When it comes to designing a living room, there are many important elements to consider, from the furniture to the décor, but there is one piece of furniture that is often overlooked: the coffee table!

Serving both functional and aesthetic roles, a coffee table has a critical purpose in living room design. However, it can be difficult to know how to choose the right coffee table, with so many styles, options and benefits to consider.

In this article, we explore the many elements of coffee tables to help you make the right design choice for your unique taste and functional needs.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Coffee tables provide both functional and aesthetic benefits to your living room
  • Functions of a coffee table include a surface for drinks, storage, and a footrest
  • Consider the material, size, and shape when choosing a coffee table for your space
  • Create a balanced, cohesive space by adding decorative items to your coffee table

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The Functional Benefits of Coffee Tables

Coffee tables are an essential piece of furniture in any living room, primarily due to their functional benefits. Key reasons to have a coffee table include:


A Surface for Drinks and Snacks

This obvious clue is in the name, but coffee tables really do offer the perfect surface area and location to place items conveniently nearby, such as drinks or snacks. Without a dependable accessible coffee table, you and your guests would need to hold items in your lap or place them far away from your seating area.

White coffee table with glass top with a cup of coffee, cookies, and cream and sugar, and a vase of flowers


A Footrest

You could use your coffee table as a footrest, particularly if it is a fabric ottoman style. This adds to the overall comfort of the room, particularly if you have a large sectional or sofa that doesn’t have a chaise lounge or built-in recliner.

OKA Wallace coffee table with cushioned top

Image courtesy of OKA



Coffee tables are often lightweight and easy to move for various uses, making them a versatile piece of furniture that can be used in many different spaces and configurations. Innovative coffee tables also serve as excellent examples of transformable furniture, which deliver even more convenient versatility and functionality for living room spaces.

White wooden coffee table with rollers


Storage Space

Many highly-functional coffee tables come with built-in drawers or shelves to store books, magazines, reading aids, media devices, remote controls, and more. This can help keep your living room tidy and organized, making it easier to find what you need when you’re relaxing on the couch.

Povison Tana Lift-Top-Nesting Transformable Coffee Table

Image courtesy of Povison

Current technology meshing with traditional storage designs has even led to the niche category of refrigerated coffee tables!


A Display for Decorative Items

A coffee table allows you a further space to place décor accessories that can help to tie in the rest of the room. The prominent location of a coffee table can also be used to signal your personality, experiences and priorities subtly, potentially stirring meaningful conversation when hosting guests.

Decorative ottoman coffee table with tray, accent books, candles and flowers

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A coffee table can act as a focal point in your living room, adding to the overall decor and style of the space. Choosing the right table can help tie the room together to create a cohesive look.

Rustic wooden coffee table with blue and gray vases in front of a dark blue sofa


The Aesthetic Benefits of Coffee Tables

Let’s now take a close look at the aesthetic benefits a coffee table can provide to a living space.

Coffee tables can contribute to the overall design and style of a room, enhancing the decor and creating a focal point for the space.

Large round modern coffee table as the focal point of a large modern living room

When choosing a coffee table, it’s important to consider the style and material that will complement your existing decor. For example, a sleek and modern coffee table with a glass top can work well in a contemporary living room with clean lines and minimalistic decor.

On the other hand, a rustic wooden coffee table can add warmth and charm to a farmhouse or rustic style space.

Glass top rustic wooden coffee table with old wooden checkers board

In addition to the style and material, the shape and size of a coffee table can also affect the overall aesthetic of the room. A round or oval coffee table can soften the lines of a square or rectangular room, while a large and imposing coffee table can make a bold statement in a spacious living room.

Elegant small round coffee table with plant in vase and candles


Types of Coffee Tables

Another important element of choosing a coffee table is the shape which is critical to the overall design of your living space. Certain shapes will work better than others depending on the size of the room and shape of your couch. We’ve got a quick rundown of the best types, taking ideas from Minihomedeco.com:


Rectangular Coffee Tables

This popular shape is highly versatile and will work with most décor styles, making it a safe choice. With ample surface space for drinks, remotes, and decorative accessories, they offer great storage solutions, but might not work well for smaller spaces as they can take up a lot of space.


Round Coffee Tables

Perfect for smaller living rooms or spaces with a lot of angular furniture, round coffee tables take up less room and soften any harsh lines. They can also work well in larger spaces, as they allow for easy movement around the table. However they don’t provide as much surface space as rectangular counterparts and can be difficult to style.

Simple white round coffee table with wooden legs with coffee cup, cookies, book and plant


Oval Coffee Tables

Oval coffee tables can serve as a convenient hybrid aesthetic, as on one hand they have a more modern look than rectangular tables, while fitting better with longer sofas and larger spaces than do round tables. Oval coffee tables are a popular alternative for consumers who need a similar form factor as rectangular coffee tables, but desire a design style with more flair.

Lulu and Georgia Leigha Oval Coffee Table

Image courtesy of Lulu and Georgia


Square Coffee Tables

Square coffee tables can work well in larger living rooms, as they provide plenty of surface space for entertaining, as well as add a more modern, geometric element to the room.

Ornate square coffee table in living room with ocean views


Lift-Top Coffee Tables

If you are wanting a multifunctional coffee table, lift-top coffee tables are a good choice thanks to the hidden compartments that can be used for eating or working. Although they are well-suited for smaller homes thanks to the space saving element, they can be more expensive and aren’t always as sturdy as traditional designs.

Closeup view of a wooden lift-top coffee table


Storage Coffee Tables

Storage coffee tables are another highly popular multifunctional coffee table, as they come with built-in drawers or shelves, providing convenient hidden storage space, perfect for those that like to keep things organized and decluttered.

OKA Alexey coffee table with storage shelves in weathered oak

Image courtesy of OKA


Ottoman Coffee Tables

Rather than having an ottoman and a coffee table, why not combine them? Ideal for those who like to put their feet up in the evening, this style combines the function of a table with the comfort of an ottoman. They provide a soft, cushioned surface for putting up your feet, and can also be used as extra seating, although they aren’t exceptionally sturdy for drinks.

Large square ottoman coffee table in large bright living room

Also be sure to keep an eye on the durability and wear of the surface top material, as your feet instinctively adapt to this relaxing surface over time. Flat pillows or small blankets can help protect the material, if necessary.


How to Choose the Perfect Coffee Table for Your Living Room

With so many different styles, sizes, and materials to choose from, picking the perfect coffee table is not without its challenges. There are a number of factors you will want to consider when picking a coffee table to ensure it is both visually pleasing and functional. These include:

  1. Consider the Size of Your Living Room and Seating Area
  2. Shape of the Coffee Table
  3. Material
  4. Additional Features


1. Consider the Size of Your Living Room and Seating Area

Choose a coffee table that is in proportion with the size of the room as well as the furniture. Generally, you want the size of your coffee table to be between half and two thirds of the size of your sofa to ensure that the table doesn’t look too small or overwhelm the space.


2. Shape of the Coffee Table

Rectangular or oval-shaped coffee tables are the most common shape for coffee tables, as they tend to work well with most furniture arrangements. However, if you have a sectional sofa or a more unique seating arrangement, you may want to consider a round or square coffee table as this will help to create a more cohesive, well-balanced look.


3. Material

Consider the style and decor of your living room and think about materials that will work well with your space. For example, a black metal framed table would suit an industrial style living space.

Also be sure to think about the durability and maintenance of the materials you choose, especially if you have kids or pets. If so, you will want something scratch resistant that doesn’t require cleaning every minute of the day!


4. Additional Features

Think about any additional features you may want, such as built-in storage or a lift-top design. These features can add to the functionality of your coffee table and make it even more useful in your living room. Also don’t forget to consider “flow” around the table, to ensure that its size and placement is conducive for how you expect to use and move around your living room space.


How to Dress a Coffee Table

After having accomplished the most difficult task of choosing a coffee table, you can then get to the fun part of dressing your new coffee table!

Alongside the table itself, you can use decorative items to style your table which can further support the overall look of the room. Key tips for what to put on a coffee table include:

  • Using a tray to anchor your items and keep things neat
  • Use varying heights to add visual interest
  • Mix materials and textures for depth
  • Add a pop of color or pattern for contrast
  • Use books or magazines for height and to add interest
  • Incorporate natural elements such as flowers or plants
  • Add personal touches such as family photos or sentimental items
  • Avoid overcrowding the table, leave some negative space
  • Try seasonal décor to keep the table design fresh

Forever Tray modern and stylish serving tray on top of an ottoman coffee table

Image courtesy of Forever Tray

Both the aesthetic and functional benefits to having a coffee table demonstrate how pivotal they can be to shaping your overall living space. These practical tables provide an opportunity to balance the space and reflect your own style for an ambient finish.

Both the aesthetic and functional benefits to having a coffee table demonstrate how pivotal they can be to shaping your overall living space.

Decorative coffee table with plants, books, vases, and sculptures


Parting Words of Advice

As you can see, coffee tables offer a multitude of uses and benefits when used in a living room. Not only are they hugely functional thanks to their storage ability and versatile use, but they can also help tie a space together with harmonizing design traits and decorative items.

When choosing a coffee table, it is important to consider factors such as the size of your living room and seating area, shape, material, and additional features such as a lift-top design. There are many types of coffee tables available, each with their own benefits and considerations. Ultimately, though, choosing the perfect coffee table for your living room will depend on your specific wants and needs.

Most importantly, during your selection process do not lose sight of how you hope to enjoy your future coffee table!

Mediterranean food setting with coffee, cookies, dates on a white-washed wooden coffee table

One thing is for certain, however, if you are still asking “do I need a coffee table?” – the answer is yes!


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