DESIGN HOW TO: Coffee table talk

When designing a room the sofa, chairs and rug get a lot of thought and attention, but the coffee table is almost an afterthought. While it’s correct that you should select it after the other major items to determine the size that will work best, your coffee table decisions have only begun. The size, shape, height, material, style and color of the coffee table are all decisions to be made before even thinking about what to put on top of the table! Read along for a few coffee table ideas we used on previous projects.

RECTANGULAR COFFEE TABLE: A rectangular shape is the most versatile coffee table of all, perfect in front of a sofa with one chair on each table end. The table length should be about 2/3 of the sofa length, and the width can vary with the space available. (Note: the table height can vary from just under or over the seat height, with 2” lower looking a bit more modern). Use a slim table where there isn’t much room or where there are two separate seating areas. To decorate, use a stack or two of books, add flowers or fruit and use items with a combination of angular and circular shapes. Vary object heights and tie in the room’s color scheme with the table decor.

We used a slim coffee table in a large room with separate seating areas and placed an ottoman in front of the table to fill extra space.
Dark metal legs on this table balance the look of this light great room and help tie in the natural wood cabinets.

SQUARE COFFEE TABLE: For a larger seating arrangement, a square coffee table works well. Choose a square shape if there is a sofa on one side and pair of chairs on other sides of the table, or for a sectional sofa. Depending on size, a square coffee table can serve several seated guests. Be sure to size the table to allow for 14″ – 18″ in between the table and any seating. To decorate, divide the surface into quadrants and use stack(s) of books, tall candlesticks or greenery, and if the table has metal accents, as do the tables in this example below, pick up those accents in the table decor.

This table serves a sofa, two pair of chairs and ottomans and centers a room with a corner fireplace.

This square rustic table fits this sectional sofa perfectly and provides each seat a table surface for refreshments.

ROUND COFFEE TABLE: A round coffee table is a graceful shape and a perfect solution for a table that floats in the center of a room. Seating can be closely gathered around the table or placed farther away if the table serves to center a large room. To decorate a smaller table, divide the circle into thirds and place objects of varying heights in each. For larger tables, display stacks of books displayed around a central vase.

A round coffee table centers all seating around this large room and allows space for the leather recliners to be in use.
This round table provides maximum space in a chat areas with chairs gathered around the room’s center.

GLASS COFFEE TABLE: A glass coffee table adds a light and airy feeling to a smaller space and a modern touch to any style decor. A glass and metal table adds the right balance to a space that already has lots of solid, wood surfaces or needs a soft metallic sheen. To decorate a glass table, use non-glass items with texture and in a variety of shapes that are different than the shape of the table.

This sleek brass and glass table adds a modern touch to this historic home’s Living Room.
This glass and gold table balances out the massive fireplace and hearth in this open Great Room.

OVERSIZED COFFEE TABLE: Oversized tables are great for large rooms with lots of seating arranged around them. Because they are so large, their style is particularly impactful on the rest of the room and they can be more decorative or have a massive base. To decorate the large surface, start by dividing the space into quadrants and use this as a guideline for placing objects. Use trays for object display or refreshments, add height with flowers, candlesticks, etc., and place stacks of books and interesting objects in each quadrant. This is a perfect place to display books with a particular interest or theme, and be sure to tie in the room’s color scheme with the books and objects on the table.

This large coffee table has extra storage in baskets on the bottom shelf. A large tray is used for refreshments.
This table holds a variety of useful and decorative accessories. A curated book stack was chosen for color and the nautical theme.