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Design

Design Agony: The “Too Small” Coffee Table Has An EASY Solution (We’ll Prove It)

In what is now my second time fully designing a living room, I have fallen madly in love with a coffee table that is yet again “too small”. Jess, “What makes a coffee table too small?” Well, a coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa. So naturally, this measurement is completely dependent upon the sofa you have. In my first apartment, I was dealing with two other issues – 1. My living room was small and narrow, not leaving me with a lot of coffee table size options in general and 2. I had fallen madly in love with and secured the navy pouf you see in the photos above and below. Whoops! I clearly didn’t consider that the height of my pouf was equal to or taller than most coffee tables…coooooool. But after hours and hours of searching, that sweet little black metal oval table came to my rescue and was the perfect height, shape, and material I wanted to beautifully contrast the pouf. So yes, today I’m going to talk about the wonders of nesting coffee tables and your many options in this category! I’m also going to walk you through my current coffee table situation because, “oops I did it again” 🙂

design by jess bunge | photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: makeover takeover: jess’ long awaited (small space) living room reveal

But before we get much further let’s go over the three basic “rules” (or our recommended guidelines since rules can always be broken).

RULE #1: I know I just said this but your coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa. The right scale is going to look and feel so good. The last thing you want is for a coffee table to make your living room look smaller than it is. Scale is crucial to a well-designed room.

RULE #2: Your coffee table should be no more than 4″ higher or shorter than the top of your sofa seat cushions. This gives you A LOT of room to play so I wouldn’t stress about it. Just make sure you’re going to be happy with the height you’re setting your coffee cup down:)

RULE #3: 16″ to 18” is the ideal distance between the sofa and coffee table. Don’t cramp the space! This also means you want to watch out for the width of your coffee table so you don’t end up with something too big that takes up the area. This has been (and currently is) a pain point for me and has limited my coffee table options.

What I’m Working With

Did I know the coffee table was too small when I bought it? Yes. But I knew I wanted to do nesting coffee tables again because I wanted a round shape and my living layout couldn’t handle a large round coffee table. I also honestly love the nesting table look as it’s an opportunity to bring in another material, texture, and potentially a pattern. This particular vintage coffee table was also just too unique to pass up. I must have seen it on Craigslist for at least a month, never being able to get it out of my head. Now, while I LOVE it, coming up with its ideal “nesting buddy” hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped (it’s my overthinking that’s been the problem to no one’s surprise).

Naturally, I tried it with the metal table first. It’s not terrible but it also isn’t right. I want the wooden table to be the star and having the metal table tower over it, it’s taking a back seat. Oh, and it you’re wondering where my beloved navy pouf is, don’t worry, it’s currently acting as my office chair footrest. It’s too tall to nest with my new table which I sadly also knew when I bought it. But speaking of poufs let’s start playing with my first option…

Option #1: Upholstered Pouf/Ottoman

This idea is seeming like the frontrunner at the moment but that’s currently all it is, an idea. It’s easy to come up with cool ideas in your head but finding “the right” piece that is the perfect size, color, and price is easier said than done (like with my first living room coffee table height issue). And because I’m me, I might see if I can get one made but that adds another challenge (the money challenge). I’ve been dreaming of a custom-made pouf because I’d love to use a patterned fabric. All of the patterned poufs that I could potentially buy or get gifted are simply not my style or aren’t the right size or not the right color. Is there another pouf option? Of course!

I am open to a more pillow-like soft pouf which might be a nice look in a room with A LOT of structured lines. With this style, I could potentially have an extremely talented, beautiful, smart, cool friend that knows how to sew *cough* Arlyn *cough* help me. Do you think public flattery will work on her? Working moms typically have lots of free time to help their friends make pieces of decor, right?? It also might not be as expensive as I’m thinking to get made since it’s basically a pillow and not a more solid piece of furniture that requires a wooden frame. This one is also a little easier to find if I’m ok with a solid color.

Option #2: Stacked Pillows

In my last(?) blog post about this room, I talked about all of the coffee table and rug options I had considered as well as my floor pillow idea with fabric samples. This option is that idea but I’ve realized that I need to be extremely careful with the pattern choice. I have some decor pieces you can’t see in this photo (I’m saving them for the reveal) that make me very nervous about adding more than one pattern. The impulse to overdecorate, given the hundreds of ideas in my head, is STRONG. I keep reminding myself that I need to cool it. With all that said, I think I can find a pattern that works and brings in color (likely a dark blue). When I originally had this patterned pillow idea, I was planning to mix two or three patterns, now I think only one pattern for both pillows or one patterned and one solid. Arlyn did technically offer to help make these after I gently asked if she’d be willing…but I asked her after I hung her dining room pendant a couple of weeks ago. That wasn’t my plan I promise! I had zero ulterior motives! I still might find some I like but so far no dice.

Option #3: Another Coffee Table

Another super legitimate option is simply another round (ish) or oval coffee table that’s shorter than the one I have. Ideally, this would also be vintage to add additional soul and depth to the room. My graphic is comically bad but as you can see I’m looking for something visually lighter, maybe with legs. The size is just my biggest challenge. Finding a coffee table I like that is under 15″ tall, under 24″ in diameter (at most), and not very expensive is a tall order. But who knows! Maybe one day soon the perfect option will pop up on a late-night Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace search. Anything is possible!

But enough about me and let’s talk about YOU. First, let me make sure you know that no matter the size of your living room, you can always have nesting coffee tables. This isn’t just for small space dwellers. Actually, if you have a really large living room, it’s a perk to be able to separate your coffee tables to accommodate guests sitting in various areas. Now that we can all have them, there are two types – matching and non matching. One is not better than the other. It’s simply preference. So naturally, I rounded up some options in both categories so if you need a coffee table setup and don’t want to have to search, hopefully this with help.

Matching Sets

Matching sets are great for a couple of reasons – it creates less decision-making to create your “nest” and they are visually calmer since they aren’t contrasting each other (like a mixed set would). Here are my current favorites:

1. The Morro Tables: Simple, organic yet modern, and would look good with so many styles.
2. Nesting Coffee Table: Perfect if you want a little drama that isn’t too visually heavy.
3. Pompeo Round Ivory Cast Resin Nesting Coffee Table Set: Trendy but in the best way and can be used outdoors!
4. Wade Nesting Coffee Tables: Emily has used these before and they are SO pretty in person. Modern traditional at its finest. They come in all three of those wood tones so you can mix and match or go with one tone.
5. Cannellini Nesting Coffee Table Set: Another trend-forward set that I adore. If I didn’t think the small one was too chunky I’d grab it for my living room. Also, I’m pretty sure they are only sold as a set…
6. Jewel Round Coffee and Side Table Set: Affordable, cute, and lots of texture, what’s not to love?!

Non Matching Sets

I was reminded of a few things when I was putting these together. Not all coffee tables are meant to be nestable. Unless it’s a set made for each other, you need to make sure the main coffee table has an overhang. That’s what makes most nesting possible. As you’ll see below, you can have your small table be taller than the main but then that table needs an overhang. Just some thoughts before we get into these combos (measurements have all been checked:))

1. Augie Oak Wood Coffee Table + Willy Charcoal Brown Round Pedestal Side Table: I love the modern chunky look and it’s making me think maybe I just need a smaller pedestal table instead of my “larger” oval one. The coffee table does actually have a matching nesting buddy in case you prefer that look.
2. Zeke Oval Brushed Oatmeal Coffee Table + Boucle Black Pouf: Simple, chic, AND affordable!
3. Ellington Round Coffee Table + Olivia Round Pouf: Playful with that pretty fluting and pretty rust ottoman (that actually comes apart into two floor cushions!)
4. Volume Round Pedestal Coffee Table + Hopedale Modern Jute Pouf: This feels like a refined organic vibe, right? Also, those prices aren’t bad either.
5. Miri Coffee Table + Square Ivory And Rust Checkered Pouf: For a more contemporary look, this is perfect. While the pouf is a little more on trend, that coffee table will last a long time stylistically.
6. Homage Round White Oak Wood and Marble Coffee Table + Cassius Side Table: Oh I really love this one. Lots of different materials. Chunky yet delicate. Just perfect:)

I hope this was a fun read that got you thinking about the wild world of nesting coffee tables and if you needed one, maybe you found it! Wish me luck on my continued journey:)

Love you, mean it.

Opening Image Credits: Design by Jess Bunge | Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp | From: Makeover Takeover: Jess’ Long Awaited (Small Space) Living Room Reveal

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10 months ago

I love the idea of the structured poof – I think it would fit well with the general style and vibe going on in this room. And love how it’s all coming together in general!!

Sally
10 months ago

Can’t wait to see your room. Structured pouffe would be very nice and cosy.

I’d also consider something like the Eames LTR table in black from Vitra (technically MCM, but imho a total classic that can live with any period) or the Kartell Panier clear acrylic table. The transparency would be good in a small space. Both are light and timeless and always fresh.

Sally
10 months ago
Reply to  Sally

Or the Norman Copenhagen Tablo table. All would suit scale and size of room and complement your existing piece (which by the way is lovely).

10 months ago

Ohh! I love this idea!! Can’t wait to see how it turned out!

Jeanne
10 months ago

Hmmm, I must be in the minority. To my eye, having a ‘too small’ coffee table looks better than smushing two disparate things together and calling them a coffee table. But your home is your canvas, do whatever you love!

Lane
10 months ago
Reply to  Jeanne

I like two small ones, but not all combinations work as well as others. The reason I like two is because one can move them easily when kids need floorspace to play, or when adults need a table somewhere else to set their things. They also give more options than one small table when guests come over and allow more room for people to pass through. I don’t have side tables, they don’t work in my space because my sofa is very wide, and the room is split into two areas. I intentionally bought one table and I’m looking for another one now. Don’t get me wrong. I love a huge coffee table to display things too, but it doesn’t make sense to me personally to give up floor space for that when we clearly enjoy having floorspace. I also think that some things look better in real life than in pictures.

Meghan
10 months ago

I similarly wanted to nest an ottoman under our coffee table and found it difficult to locate the perfect height/size and fabric I wanted. I ended up ordering one of these from Etsy. He allowed me to customize size, only order one, and provide my own fabric. It turned out great and I’ve been really happy with it! https://www.etsy.com/listing/861694701/custom-upholstered-set-of-2-round?click_key=95151543d33ddd443a061ce002cfbb85be802bf0%3A861694701&click_sum=2d337851&ga_search_query=ottoman&ref=shop_items_search_1&frs=1

Meredith
10 months ago

Fun ideas! If you go the route of the big soft pouf, I learned (accidentally) years ago that there are very reasonably priced Moroccan pouf COVERS available on Etsy. You have to stuff them yourself. Which turned out to be a great way to recycle old towels, sheets, sweaters with holes, etc. But it took a looooot of material. So if you have a friend sew a cover, try using really thick fabric (it smooths out lumps) and ask friends to give you any textiles that are too far gone to donate!

Sari
10 months ago

oh goodness. not sold on this idea. To me, it looks messy and cluttered. Love them in the images of the pairs that you made, not so much irl.

designpo
10 months ago
Reply to  Sari

Same. I think it looks unfinished, like a person’s first apartment, when you’re just trying to make do with what you have because you don’t have disposable income. But I support decorating how you want in your own space!

Roberta Davis
10 months ago

Does that have to be a coffee table or could it be an end table or placed somewhere else? I love me a huge coffee table with room for feet up and magazines/books and people to reach it comfortably from at least 3 sides! Many of those smaller nested arrangements look like they would easily be knocked over, to me. I guess in a small space and with only 1 person most of the time they could be ok, but I’d worry if there were kids using the space.

Lane
10 months ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

Some of those smaller tables are sturdy and heavy. I have the middle sized rejuvenation table and it’s really solid. There’s no way to knock or over because it’s very stable.

🥰 Rusty
10 months ago

I’m kinda surprised we get to see so much, when we haven’t seen your living room REVEAL yet?!?
Bring. It. On!

Sheila
10 months ago

Great post! You’ve got me considering options to put with my too-small and tragically cliché Noguchi table! For your space, I like the structured pouf but I think you should also consider adding a small diameter but taller pedestal option like the Cassius Side Table in option 6 or the  Willy Charcoal Brown Round Pedestal Side Table in option 1. I have the Jens Risom T.710 Small Side Tables ( https://www.dwr.com/living-side-end-tables/t.710-small-side-table/8620.html?lang=en_US )and love they way I can snug one right up against the sofa to hold my drink or a snack. So functional to be able to move them around the room. Pick one with a sturdy base so it’s not too tippy. With your existing table + pouf + a tiny drinks table, you’ll have endless options for arranging and styling them.

Cris S.
10 months ago

Have fun with the search! I’m much more traditional but #1 in the non-matching sets is really fun.
What will you be putting inside your fireplace? We have a gas insert with the flat black glass covering the front, surrounded by a very traditional limestone carved surround. I’ve never known what to do with that flat glass space during the 7 months of the year we don’t turn the fireplace on.

Christa
10 months ago

So many good options, thanks for the round up!

Lane
10 months ago

I have the middle-sized rejuvenation table in black and would love to find a complementary table either in black or walnut, but not the same design and lower in height. The only option they have is a bigger coffee table or a much higher side table. I wonder if I should go for a stool instead. I haven’t found any that’s heavy enough to work. So I love using two but it’s really challenging to find the second one.

Chris
10 months ago

Moroccan leather poof with pink embroidery?

Remington
10 months ago

Practical question: do nesting coffee tables end up knocking into each other, especially if they are non-matching? I know I’m constantly nudging my coffee table as I walk by and my kids are even rougher. Is that a concern? Am I the only one with shin bruises from running into my furniture? LOL. It would make me lean towards the coffee table/pillow combo

Bec
10 months ago

I guess you need to think of it as a ‘center piece,’ a ‘space filler’ not a coffee table anymore. But do we need to have something there if you have side tables?

sam
10 months ago
Reply to  Bec

We don’t in our house! That where the kids play and where we dance 🙂

Saima
10 months ago

For some reason, I feel like this vintage, round but angular wood coffee table with the black top needs another pop of black next to it. I’m seeing a lower, longer black coffee table to the right of the wood table…possible options I found:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/1157388751/black-coffee-table-low-sitting-table?gpla=1&gao=1&variation0=2762705897

https://www.allmodern.com/furniture/pdp/gus-modern-porter-coffee-table-rectangle-hcbi1510.html?piid=52011374

https://www.allmodern.com/furniture/pdp/reyka-1-coffee-table-a001316393.html?piid=917196899

Kate
10 months ago

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that a pouf is a pouf not a coffee table, but whatever, it does make a kind of sense if you use your coffee table to put your feet on you’re actually better off and more comfortable dividing the functions of the coffee table and having one item for stuff and another for feet. Anyway, that coffee table is gorgeous, my suggestion is a caramel leather pouf, not so keen on the pattern idea, I think it would distract rather than complement.

Brigitte
10 months ago

Would this side table work? The short one is 14 inches tall.

https://www.cb2.com/jaxx-red-marble-side-table-short/s238581

Donna
10 months ago

Hey Jess,
I could see 3 pieces instead of just 2: your vintage table, unstructured pillows or a pouf, and a tall accent table like the Willy pedestal side table. It would be endlessly versatile, and for some reason, I think 3 looks more intentional than 2.

Donna
10 months ago

Oh, BTW, the way that the Willy table tucks into the Augie is brilliant! Someone needs to copy that!

Suzanne
10 months ago

The smaller of the West Elm Cannellini Nesting Coffee Tables (in #5 above) would look great with you table, but unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s sold separately. I love that shape to contrast the angular symmetry of your vintage table (which is awesome, btw). I’d vote for a structure pouf in oval or irregular curved shape.

I’ve made a soft pouf, and they do require a lot of work, because I did a hidden stitch (ladder stitch) by hand to close it. I stuffed it with a bunch of recycled cotton insulation material that had come in meal kit boxes. It takes a lot to make it firm. It requires regular reshaping, but kids really love it because I used a soft faux fur.

Good luck whichever direction you go!

Julie
10 months ago

I also have a too small coffee table and I nested it with another one to help make it visually bigger, but also have flexibility in our space. Yay that this works! We have a vintage white marble saarinen table (probably one of my favorite craigslist finds!) with the Lulu and Georgia Henrik “stool”.

Melinda Douthitt
10 months ago

you might want to look at textiliandotcom on etsy – this artist makes all kinds of homegoods from vintage rugs/furs of all kinds – her work is beautiful

10 months ago

Have you considered shortening the metal legs on your exiting black oval table with hacksaw? Definitely a budget friendly option. As for a structured pouf, buy an expensive wood table and cut the legs to the height you need and make a slipcover from a quilt/blanket/rug to throw over the top. Like a toaster cover but on a larger scale.