a sectional or a larger living room and really need to fill the space between your sofa and chairs.

What’s Under the Top

From drinks to decorations, you’ll be putting a lot on top of your coffee table, but what’s under the top is important, too. Do you need storage for remotes, coasters, or games? If so, drawers will be a must. Styles that include an open shelf under the top are great for books and magazines. But if you plan to sit on the floor and use your coffee table like it was a desk, you’ll want to find something with four legs and nothing else under it. A final option is a table that’s solid all the way down to the ground. These are less practical in terms of storage, but do look good when your seating has long slender legs.


Wood is the most common material for coffee tables, but it isn’t the only choice. While wood adds warmth to a room, it doesn’t always stand up well to young kids and their toys. If your living room is a bit cramped, a glass-topped table can help open a space visually. It also makes coasters less necessary, but will show fingerprints and require more frequent cleaning. If you’d like a more slender or modern style, metal is a good option. Natural materials like rattan or seagrass will be more lightweight and add texture to your décor.

By thinking through these factors before you shop, you can quickly narrow down your options and be sure to bring home a coffee table that will serve you well for many years.