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Playing By the Rules...

Rules For Picking a Coffee Table (+ 105 of Our Favorites for Every Space)

Neutral Modern Living Room
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: How to Add Style to a Neutral Living Room

The coffee table. So functional, so often an afterthought. It holds our drinks, remote controls, beloved tech devices, treasured trinkets, and, for better or worse, our take-out dinners at the end of a long day. With such a big, diverse job, you’d surmise that it would be one of the first furniture pieces you thought about when moving into a new place and/or re-decorating…except it’s usually not.

How many hours do we put into choosing the perfect sofa, the perfect rug, the perfect chairs for our living room…only to throw in a hand-me-down coffee table that used to belong to Aunt Susan? (bless her heart). Okay, we don’t all go down the who-cares-about-a-coffee-table route. Plenty of you have definitely belabored the choice of a table, we’re sure, but regardless of what side of those scenarios you find yourself, you might need some guidance or inspiration in the coffee table shopping department. What size and shape go with what sofa size and shape? It might feel like a shot in the dark, but fear not, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a shopping guide jam-packed with options—round, square, rectangular, oval!—and a few rules to keep in mind (with a diagram!) when choosing a coffee table.

First up: rules. While you can, of course, go with whatever shape and size you like, to have an ideal relationship between your coffee table and sofa, here are some general things to keep in mind: Your coffee table should be at least half the length of your sofa (but no more than roughly ⅔ the length) and should sit at about the same height as the seat, give or take 4 inches (i.e., if your sofa is 90-inches long and 20-inches tall, you should look for something, no matter the shape, that’s around 45 to 54 inches wide and 16 to 24 inches tall). However, if you have a sectional with a chaise, and your table is going within the open L-shape that sofa shape creates, that 1/2 to 2/3 guideline applies better to just the length of the horizontal seat, rather than the full length of the sofa. Here’s a quick graphic to show you what we mean, as well as a breakdown of ideal shapes by sofa configuration:

Coffee Table Size And Shape Guide

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For more living room-specific tips, see this post where we broke down tons of super helpful tips like how much space you need around a table, rug size rules, lighting guidelines and more. 

Once you figure out the right size and shape, after that, it’s more about making the right design choice for your space. Rectangular and oval-shaped coffee tables can almost be interchanged, depending on what kind of flow you’re looking for—same goes with round and square. Let’s break it down a bit further (with the bonus of our favorite shopping picks):

Rectangular

Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: Mel’s Living Room Reveal

Consider rectangle (or oval but more on this shape next) if you have a standard sofa (or an extra-long sofa with chaise) so everyone can have easy access to their coffee, cocktail or late-night snack of choice. This is also a great choice if you have a narrow space with minimal walk-around clearance. If you’re a household with more remotes or tech cords than you can count, think about getting a table with some functional but still sleek drawers like #1, #21, #23 and #30. If you have a pretty deep living room, a nesting rectangular coffee table like #7 is a great option to balance the space. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the table at #2 has a shadow box top  (that’s great for putting in your favorite curiosities and trinkets but still having plenty of surface area for you know…real life stuff. Oh, and if you regularly eat in front of your TV (whether by choice or because you don’t actually have a formal dining area), a lift-top coffee table is super useful for not having to hunch over your plate (#15 and #29). 

1. Shaw Walnut Coffee Table | 2. Shadow Box Coffee Table | 3. Shadow Box Coffee Table | 4. Mateer Coffee Table | 5. Brass and Wood Coffee Table | 6. Waterfall Inlay Coffee Table | 7. Mango Wood Lara Nesting Coffee Tables | 8. Grey and White Marble Coffee Table | 9. Travertine Top Coffee Table | 10. Mokara Coffee Table Brown | 11. Blake Raffia Coffee Table | 12. Burnished Wood Coffee Table | 13. Geo-Marquetry Rectangular Coffee Table | 14. Burton Metal Coffee Table | 15. Naya Pop-Up Coffee Table | 16. Lakin Recycled Teak Coffee Table | 17. Polished Marble Coffee Table | 18. Rustic Pine Coffee Table | 19. Nordcasa Coffee Table | 20. Glasgow Metal Coffee Table | 21. Padre Coffee Table | 22. Hafley Coffee Table | 23. Knox Storage Coffee Table | 24.  Janelle Coffee Table | 25. Bios | 26. Sayer Coffee Table White | 27. Marshal Coffee Table | 28. Trivia Coffee Table | 29. Mid-Century Pop-Up Storage Coffee Table | 30. Framed Brass Coffee Table

Square

Traditional Living Room Blue Walls
Photo by Zeke Ruelas for EHD | From: Ginny’s Living Room Reveal

If you have a large comfy sectional or the traditional conversational set up with a sofa and a couple of chairs (kind of like Ginny’s living room above), a square table is a great choice. It fits perfectly in the L-shape nook of your sectional or the big space in the middle of your chat zone. The best part of a square table? You get the most styling space bang for you buck. Who doesn’t love a good styled coffee table vignette? If you’re really into the terrazzo trend that popped up late last year, check out #9 from West Elm. We also really like the mix of the square top and round base of table #1 for a play on shapes. Similar to the shadow box table we talked about in the previous section, #2 from IKEA has a draw with four sections, and the glass top lets you see all the pretty things you decide to store (definitely not the best option if you know you’ll just end up junking up that drawer with remotes and catalogs, though). 

1. Square Flash Table | 2. Liatorp | 3. Starmore Square Cocktail Table | 4. Brown Jordan Rattan Bamboo Glass Tables | 5. Strut Coffee Table | 6. Vena | 7. Sally Glass Coffee Table | 8. Aubrey Coffee Table | 9. Pieces Square Coffee Table | 10. Parsons Walnut Top/ Dark Steel Base | 11. Gridiron Stainless Steel Coffee Table | 12. Quarry Coffee Table | 13. Glass And Metal Square Lorea Coffee Table | 14. Reclaimed English Beam Square Coffee Table | 15. Helix Marble Square Coffee Table | 16. Jamie Coffee Table | 17. Cabot Square Coffee Table | 18. Thaddeus Forged Iron and Glass Coffee Table | 19. Solano Square Coffee Table | 20. Marble Plinth Coffee Table21. Lisabo | 22. Square Metal/Glass Open Shelf Cocktail Table | 23. Weaver Square Cocktail Table | 24. Kaitlin Square Coffee Table | 25. Reclaimed Russian Oak Parquet Coffee Table | 26. Plywood Grid Cocktail Table | 27. Lallerod

Round

Modern Living Room Pink Accents
Photo by Tessa Neustadt for EHD | From: The Design Milk Family Room Reveal

For anyone living in a small space where every piece of furniture counts, think about cutting corners (literally) and going with something round. It’s also a good choice to pair with a sectional or sofa with chaise since it’s a good “nook” shape, i.e. it fits into a little nook of space nicely like in the family room of Jaime Derringer from Design Milk above. Another hot tip if space is at a premium or if your room is already busy is to consider a glass top like #9 and #24. This helps things appear more visually open—if you don’t see it, is it really even there? Speaking of smaller spaces, storage is NEVER unwelcomed in a tight room, which is why we really love #10, #22 and #25 for their deep, hidden-away storage (great for stashing hobby items, toys and more). Round coffee tables also seem to have a bit more fun (the blondes of the table world??), so why not cash in on the availability of options for something more sculptural like #4, #6, #16, #20 and #27

1. Noir Tiered Coffee Table | 2. Jewel Round Coffee & Side Table Set | 3. Zorina Cocktail Table | 4. Turn Coffee Table | 5. Tiered Quartz Coffee Table | 6. Spoke Marble Coffee Table | 7. Thyme Round Coffee Table | 8. Shroom Coffee Table | 9. Round Glass And Metal Ilene Coffee Table | 10. Drum Storage Coffee Table | 11. Riehl Metal Round Coffee Table | 12. Marte Ottoman | 13. Mid Century Modern Round Coffee Table | 14. Milking Table LAX Series | 15. Berta Coffee Table | 16. Betania Coffee Table | 17. Brass Tray Coffee Table | 18. Victory Round Coffee Table | 19. Driftwood Coffee Table with Round Glass Top | 20. Eren Cocktail Table | 21. Round White Granite Topped Metal Coffee Table | 22. Turning Table | 23. Swirled Drum Coffee Table | 24. Charlottenborg Table | 25. Cala Hammered Coffee Table | 26. Sage Round Coffee Table | 27. Darbuka Black Coffee Table

Oval

Neutral Glam Living Room Upholstered Sofa Shag Rug
Photo by Sara Tramp for EHD | From: Brady’s Living Room Refresh With the Citizenry

Oval is a good call if you have some small humans running around and want to attempt to avoid any face-to-table sharp edge encounters (round is also good for this). If your living room is a high-traffic area (like, do you have to walk through it to get to another space like the kitchen or dining room?), a more sinuous shape helps with visual flow, as well. It accomplishes the same look as a rectangle but softens a really angular or modern sofa. The classic mixed marble and wood design (#1) is a favorite around here (check it out in Emily’s living room here). The thin legs keep it light and floaty (which balances the heavier wood at the bottom). Of course, the Platner table (#5) is a modern design classic, and while the brass table above from Brady’s living room is no longer available, we found a similar one in a silver tone (#7) if you love the silhouette but are flexible on the metal finish. If you’re into making a bit more of a statement, check out the cobalt blue table from Urban Outfitters at #19; it has a retro, ’80s inspired vibe that could add a serious cool factor to a simple, stripped back living space. 

1. Thomas Bina Olivia Coffee Table | 2. No No Table | 3. Bordeaux Coffee Table | 4. Vintage SnoCraft Coffee Table | 5. Platner Coffee Table | 6. Wood Coffee Table | 7. Roseman Coffee Table with Tray Top | 8. Leigh Coffee Table | 9. Brown Oval Coffee Table | 10. Superellipse Glass Top Coffee Table | 11. Oval Tribal Carved Wood Coffee Table | 12. Bridge Marble Coffee Table | 13. Stockholm Oval Coffee Table | 14. Nero White Marble Oval Coffee Table | 15. Modern Concrete Dark Grey Coffee Table | 16. Versailles Marbled Coffee Table | 17. Whisler Coffee Table | 18.Vintage Brass Oval Platter Table | 19.  Mura Coffee Table | 20. Reeve Mid-Century Oval Coffee Table | 21. Bridging Ellipse Coffee Table

So…what else do you wish you had guidelines for? We’ve done a handful of posts with tons of rules by room, but how would you want us to drill down deeper? What do you struggle with regularly while decorating that you want some signature EHD how-to post action on? As always, let us know in the comments.

Since you’re already riding high on design guidelines, here are some more posts that might be helpful:

  1. Great suggestions! Question that’s been on my mind lately about coffee tables… are they always necessary? It seems to be staple in living room design, but I feel like I accomplish their purpose other ways. We use side tables for our coffee. We always sit sideways with our feet on the couch. And having a little kiddo, means that I like as much floor space for him to run around. Am I crazy for skipping a coffee table in favor of the extra room? Have you seen good examples without one?

    1. I skipped one in my playroom/TV room, to leave room on the area rug for my kids to play. I have a small live edge stool that I move in front of me to hold drinks as needed, but otherwise keep off to the side. Can’t speak to the overall design question, but functionally it works.

    2. We don’t have one anymore. We’re in a relatively narrow townhouse, and a coffee table takes up too much space…especially because we have the sofa bisecting the living area to provide space behind it for bookcases and chairs facing them.

      I got a cool Chinese pigskin chest on a wooden frame that I now use as a side table. — lots of storage and space on top for vignettes — but it doesn’t eat up that much floor space. It’s almost as long as the width of the sofa, so it fits perfectly.

  2. What about U- shape sectionals? Personally, I have a C+B leather U and paired it with a hexagon shaped decorative side wood table.

    I would love to see design dilemma on creating a dual purpose great room. I’ll email the team.

    1. Love this one!

    2. Chris loves Julia paired their U sectional with a round coffee table. Their basement great room is amazing, you should check it out.

      1. Yes! When I was deciding on a U shape their basement family room helped push me in that direction. Their space is really lovely.

  3. We have a pull up coffee table while not being the prettiest, it’s the best thing ever. We use it occasionally for meals, but the kids pull it up to play games, or color and I use it for my laptop if I need to work and parent at the same time.

    1. Oh, we got some vintage TV trays (with a stand!) on eBay that handles our eating in front of the TV issue. And then they go away when you finish eating!

  4. Do you have a pic showing all the round tables? It seems to be missing above the links… Thanks!

  5. Please provide guidelines for great pairings of barstools and dining chairs (maybe you have to throw dining tables in there too) for the perfect kitchen look.

  6. I’ve been seeing so many beautiful nesting round coffee tables of different heights – I’m bummed there wasn’t a section dedicated to these. But, as usual, great round up and thanks for the fantastic info.

    1. I agree! I have a loveseat/sofa table in the corner that kind of makes a sectional footprint. I feel like a round table is needed with all the rectalinear going on the room (tv on the wall and rectangle end table and chest at the ends. A round nesting table situation seems so versatile.

  7. So many fun pieces and designs! I can’t wait until we move into our new home so we can shop for some awesome pieces like this!

    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

  8. I ended up nixing the coffee table all together and bought an ottoman instead. Great for storage and putting your feet up. I had space for two side tables which are easier to put your drink on anyway.

  9. I’ve been searching for a second hand, affordable round coffee table for almost a year. I learned the hard way that a 3 legged table isn’t ideal for kids and their Lego building. My 5-year-old son flipped the table more than once just by leaning on it the wrong way. (milk, food, lego creations ended up all over the place). I finally found the perfect vintage table at a shop last week for $50!!! Four legs or a very heavy, sturdy table is the way to go with round.

  10. I’ve been on the hunt for over a year for a coffee table that is NOT brown, NOT modern, and under $500. I think it’s impossible. LOL

    1. Thrift stores and flea markets are your friend. Lots of vintage coffee tables have great lines and sizes, and definitely fall under $500. Consignment stores might work for you, too. I have a vintage art moderne glass, leather, and brass with a great patina coffee table in my LR that was $25 at Goodwill. And a danish modern side table that I use as a coffee table between the chairs next to the fplace that was $10 at Goodwill. They were scores, but I am sure you will find a great piece at your price point if you explore the world of second hand coffee tables.

  11. These posts are giving me LIFE. Seriously, thank you!!!
    Currently one of the things I’m struggling most with is using color. I’m SO tempted to stick with black, white and grey in every room, but I know I need to incorporate color into my space. I’m struggling to find ways to do this in the living room without feeling accosted by something too bright, and I also worry that any color I choose will feel dated quickly. I’m not sure where to add it and how much. Do I do art, throw pillows, and the rug? I want my space to feel welcoming, modern and soothing but not flat and boring. Help! 🙂

    1. Hi Ashley! I’m similar in that I tend to gravitate towards neutral colors (I’ve yet to decide if that’s really my “style” or just because I’m too scared of color, hah). So to combat this in our renovation, I decided on muted blue-green color for the walls of our kitchen/dining area. That way I can choose neutral accessories that are easy to mix and match, but always have a dose of color no matter what.. And if I’m over that theory in a few years it’s easy to repaint. 🙂

  12. Excited that you guys finally tackled this topic! I was struggling with this for the chaise couch I bought last year and remember scouring the web for help but NOTHING existed! We finally settled on the round mara coffee table from Article and it’s been so perfect! The most affordable marble coffee table I’ve seen: https://www.article.com/product/3245/mara-oak-coffee-table

  13. Thank you! I love these really practical posts!

    I think it’d be so great to have a post/series on how to fill/style awkward spaces — like “you have a weird bit of trapped narrow space between two walls” or “you have an empty corner where you can’t hang anything on the wall”… I don’t know exactly… but just the idea of grouping little decorative props by size/shape/heavinessvs.lightness, as in little “style props for specific design problems/spaces.” For me, specifically, I’m trying to find an oval tray and some short stuff to fill it with as a centrepiece for our dining room table (something that can stay there and not interfere with conversation), and keep getting stymied. And, we also have a really long hall wall, but with a bulk head running the entire length (so it’s unusually short), plus it goes from being a hall to the wall of a room… and I also keep getting stymied about how to break it up.

    I hope you have ESP, because that wasn’t very clear… hopefully you understand!

    1. I second this! I struggled for a long time with a bedroom that had only one window in an awkward spot. It was and is our master in an apartment that we love. Putting a giant mirror in a strategic spot made a world of difference. Tricks for awkward layouts, awkward dead spots, and awkwardness in general would be lovely!

  14. Trunks for coffee tables please- thanks

  15. Great post! I’d love to hear more about how deep/large a coffee table should be. Is a large square table too overwhelming for a standard 3 cushion sofa with a chair on one side? We have a fairly large open area between our couch and the credenza on the opposite wall, so my instinct is to fill it up with something more hefty.

  16. I wish you would show storage tables and other options for small spaces. There is one round table here that slides open. That C&B wood & brass one is so disappointing this way!

  17. Proportions are SO important I love all these rules of thumb! Wanted to share a cool round driftwood coffee table that I crafted from driftwood that we gathered from the lake! It’s kind of similar to one you linked: https://www.charlestoncrafted.com/2017/11/14/diy-driftwood-coffee-table/

    1. Beautiful!

  18. I’d love a post on how to coordinate more than one seating area in a large living or family room!

  19. This is so helpful, thank you! What do you recommend using for laying out a LR plan? Is there a free or accessible tool online where you can plug in shapes and see the hypothetical layout?

  20. I like the rug in very first picture

  21. Curious about coffee table height. Some feel too low, others too tall. Any tricks?

    1. Hi Diana! Emily regularly uses the 4-inch rule for coffee table height, i.e. it should be within 4 inches of your seat height to be comfortable for everyday use (plus it doesn’t look out of proportion with the sofa!). Hope that helps!

  22. Great Post! I was wonderfing, what shape table would you recommend for a U-Shaped sofa? We have an L-shaped sofa with a chaise on the other side, making it a L. I have measured the space in between the “U” and it seems that we have room for something around 3 feet wide.

    1. Hi Avia! A U-shaped sofa works great with a round or square table, since that’s the nook shape that sofa naturally creates (for the most part). A rectangular table would also work if the sides of the sofa aren’t super long (you don’t want to leave anyone sitting on the edges of the sides without easy access to a table, afterall).

  23. I’d love some bathroom design rules…I’m thinking of things like tap and faucet height, storage, mirror heights, best placement for lighting etc!
    Thank you!

  24. While the EDH team is based in the US, I understand that you have a worldwide readership. I often wondered if it could be fun to create a 1 room/2 ways-style post or series with one version featuring pieces from US vendors, and the other featuring vendors from another country. If required, readers from those countries could even suggest vendors or makers as a starting point, or individual pieces that may fit the style.

  25. I wish I had had this post years ago! I had a 6 year journey to find a coffee table to replace the glass topped Ikea one that I inherited from my husband’s bachelor pad (the constant cleaning of smudge marks drove me crazy). I prioritized being able to sit on the floor with my legs straight out under the coffee table because this is how I used to work on jigsaw puzzles, lol (flash forward 3 years later with a kid and I haven’t done a puzzle in 2 years…). After years of searching for something under $500, we eventually splurged on a Chilton coffee table from Room and Board (https://www.roomandboard.com/catalog/living/coffee-tables/chilton-coffee-table-in-walnut) because we realized it’s the piece of furniture we use the most in the whole house (we eat a lot of meals in front of the TV after the baby is in bed). Anyway, thank you so much for this super helpful post!

  26. Any suggestions for coffee tables for homes with small children? I have a nine month old son who is pulling up and crawling. We just moved and I bought a new sectional sofa but don’t have a coffee table yet. Our old furniture is in the basement living area. I recently bought a marble and brass side table that I loved, but I had to move it out of the living room because my son almost knocked it over and tried to pull up on it. Should I just get used to the idea of not having a coffee table until he is older or should I look for something with rounded corners and heavy enough that he can pull up on it without knocking it over?

  27. How about a post on vent covers- much like a discussion on outlet switches you did in your “what you liked/would do differently in your kitchen”. We all know the standard boring and functional options. What kind of high- end or beautiful/not ugly options are there?

  28. Amazing its really nice and good post i have no word to say amazing.
    http://krmangalam.com/vaishali/

  29. We gave up our coffee table about three years after my husband required a walker after back surgery and we needed the ‘room’. Result: our family room seemed to lose it’s center….and even with side tables for drinks…there wasn’t even parking space for a popcorn bowl or appetizers during movie night. Back with one four feet long and two feet wide…will never let it go again!

  30. Nice Article!!

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