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    4 Tips To Consider When Buying Coffee Tables

    May 16, 2022 4 min read

    Planning to buy a new coffee table? Or upgrade one to go with your new sofa or family room extension? You might be surprised to discover there are a few things to consider when buying a new coffee table.

    Type of sofa it goes next to
    What sort of sofa configuration do you have? A pair of two- or three-seater sofas facing each other or perpendicular (at a 90-degree angle)? An four-seater L-shaped sectional sofa with a chaise longue? A pair of armchairs and a love seat? Or a 70s-style circular sofa? 

    You might be surprised to realise coffee tables are not a one-size-fits-all piece of furniture.

    Ideally they need to be placed between 35-45cm from the sofa so you and your family have enough space to walk around the coffee table to sit down and get up but you don't have to do aerobics-level stretching to put down your glass of wine or cup of tea.

    If you have a circular sofa, ideally you will need a circular coffee table.

    If you have a L-shaped chaise you will need a coffee table that runs at least two-thirds the length of your longest section so that the person on the furtherest end (not the chaise end) will have somewhere to rest their drink. One rectangular, or one oval, or two square coffee tables will be perfect.

    While circular coffee tables provide visual shape variety to the room and look cool, they typically only work best for the person sitting closest to them. As the coffee table curves away from those further away, they cannot reach it.

    The exception to this rule is if a round coffee table is being placed in the angle of two perpendicular sofas or one, rather short L-shaped sectional sofa.

    Size of room
    How large is your room? And what shape? A coffee table, especially if it's grounded on a large rug, can help define the sitting area in an open plan area.

    A very compact living room of around 2m wide x 3m long allows you just enough space for one two-seater sofa and a side table, opposite a TV wall. There is no space for a coffee table, let alone another sofa.

    A modest living room of around 3m wide x 4m long lets you have the option for one two-seater sofa, two armchairs and a coffee table, even round in this case as the room is small. If the room layout allows, this is where you might instead have a U-shaped lounge against three walls with a square coffee table.

    A medium-sized living room of 3-4m wide x 4-5m long gives you more options again with the space for at least a pair of three-seater sofas and two armchairs or a generously sized sectional lounge. As this room is larger, you need to consider if the coffee table will accommodate everyone or if you'll need additional side tables.

    A large living room is considered to be 4m wide or more x 6m long or more. Once you reach these dimensions or especially once they're larger than this, you will definitely need to group your seating areas into two areas as your family and friends will simply be sitting too far away to reach the coffee table/s.

    Note: f your living room is so large that guests sitting on one side of the room are more than 3 metres from the other guest, you will need to change your seating configuration to allow people to talk without feeling like they have to shout across the room.

    Type of usage
    What is your coffee table used for? The interior decorating world seems divided into two camps. 

    One group typically views a coffee table as largely decorative, designed to display a tray including a vase of flowers, a sculptural piece, perhaps an ornamental candle while "grudgingly" allowing that some homeowners may actually want to place their glass, cup or mug on it.

    The other group expect that people will put their feet on it, sit around it on floor cushions to play board games or to do some homework, to store coffee table books and magazines not to mention that it will be regularly used as a grazing table, piled with bowls of chips and dips, afternoon tea and cheese and cracker platters. Others use it as a storage solution with baskets below to house toys and games for the kids. Or to display their collections.

    Or you may wish to straddle both camps by ordering a cotton or velvet button-hole upholstered ottoman, and covering these in trays. The trays can house magazines and decor, as well as space for catering, yet all can be removed to allow family members to put their feet up at the end of the day.

    Decorating scheme
    So coffee tables need to work in with your decorating scheme. A beautiful circular bone inlay model is definitely a designer piece on which little, if anything is stored.

    The solid teak rectangular coffee table with its twin shallow drawers and bottom tier shelf is a good choice for a young family or twentysomethings where furniture has to stand up to heavy usage as well as provide extra storage.

    Parents of babies and toddlers may prefer coffee tables which are round or oval to prevent little ones from running into sharp corners.

    A coffee table made largely of tempered glass or perspex helps create lightness in your room by not visually blocking the floor and are best for modern decorating schemes. 

    A coffee table of a flat-topped steamer trunk adds an air of whimsy and fantasy to a living room; it is virtually impossible to gaze at it without thinking of exotic travels.

    One made entirely of, or framed in bamboo or rattan is perfect for the plantation style or coastal style home.

    If you're aiming for Hamptons style, you may either wish to increase the glamour quota with a silver metal framed glass coffee table, or add texture and visual interest with a white chalk-painted X-framed coffee table, which may have display pigeonholes for your collection of shells and coral underneath the glass.

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